The coolest cookout: We asked Vegas chefs what they eat on Independence Day

Johnny Church’s Summer Tomato & Cucumber Salad
Photo: Wade Vandervort


Owner/chef, Johnny C’s Diner

“July was an amazing time of year in Michigan, since the weather was only nice two-to-three months out of the year. [We’d do] cookouts in the backyard. (Yes, cookouts are what we called barbecue in Michigan.) Growing up in Flint, [that meant] the aroma of Kingsford charcoal, Koegel Coney Island hot dogs and cherry pie or strawberry shortcake.”

Summer Tomato & Cucumber Salad


8 beefsteak tomatoes, ½-inch diced

4 English cucumbers, ½-inch diced (peeled if you want)

1 small seedless watermelon, ½-inch diced

fresh basil chiffonade, 7-11 leaves

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

1/8 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos

1/8 cup honey

zest from 1 lemon

Method: Mix olive oil, apple cider vinegar, liquid aminos, honey and lemon zest to make vinaigrette. Combine with salad ingredients in a bowl.


Owner/chef, the Black Sheep

“We didn’t really celebrate the Fourth of July when I was really young, but when I got to late elementary school, we started barbecuing a lot, and my family would go to the park. From there it started becoming big. I remember barbecuing every summer—tri tip, chicken, St. Louis ribs. Now we do the same thing, but it just got more elaborate. We still make St. Louis ribs, but we’ve added things like cornbread and mac and cheese.”

Tri Tip


2-2.5 lbs tri tip

1/4 cup garlic oil

Rub mixture

1 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup crushed black pepper

1/4 cup of brown sugar

1 tbsp cayenne

1 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

Method: Combine rub mixture ingredients. Rub garlic oil all over the tri tip, and cover evenly with the rub. Grill tri tip until the internal temperature reaches 145 F for medium rare. Let rest for 10 minutes, then slice. (Store leftover rub for future use on chicken, steak or fish.)


Chef/Consultant, Black Box Meats; President, Meta-Hospitality LLC

“Fourth of July represented something extra-special for my family, as my grandparents and their siblings sailed over from Italy in search of a better life in America. My family would make Mama’s Pasta Salad, with pepperoni, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, olives, sharp provolone, red wine vinegar, EVOO, basil and oregano; the most amazing cheddar-stuffed pigs in a blanket; dogs; and spicy Italian sausage burgers, with peppers, onions and sharp provolone. My mom would also make watermelon ice cube pops with a blue gumball in the middle.”

Cheddar-Stuffed Smoked Chipotle Chili Wagyu Pigs in a Blanket


8 smoked Chipotle Chili Wagyu Dogs (available at Blackbox Meats)

6 slices sharp cheddar cheese, each cut into 5 strips

1 can Original Pillsbury Crescent dinner rolls

1 egg yolk, whisked

(jalapeño mustard)

1 tbsp pickled jalapeños (or more if you want it spicy), chopped,

1/2 cup brown spicy mustard

Method: Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut a slit into each hot dog lengthwise almost to the ends, and stuff three slices of cheese in each. Unroll dough, separate into triangles and wrap dough triangle around each hot dog. Place on sheet pan/cookie sheet cheese side up. Brush tops of dough with egg yolk, and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden-brown.

Meanwhile, make the jalapeño mustard by placing half a cup of mustard into a bowl and adding pickled jalapeños. Garnish top of mustard with a couple of pickled jalapeño slices.


Executive chef, Buddy V’s

“Growing up, we had what I guess you would call a classic backyard barbecue with burgers, dogs, steaks and kielbasa. But it was the sides that really stood out just as much as the proteins, maybe even more, especially Granny’s potato salad, which is like an evolved German-style potato salad served warm and flavored with vinegar and mustard. The addition of basil, parsley and fresh tomatoes really adds a nice brightness to it and makes it a perfect complement to your grilled/smoked meats.”

Granny Franky’s Potato Salad


2 lbs red baby potatoes, cooked and then ¼-inch diced

½ cup Italian vinegar

3 tbsp spicy brown mustard

1/2 cup sliced basil

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half

salt and pepper to taste

Method: After potatoes are cooked fully, drain and put on the counter until cool enough to handle. While potatoes are still warm, add all ingredients and toss. Check seasoning, and serve at room temperature.

Blueberry + Cranberry Collins


2 oz vodka

6 blueberries, muddled

1/2 oz lemon Juice

1/4 oz simple syrup

splash cranberry juice

splash club soda

Method: Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass and stir. Finish with club soda.

Recipe courtesy Ryan Bruce, director of bar operations for Batch Hospitality’s Platform One, a food hall coming to town next summer.


Owner/chef, Sparrow + Wolf

“Growing up, it was a barbecue in the backyard, maybe a block party before everyone headed downtown. The grill was filled with American favorites such as ballpark franks and the oddly shaped overcooked cheeseburgers my uncle would make. Now that I have a family of my own, my wife, son and industry friends and staff usually gather in my backyard for a day by the pool. A full day of cooking could include those American favorites and what each chef has brought to contribute—smoked meats, badass taco stations, cold-pressed juice cocktails and everything in between, from caviar to whole-fish preparations.”

