How the Pros Smoke ‘Em Out
Chef Dion Sprenkle (Top Left | Photo Courtesy of Competition Dining), Chef Jay Pierce (Top Right), Chef Nikki Miller-Ka (Bottom Left), and Chef Tim Grandinetti (Bottom Right).
We’ve seen them at work in their own kitchens and perhaps tasted their creations. We wanted to find out how a few of our local chefs do it when they find some time to grill and chill.
CHEF DION SPRENKLE, OWNER CHEF DION SPRENKLE RESTAURANT & CATERING, WELCOME
Chef Sprenkle had already made a name for himself before the recent Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series in Winston-Salem, where he placed runner-up. But now, even more people know what this chef is capable of when it comes to his culinary skills. And he too has a few tricks for perfect grilling. “At my house I have two smokers and a jumbo grill. In the summertime, it’s just easier to grill, but I do like to cold hickory smoke my hamburgers and then you get that flavor of the wood into the meat. Then I grill it to get that char, so it just takes it to another level.” Chef Sprenkle also has a full line of his own spices he uses at his restaurant and are available for sale. “I especially like the Istanbul rub on the burger and on a chicken, smoking it then grilling it.” He says he loves to take something primitive and take it up a notch. “I like to smoke pastrami and add that to a burger and then top it with an apple cider malt fried onion ring.” Hint: The burger was recently on the menu at the restaurant.
His favorite sides include fresh corn on the grill and a side you might not think of. “I love fresh okra, marinated in spices with shallots and garlic then put it right on the grill. When you eat it you don’t feel like you’re eating okra. And for dessert we love fresh fruit like peaches with a nice drizzle of wine, rosemary and other spices and eat it with ice cream. Or braised strawberries with ice cream”¦ it sounds simple, but I think of summer as being hot so I like fruit or floats and smoothies and things that are more light and refreshing.” But, he says, “I’m a sucker for a good hushpuppy””anything greasy and fried, unfortunately.”
Sprenkle’s family get-togethers are a chance for him to kick his feet up. “My mom used to own a restaurant and is a phenomenal chef. She and my sister pretty much do the cooking. It’s oldschool nurturing with lots of people over and an abundance of food. Of course, when it’s time for me to do the cooking, I’m there. Usually it’s Christmas dinner for me.”
CHEF NIKKI MILLER-KA, PRIVATE CHEF AND FOOD BLOGGER ; HOST OF THE DIXIE CLASSIC $20 CHALLENGE
Chef Miller-Ka says few family get-togethers rival her annual family reunion, which moves around every year. This year they’ll be gathering in New Jersey and they go really big. “We have hundreds of people at our pig picking. Somebody buys a pig and the men roast it. It’s always Eastern style barbecue because that’s where the family originated and I can’t stand Eastern style, but that’s okay it’s not about me.” She says the grilling isn’t just about the pig. “We even have a grill competition…for the actual grill. We have a lot of engineers in our family. Whoever wants to compete, must build their grill from scratch. And they are tricked out. It’s impressive.” Of course sides and the like adorn the meal and cold beverages to wash it all down.
CHEF JAY PIERCE, EXECUTIVE CHEF AT ROCKSALT IN CHARLOTTE; FORMER EXECUTIVE CHEF AT LUCKY 32 IN GREENSBORO
Chef Pierce may not work in the Triad right now, but High Point is still homebase for him and his family. He recently penned a book that’s part memoir, part cookbook and part collaboration called Shrimp. He says when he’s getting together with friends and family, he likes to
host and to cook. “I have this rusted out grill that I pulled out all the parts. I build a wood fire on that. I just let it get the coals going. I love to put dry rub on shrimp. Your favorite rub that you use on chicken will work great on shrimp. My favorite kind of cookout is grilled shrimp, some nice warm grilled corn tortillas and some guacamole”¦and a margarita.”
Pierce’s tip for the perfect sear on the crustacean? “Spread them out on the skewer and keep the tail on so they don’t dry out and always remove from a metal skewer before serving. It looks pretty in the magazines on the skewer, but those things get hot.” Pierce says he likes chilled side dishes when grilling out. “Tomato and cucumber salad, or potato salad. I also like to grill squash then rough chop it, then toss in a vinaigrette for a light salad.”
As for when Pierce prefers that someone else do the cooking, “I love ribs and though I’ll cook them in the restaurant, I don’t cook them at home.” But, “there’s just something about Lexington-style barbecue. It just smells so good.”
CHEF TIM GRANDINETTI, SPRING HOUSE RESTAURANT, KITCHEN & BAR; QUANTO BASTA: ITALIAN EATERY & WINE BAR
Known as ” Doc” whether he’s at the smoker or not, Chef Grandinetti has a mobile cooker branded with his nickname. You’ll see it blasting away slowly at his annual Summer of LuvLuv Festival every August. He says his ultimate barbecue experience is a gathering of “friends and family with blue skies, gently crashing waves, a cool breeze every now and then, and groovy tunes.” Grandinetti said he loves a classic Potluck, “the bring-yourfavorite-dish get together is one of my favorite summertime events. It’s centered on the grill, but it’s the amazing array of side dishes that steal the show.”
As for LuvLuv, Grandinetti models it after the perfect backyard BBQ experience. “Each evening is a grill-fest that celebrates the culinary talents of both local and nationally renowned chefs. The event was originally launched in St. Louis, and the original goal was to bring my friends (chefs, farmers and artisan producers) together to celebrate the bonds of culinary brotherhood.” Guests enjoy a multi-course tasting menu that includes hot off the grill specialties at the five-day event.
For more information about Luv Luv, visit springhousenc.com. Reservations for the event are highly recommended. Chef Jay Pierce’s book can be found online and at local retailers. !