As executive chef for Bellagio—the entire property—Edmund Wong is the “conductor of the orchestra,” providing support, guidance and creative collaboration for all the talented chefs in the building. “I get to eat lots of yummy food, too,” he says.
Wong also runs the show at Bellagio’s Tuscany Kitchen and Culinary Classroom, which is offering a Memorial Day BBQ Secrets session May 29 and a Backyard Summer Experience class June 26 (for info, call 866-406-7117). The chef generously offered up some tips to help keep your backyard cookout as delicious, fun and easy as possible.
Pass on gas "Grilling and barbecuing take patience. I’m a die-hard supporter of using charcoal when grilling, because it has more natural flavor, and sometimes propane can actually flavor the meat, and you don’t want that. With charcoal, a common mistake is people don’t let the briquettes burn long enough; they’re afraid they’re losing heat. But when you have balanced heat on the coals, it allows more control and is a much better element to cook on."
Stop with the poking "I don’t move the meat around much because I like to get a nice char on the outside. I’ll flip a steak once to cook it evenly, then move it away from the heat so it won’t get blackened. People say to move it around, because they’re afraid of overcooking it, but really what they’re doing is poking too many holes in it to test for doneness, and then you’re losing the juices and it tends to dry out."
Get saucy "Marinating adds so much more flavor and depth to anything. If you’re using a lesser cut of meat it will help tenderize it over night while adding flavor. I use a simple marinade of red wine vinegar, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, onions and fresh herbs. It goes with anything. Just do it in the morning so you’re ready in the afternoon."
Bird is the word "My favorite is a whole chicken. I get some herbs out of my garden, thyme and marjoram, chop them up with some zest of lemon and parsley, and stuff it under the skin with some cubes of butter. Then I rub the whole chicken with a special blend of spices, fire up the charcoal and set the chicken on the side of the grill. An hour later, you’re done."
Take it easy "Grilling is such a social event. It’s okay to take your time. There’s nothing better than being outside, cooking with friends and family, having a drink while you cook. There’s no need to rush."