When the writing duo of Boston chef Chris Schlesinger and John “Doc” Willoughby published their eighth book, Grill It!, in 2010, the New York Times dubbed them “the high priests of chicken thighs, cowboy steaks and the spice drawers of the Caribbean and North Africa.” The two men made the grill their grail with the James Beard–award winning book The Thrill of the Grill in 1990, and haven’t stopped playing with fire ever since. Their latest cookbook, The Big Flavor Grill, was published in 2014.

When Willoughby left his Iowa home in the 1970s to study English at Harvard, he was dubbed “Doc” (something about his country roots), and the name, like his passion for grilling, stuck. His friendship with Schlesinger grew into a professional partnership, with their mutual love for experimenting with the grill—and Willoughby’s way with words—that led to that raft of cookbooks.

Readers of Cook’s Illustrated know Willoughby as the executive editor who helped launch the magazine in 1993. In 2001, he took on the executive editor’s role at Gourmet magazine, returning to Cook’s, and its TV show, America’s Test Kitchen, in 2010.

When he’s not grilling and writing his own books, Willoughby teaches graduate-level classes in food writing, such as the Radcliffe Seminars at Harvard; serves on the advisory board of Chop Chop, a magazine about kids and healthy eating; and, with Chris Schlesinger, writes regularly for the New York Times Dining section.