Skip to content. Skip to more features. Skip to most popular. Skip to footer.


A Bruin Guide to an Offbeat Summer


Published Jul 1, 2015 8:00 AM

Not Your Father’s BBQ


Photo by Emily Shur

Anyone can throw a few hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill for a backyard barbecue, or fill a basket with sandwiches and a grocery store fruit salad for a picnic in the park. But with a little imagination and daring, you can create a summertime meal that’s truly inspired, says chef Brian Huskey ’03.

A contestant on Season 11 of Top Chef, the Pasadena native encourages aspiring gourmets as well as regular folks who simply enjoy cooking to try different flavors without complicating matters too much. “The biggest issue people have when they go crazy gourmet is that they overthink their dishes,” he says. “Especially when you’re off-site, it’s all about creating very simple flavor bombs.”

While it’s easy to plan your menu off a set theme, Huskey suggests improvising a bit. In addition to exploring the stalls at the Grand Central Market, he likes to wander through the Hollywood and Santa Monica farmer’s markets to see what they have to offer. “When you’re getting fresh produce or fresh ingredients, usually it’s the execution — cooking it properly and seasoning it properly — that’s the most important thing,” he says.

For a simple and delicious sauce that goes well with fish, potatoes or any kind of meat, try: Brian Huskey’s Mojo Verde

8 oz. parsley, chopped
3 oz. cilantro, chopped
3 oz. garlic clove
5 oz. serrano chili, seeded
6 oz. red wine vinegar 2 oz. lime juice 4 oz. canola oil 2 oz. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) salt, to taste

—In a blender, add all ingredients except canola oil and EVOO.
—Blend well.
—Slowly add oils, blending until smooth.
—Adjust seasoning to taste.

One simple summer idea is to roast a nectarine or peach in the oven, which caramelizes it, then add some savory thyme. Pick up a fresh baguette and some ricotta cheese, smear the cheese on top of the bread slices, place the fruit on top of that and add a drizzle of honey.

“It’s fantastic, and it’s easy,” he says. “Just serve it at room temperature and call it a day.”

For a main dish, Huskey suggests shrimp rolls with aioli on brioche. It’s similar to an albacore tuna salad, but you can spruce up the mixture by poaching shrimp and adding some wine, herbs and vegetables. Put it on ice in a cooler and carry it out. Pair the sandwiches with a simple tomato and mozzarella salad — but perhaps switch that up by adding opal basil instead of the usual Italian basil.

“Just a little twist of another varietal of basil will really change the direction of your dish and make it a little more Asian,” Huskey says.

Most important, don’t worry about making mistakes. “It’s a matter of being comfortable and being adventurous enough to try it for yourself,” he says. “That’s the beauty of cooking.”

Huskey’s newest adventure is Tackle Box Local Grub Shack, a quick-serve seafood place on the beach in Corona del Mar that he’s opening with Wahoo’s Fish Taco co-founder Ed Lee. The eatery offers elevated versions of poke, fish and chips and lobster rolls, as well as breakfast sandwiches and acai bowls, in a casual setting. “It’ll be fun to just do simple, honest food that people can relate to, right on the water,” he says.