What Are 6 Hamptons Chefs Barbecuing This Summer?

By Sylvie Bigar | June 30, 2016 | Food & Drink Feature

Sizzling, smoking, and simply irresistible—six Hamptons chefs abandon the kitchen for the ultimate summer surface, the barbecue.

George Hirsch
Chef & TV Personality


What does July 4 mean to you?
More grills are lit on Independence Day than any other day. When I started my show on PBS more than 20 years ago, we grilled burgers and dogs because no one was doing that. But now, people are more adventurous and the equipment is much more sophisticated and powerful.

What do you grill?
In July on the East End, it’s all about what’s local, particularly the veggies. When corn first appears, at its freshest you can just throw it on and dress it with a little butter, but basically you want to leave it alone. But then there’s the colorful peppers, the eggplant, and then the tomatoes.

Best grilling tip?
I grill a variety of vegetables the day before the party, chill them, and then I mix them with potatoes for a very healthy potato salad.

What’s your favorite meat for the grill?
For me, it’s steak! And when I say steak, I mean rib eye, because the marbling is what makes it delicious. But let’s not forget that we’re surrounded by water, so I also love to make fish on a cedar plank placed on the grill. The plank has been soaked and treated with oil, so all you have to do is place the fish on it, close the grill, and wait.

What about for dessert?
Fruits on the grill bring out the child in everybody, but I also like to grill a tortilla and then put on marshmallows, chocolate, and banana with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.

Most unexpected item to grill?
Many years ago, we were doing a TV show down in Georgia and I decided to grill mustard greens. The Southern ladies loved it, but they all went, “Oh my! Oh my!”

Scott Conant
Impero Caffè, NYC


What does July 4 mean to you?
Ah, July 4! What a great American tradition. At home with the family, I consume a copious amount of barbecue. I love a great brisket dripping moisture and spices, slow-cooked with a sweet and sour tang. To me, barbecue is all about slow and low-flame. Or think about the act of eating ribs—so sensual!

And at the restaurant?
For cocktail events at our private dining space in Soho, we sometimes serve bite-size balsamic-glazed ribs off the bone, with the right balance between bitter and sweet.

What is your ideal July 4 menu?
First, I always throw wood chips on the grill to get a more earthy flavor, more smokiness. I love a branzino filled with oregano, dill parsley, and lemon. Then I cover it with aluminum foil and smoke it.

How has barbecue evolved?
There are so many great restaurants now, so much talent and much more creativity. My wife, Meltem, is Turkish, so we often make eggplant on the grill. Can you smell the char? Then you peel and purée it with olive oil, lemon, and sprigs of mint—and we’re good!

Alex Guarnaschelli
Butter, NYC


What does grilling mean to you?
The number of ingredients that have now become mainstream is incredible. From taro to celery root, they’re now readily available. Also, we have evolved from checking a recipe in a cookbook to Google and finding three different cultures for each concept.

What are your thoughts on barbecue?
Barbecue is serious in this country, and deeply regional— from the pit masters and the whole hog cooked overnight to which sauce or dry-rub to choose.

What about grilling?
Grilling is just a facet of barbecue. There are so many ways to grill, from my hibachi grill to driving your smoker to your friends’ house on July 4. My friend has a grill in Sag Harbor, and we had the best time grilling shellfish there in the dead of winter.

Where will you be for July 4?
Every year, my mother used to make “barbecue chicken” baked in the oven, potato salad, and blueberry pie, so now we make our own versions. One year we made nine pies!

Katie Lee
TV personality


What does July 4 mean to you?
I love the classics, burgers and dogs, but today there are so many ways to customize them—turkey, bison, or even shrimp burgers. And one can vary the toppings. For a Southern hint, I use pimento cheese. We want organic hot dogs, too, not junk anymore. And how about lamb ribs instead of pork ribs?

What are your favorite dishes?
I love making pizza on the grill! Either you make the dough from scratch or you can buy it from a pizza parlor. The key is to make sure the grates are clean before you stretch the dough and place it on the grill. One minute and the pizza puffs up, then you turn it over and it’s done.

And the toppings?
In the summer, you want to take advantage of the bounty of the farmstands and get creative. The trick is to see what looks good and then decide. I like to mix peaches and arugula with ricotta. Or perhaps a corn and scallions pizza!

Any grilling tips?
Make sure the grill is clean and, if necessary, pick up cut lemons with your tongs to scrape off any bits.

What about when you’re grilling chicken?
Grilled breast of chicken can become dry, so get a whole chicken and ask your butcher to butterfly it so that the skin and bones protect the moisture. Then you can prepare it Chinese-style or with lemon and oregano. The key is to allow the meat to rest for a while before you cut and serve it, so the juices get a chance to redistribute.

Any recommendation on which grill to get?
There’s no need for a fancy grill! I love my simple kettle charcoal one. And on July 4, I plan to stay home in Water Mill and hang out with friends by the pool.

Joseph Realmuto
Townline BBQ


What does barbecue mean to you?
Today, home enthusiasts have access to a whole slew of grills and smokers, but many people call grilling “barbecue.” My father used to say, “Let’s make a barbecue” when he meant “Let’s grill outside.” What we learned when we went to Texas prior to opening is that “barbecue” means cooking and smoking larger pieces of meat over a long period of time. “Grilling” means cooking smaller pieces directly over the heat source for short periods. At Townline, we barbecue; we don’t have a grill!

What else did you learn?
We spoke to many pit masters and loved the dry-rub beef ribs with the barbecue sauce on the side, or pork ribs you can bite into but not off-the-bone tender. I wish we could have a smaller menu and say we open at 11 am and we close when it’s all gone…

What are your thoughts on barbecue sauce?
We have three—what we call regular barbecue sauce, then the hot one with jalapeño and habañero, and our vinegar, garlic, onion mix. And then there’s our honey chipotle sauce, which I love on wings!

What do you grill at home?
Besides chicken and meat, I love to grill the fish I’ve caught myself, be it porgies or striped bass. We also grill tons of veggies. We make pizza on a pizza stone. Townline BBQ, 3593 Montauk Hwy., Sagaponack, 537-2271

Marc Murphy
Landmarc, Ditch Plains, NYC


What does barbecue mean to you?
At the house in Bridgehampton, I love cooking on our outdoor wood-burning grill—from soft-shell crabs to charring shallots and scallions, and even the potatoes I simmer with onions on the upper drawer. But one of my favorite dishes is lamb chops scottadito—so called because they’re so good, you can’t wait until they cool down to start gnawing, so they burn the fingers [“scottadito” is Italian for “burned fingers”]—dripping with olive oil and herbes de Provence. Best grilling tips? It’s key to put enough seasoning on the meat before grilling: salt, pepper, and herbs to buzz it all up. In the morning, we use a spice grinder so that while you cook, you can just dip into your mixture, still fresh and vibrant.

What are your thoughts on barbecue sauce?
I like it, but it beats the hell out of a palate! I like to dab a drop of it on an oyster before placing it on the grill, but I’m more of a lemon zest and garlic kind of guy. Then there’s my beer can chicken, where the beer steams the bird while the heat makes it crispy on the outside.

How do you prepare fish on the grill?
I have my own method! Have you heard of a La Caja China or a China box? It’s a wooden cooking box, perhaps inspired by a contraption used by Chinese rail workers in Cuba. It’s usually best to roast a pig, but I like to use it to roast a whole fish filled with citrus, parsley, and thyme.

Where will you be this July 4?
With friends and family, people standing around the grill with beer or a glass of rosé in their hands. Casual and fun.

photography by Doug Young

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