Chef Robby Hooker is an “a la carte” instructor at Artisan, the teaching restaurant of The Art Institute of Charlotte. He and wife, Victoria, also a Chef, find their children Sarah, 2, Katrina, 7, and Hudson, 11, love to celebrate with a cookout.

July 4th means grilling. For Texas natives, it means rib-eye steaks medium rare. Steak cooked beyond medium loses its flavor. We serve it with salad and sourdough bread to sop up the steak juices. No potato – that’s just filler. With three kids, we watch our money, but we spend for good beef – local and organic. At the grill, I add Montreal steak seasoning (from any grocery), a little dried garlic and Lawry’s seasoning salt. I throw compound butter on the steak when I take it off the grill. Serve with ice cold beer for parents.

To get it right:
*Be sure your grill is clean and hot.
Cook over glowing orange coals or wood – no flames.
*For those carmelized steak marks, use paper towels to pat steak dry before putting it on the grill.
*Don’t pre-season your steak. Season it at the grill.

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By Karen Alder and Judith Fertig; Harvard Common Press
Heat up your summer with the latest ideas in cooking on the grill with this cool cookbook filled with party ideas for the hot summer months. Authors Karen Alder and Judith Fertig collaborated to bring you this step-by-step guide to BBQ success. Colorful pages and photos, creative kid friendly party themes, plus tons of time saving tips make this book the ultimate BBQ cookbook for busy families who want to kick back, relax and take the cooking oudoors. $16.95.

Your three must-haves for proper grilling are a good metal spatula, metal tongs strong enough to open a beer bottle and a wire brush. Any brand will do. Just make sure they are strong and have heat-resistant handles.
HOT TIP! Don’t use a fork on your meat: It lets juices seep out.

To keep that grill, including drip pans, clean: Burn your grill about 10 minutes before you’re ready to cook, scrape it well, and season with oil. When you finish grilling, close it but do not turn it off. Let it burn at least five minutes more, scrape and season again.


Quick, easy seasoning made ahead and kept in freezer for chicken or beef, especially sizzling steak:
1 lb. Butter
1 tbsp Montreal Seasoning
2 tbsp Your favorite steak or barbecue sauce

Soften butter in bowl; add Montreal Seasoning and steak sauce; mix well. Roll mixture into a log in waxed paper or Saran Wrap. Freeze.
When steak is ready for plate, take out the butter log and cut off one ½ -inch slice per steak. Return butter compound to the freezer.

Southwestern alternative to steak seasonings: Orange or lemon zest, chili, lime, cilantro.

The Art Institute of Charlotte ( offers Associate degrees in Culinary Arts. Visit their on-campus learning restaurant, Artisan, Monday-Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Call 704-357-5900 for reservations.
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