Phil Hards, behind the Charbecue, and chef son David

A new outdoor cooking appliance which uses half the fuel of conventional catering devices and can roast, fry, steam, boil and more, has been launched onto the market thanks to support from The Food and Drink iNet.

Entrepreneurs Phil Hards and John Sammut have invented a unique alternative for outdoor cooking, which they believe could not only take the catering world by storm but could also prove useful in disaster zones.

Now thanks to support from the Food and Drink iNet, which is funded by East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), their device, which they have named the Charbecue, has just gone into production and will be on sale in the next few weeks.

Their next step is to promote the Charbecue and adapt the design to create a range of versions for various sectors, including the professional catering industry, sports clubs and the home. Phil and John, from Sleaford, Lincolnshire, are also establishing a version that could be used in disaster areas not just for cooking but for other uses such as sterilisation.

“It’s taken us several years to get from the initial idea for the Charbecue to a stage where we can go into production and we are very excited at launching the business,” said Phil Hards.

“Support from the Food and Drink iNet has been very important, as it has provided us with access to individuals with expert knowledge and skills that we did not possess. The support has been invaluable and has got us to the stage where we can now launch the Charbecue onto the market.”

The Food and Drink iNet operates across the East Midlands to support food and drink firms with innovation in all sorts of ways from introducing new processes and creating new products to developing new ways of working and new ideas. The iNet also brings together experts from universities to encourage key research into issues affecting the food and drink sector. Charbecue received £6,000 worth of Innovation Advice and Guidance support from the iNet. The company matched this support with its own investment.

The Food and Drink iNet Lincolnshire business adviser Rachel Linstead said: “Innovation Advice and Guidance support is designed to encourage innovation in businesses in the food and drink sector, and the invention of the Charbecue – through from inception to development – fitted the bill perfectly.”

Phil and John, who became friends through Sleaford Rugby Club, were inspired to invent a large-scale cooking device after John pledged to organise a hog roast in his garden about eight or nine years ago. They devised a prototype, which operated in a way that was different to a traditional barbecue or hog roast.

“The fuel goes on top, which makes the Charbecue unique,” explained Phil. “There were several limitations to our first design but we proved the concept that you could cook downwards and from then on it was a case of tweaking the design.”

Modifications introduced mean the Charbecue can now cook just about anything, not just meat but all sorts of other foods too, such as rice and spaghetti – making it extremely versatile. It is also very fuel efficient, using around half the fuel of conventional catering devices.

During development, the Charbecue has been used at a range of events including weddings and sporting functions. A professional chef used the Charbecue for a charity polo event in Surrey, where he cooked fourteen boned and rolled shoulders of pork, together with a suckling pig, all at the same time, whilst cooking more traditional foods on the top.

“Everyone who has tried the Charbecue has been very impressed with the results and how easy it is to use. There’s no need to constantly baste or turn large joints of meat, just keep it fuelled up. It’s very low maintenance,” said Phil.

Neither Phil, a former New Scotland Yard detective, now a computer forensics and investigations expert, nor John, general manager for Komatsu Mining in the UK, had any previous experience in catering but they hope their idea will take off not just in the UK but abroad too. They have commissioned a Lincolnshire fabrication company to produce the Charbecue. For more information about the Charbecue please visit

The Food and Drink iNet helps food and drink firms engage expertise from academia, research institutions and specialist business advice for innovation projects to develop new ideas, products and processes, to help companies grow. 50% of the equivalent cash value of the support must be contributed by the company.

The Food and Drink iNet co-ordinates innovation support for businesses, universities and individuals working in the food and drink sector in the East Midlands. One of four regional iNets, it has developed an effective network to link academic and private sector expertise and knowledge with local food and drink business innovation needs.

The Food and Drink iNet also aims to build on the tradition of innovation in the food and drink industry in the region by helping to create opportunities to develop knowledge and skills, and to help research, develop and implement new products, markets, services and processes. It is managed by a consortium, led by the Food & Drink Forum and including Food Processing Faraday, Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Nottingham. It is based at Southglade Food Park, Nottingham, with advisors covering the East Midlands region.

For more information visit