Green Chile Heritage Pork


3 lbs pork shoulder

1 large yellow onion, chopped

10 cloves garlic, minced

50 grams cumin

50 grams coriander

25 grams cardamom

15g dried green peppercorn

75g dried cascabel chile


2 cups pork stock (or substitute chicken stock)

4 fresh poblano chiles, seeded and sliced in half, roasted on wood fire

2 fresh jalapeños, seeded and sliced in half, roasted on wood fire

1.5 lbs fresh tomatillos, grilled over a wood fire until charred husks are removed

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Method: Toast all spices in a dry pan until fragrant, and grind with a mortar and pestle. Season pork pieces on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat a braising pan over high heat. Add oil. Once hot, sear the pork pieces until browned on all sides. Remove the pork from the pot. Add a little additional oil to pan, if needed. Add onion, and saute until tender. Add garlic, and cook for 30 seconds and stir in the dried spices. Return pork to the pot and add the broth. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for three and a half hours.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Wash the poblano peppers, jalapeños and tomatillos. Slice the tomatillo and both types of peppers in half, and remove stems. Seed the peppers ,and remove the white veins inside unless you want the chile verde to be very spicy. Do not seed the tomatillos. Place the poblano peppers, jalapeño and tomatillos on the wood grill, and roast until charred. Immediately place peppers in a bowl, and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow them to steam for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, tomatillos and cilantro to a blender, and puree.

Add mixture to the pot with the pork, and cook everything together for an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Serve with fresh grilled tortillas, diced avocado, fresh cilantro and queso fresco, and grilled pineapple.


Executive chef, Libertine Social

“Growing up as a first-generation American, my family really valued the Fourth of July. Growing up, we mostly ate traditional Persian food at home. However, on both Thanksgiving and Fourth of July, we celebrated by enjoying American dishes—pulled pork, cornbread and my mom’s delicious sweet tea! This year, I’ll be making a smoked pork shoulder.”

Sweet jalapeño Cornbread


1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

2 jalapeños, cut in half and seeded

1 ear corn

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup olive oil

butter to grease pan

Method: Preheat oven to 400 F. Grill jalapeños and corn until they’re charred. Cool. Cut kernels off the cob, and dice the jalapeños. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the jalapeños and corn kernels to the flour mixture, and toss to coat. Add the sweetened condensed milk, egg, water and olive oil to the bowl. Mix until well combined.

Pour the batter into a baking pan that has been coated in butter. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool before eating.



“I grew up between Texas and California in the ’90s, so there were a lot of good old Americana-type celebrations going on. Fourth of July for my family was always about food, fireworks and a fun activity.

When we lived in California, we always went to an amphitheater for fireworks and a concert. In Texas, it was briskets and block parties. Barbecue and my grandma’s potato salad were always there.”

Parm Crisps

Ingredients and equipment

1 bag shredded Parmigiano Reggiano

baking sheet

parchment paper

Method: Preheat the oven to 375 F, line your baking sheet, and evenly scatter the cheese on the pan. Don’t make it too thick—just enough to fully cover the bottom of the pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a golden coloration forms that’s slightly darker around the edges. Let cool completely, then break off your crisps and take them to a barbecue. You can also put your own spin on these by tossing your cheese in with some spices before spreading it on the pan and baking it.


Owner/chef, Echo & Rig

“Growing up, it was all about the grilling and the fireworks. We didn’t eat a lot of American food during the year, so this was definitely an all-American meal for us—ribeyes, burgers, dogs, corn, tomatoes, watermelon, berries, agua frescas and apple pie. And my mom would always make merguez, a Moroccan lamb sausage, for the grill, because I loved it.”

Shrimp Cocktail


shrimp (U15 or larger)


ice cubs

Cocktail sauce


Worcestershire sauce


lemon juice

Method: Clean, cook and chill the up to a day in advance. Combine cocktail sauce ingredients a couple of days before. Slice some lemons in the morning, and serve the shrimp on a bowl of ice.


Executive chef, Jean Georges Steakhouse

“Each year, my family would celebrate Independence Day with fun pool games like relay races, Marco Polo and diving contests; a watermelon-eating competition; a mini Fourth of July parade; and other fun events. As soon as it got dark, we lit fireworks. I remember eating hot watermelon, hamburgers, coleslaw and hot dogs topped with yellow mustard and relish.”

“Secret sauce”


1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tbsp. sweet pickle relish (gently strain through a sieve for a thicker sauce)

1 tsp sugar or honey

1 tsp red wine vinegar

Method: Mix all, and refrigerate.

Photo of Genevie Durano

Genevie Durano

As deputy editor at Las Vegas Weekly, Genevie Durano covers the Valley’s dining scene. Previously she lived in New York ...

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