Superstar Chef José Andrés' 10 Things to Avoid at Your 4th of July BBQ

The 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards Outstanding Chef of the Year offers lessons on how not to blow your Independence Day bash.


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After opening three new restaurants in Las Vegas, teaching a cooking course at Harvard, and nabbing the Outstanding Chef of the Year award at the 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards—the Best Director Oscar of gastronomy—Spanish food guru José Andrés has now reconfigured his Washington, D.C., stalwart, Café Atlántico, into a themed pop-up restaurant, opening July 4. The National Archives tapped Andrés for the temporary America Eats Tavern, which is an extension of its exhibit "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government's Effect on the American Diet." Located a few blocks from the Archives, the tavern will serve comfort-food classics—lobster rolls, hot dogs, cheesesteaks—as well as contemporary spins on more esoteric American dishes like Brunswick stew and oysters Rockefeller.

It's with this same culinary patriotism that Andrés presents his top 10 pitfalls of a Fourth of July cookout.

  1. "Don't spend the entire event outside. Standing around the grill is fine, but I like to have my friends come in and out of the house. Movement makes the party more exciting. We may start outside for cocktails, then move inside to a table for dinner, and then move upstairs to my kitchen later for desserts, cheese, and more wine."

    1. "Don't skimp on the ice. Bags from the grocery store melt so fast and water down your drinks. I prefer beautiful, big squares for my cocktails. Especially my gin and tonics!"

    2. "Don't let your designated bartender get drunk before the cookout starts."

  2. "Don't run out of charcoal. I prefer natural hardwood lump charcoal—the other stuff makes your food taste like Goodyear tires."

    1. "Don't let them see you sweat. If something goes wrong, roll with it and pour everyone another drink. Say your spit-roasted baby pig slides off the table as you try to carve it. Well, dust it off, make a joke, and get back to it."

    2. "Don't put too many chefs to work. Sometimes they get too involved in the ingredients and are of no help. They want to know where you got that, what are you going to do with this. I say, 'Here, take these Brussels sprouts and go peel them for a salad.' Done."

      7." Don't put too much Gipsy Kings on your soundtrack. Instead, download Spanish artists like Jarabe de Palo and Melendi, plus my favorites from Southern California, Ozomatli, and my good friend from Ireland, Glen Hansard. Add some Springsteen and Beyoncé to the mix, too!"

    3. "Don't invite too many Republicans."

    4. "Don't invite too many Democrats."

    5. "Don't let your guests get naked. When there is water around—pool, beach, whatever—it always seems to happen. Then I have my wife saying, 'Look, you need to get fit like him.'"

      America Eats Tavern, 405 8th St., NW, Washington, D.C., 202-393-0812; Open from July 4, 2011, to January 3, 2012.

      By Amy Perry

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