BBQ Grill with flames

The Perfect Summer BBQ: 10 Questions with Chef Carl Ashurst

The weather is getting warmer, and it’s that time of year to bring family and friends over and feast on the perfect summer BBQ. Chef Carl Ashurst, our Executive Sous Chef at the Portola Hotel & Spa, is a BBQ enthusiast. In fact, he has two smokers, and three grills, so we knew we had to interview him on how to have the perfect summer BBQ.


Chef Carl Ashurst, Executive Sous Chef at the Portola Hotel & Spa Chef Carl Ashurst, Executive Sous Chef at the Portola Hotel & Spa

I hear you love BBQ, how did you get into it?

My father-in-law in Texas would make beef brisket, hot links, BBQ chicken, and BBQ ribs. We have BBQs there all the time.

What is the secret to an amazing BBQ sauce?

I like using Sweet Baby Ray’s, but I season the meat and let it sit for a while before I cook it. Sometimes I’ll baste it while it cooks.

(Chef Carl shared his basting sauce recipe with us! Listed below.)

What’s your number 1 tip for grilling vegetables?

Oil the vegetables so they don’t stick, and cook them until they’re al dente because they will continue to cook off the grill.

What’s one common mistake people make when grilling that should be avoided?

Their heat is too high. Everything will burn and get tough. You want to cook it low and slow.

What food should never be left out of the perfect summer BBQ?

That’s a hard one. Let’s see, we got BBQ ribs, BBQ Chicken, hot links, corn on the cob… I might want to try grilling watermelon one day.

Ok, what about side dishes?

Oh, you have to have potato salad. Baked beans, green beans, and sometimes I make my homemade chili.

What’s the best summer BBQ leftover hack? (e.g. Making corn pancakes from leftover corn on the cob)

I don’t have any. I just eat the leftovers as is the next day. It’s just that good.

In your opinion, what’s the best way to grill?

I use charcoal and hickory chips. The charcoal helps the hickory flavor get into the food.

What’s your number 1 tip for the amateur griller?

Let the charcoal cool off for 45 minutes. Wait until the coal starts turning white.

Now that we’ve wrapped up our meal, what’s for dessert?

Number one choice is Apple Pie, either store bought or homemade. Number two is peach cobbler. You have to have one of those.


After speaking with Chef Carl, it’s clear that he loves BBQing, but also that he loves sharing that time with family. One thing he’s missed in the last year has been gathering the people he loves and enjoying good food. He said he and his family would have a BBQ once a month, and he’s excited to start that up again! Now that you’ve learned from the best, invite your friends and family, take his tips, and apply it to your own summer BBQ. Happy grilling!


Chef Carl’s Favorite Basting Sauce Recipe

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/8 cup molasses
  • 1 tbsp lemon Juice
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic
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