How to grill salmon on the barbecue

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      Anyone with a barbecue and a penchant for seafood knows that grilling fish can be tricky. Does it need to be marinated? How long on each side? Skin on or off? Luckily, the Westin Grand’s chef Chris Savino has a solution for simply grilled salmon that’s inspired by an old family recipe.

      Savino, the executive chef at the Westin’s hidden tasting bar & social lounge (433 Robson Street), is also responsible for the upscale, back- yard-barbecue–inspired menu at the hotel’s Pop Up Patio. Located on the third floor of the hotel, the poolside restaurant operates on Thursday and Friday evenings (weather permitting) throughout the summer.

      Like many chefs, he started cooking at a young age with his mother. Later in life, Savino focused more of his energy on playing sports, and cooking was simply something he did for fun. He didn’t consider making it a career until he spent a summer working at the PNE with a close friend.

      “I didn’t think I was going to be a chef, and then I just kind of got pulled in that direction. I fell in love with the industry and the fast pace,” says the chef, who earned his Red Seal certification in 2008 through Vancouver Community College’s culinary-arts program.

      While Savino is a fan of the farm-to-table trend, he still likes to experiment with molecular gastronomy. “I know that trend is kind of dying, but I do love the way that the food looks, and I wish it would be a little more prevalent in Vancouver,” he says.

      Like many chefs, he seeks out good ingredients. Some of Savino’s favourite locally sourced products include fresh spot prawns, sockeye salmon, and herbs from Sky Harvest, an East Vancouver–based company that grows high-quality microgreens and delivers them by bicycle. He also loves sea asparagus, which has a short season between June and early August, and he uses it as a garnish on some dishes on the Pop Up Patio menu. “Right now, you can get it fresh and crispy,” he says. “When I do get my hands on it, I try to use it everywhere.”

      Chef Savino’s family-inspired barbecued salmon with summer succotash features a simple glaze and a side of steamed potatoes, suitable for any grilling novice. Savino and his family often collaborate on the dish at large family gatherings in the summertime.

      “It’s definitely inspired by my family. My sister always does her potatoes this way, so I just tweaked it a bit and did it my way. I love the combination of maple syrup and bacon, and the succotash speaks to my aboriginal roots,” he said.

      Savino says the most important thing to remember when grilling fish is not to fuss with it too much once it’s been placed on the grill.

      “Don’t move it too much. Set it down at a really high heat and just let it sear, just so that it comes out nicely and you get that nice colour.” He uses a simple, three-ingredient marinade, cooks the salmon skin side down, and sets one side of the grill at a low heat so that he can cook the potatoes and salmon simultaneously.

      While his family often pairs the meal with sangria, Savino prefers a nice cold pint of Hefeweizen.

      Chris Savino’s barbecued Salmon and Succotash



      1.5 to 2 lb (700 to 900 g) wild sockeye salmon fillet (boneless, skin on)
      ½ cup (125 mL) mayonnaise
      2 Tbsp (30 mL) maple syrup
      Lemon juice to taste
      Salt and pepper to taste


      1. Preheat the grill, with one side set to high heat, and the other on low in preparation for the potatoes. Season the fillet with salt and pepper.
      2. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise with maple syrup and lemon until smooth. Using a pastry brush, slather over skinless side of the fillet.
      3. Place the fillet skin side down directly on the top rack of the side of the grill over high heat. Close the lid and bake for 20 minutes, without flipping. The salmon is done when the skin begins to separate from the flesh and the glaze forms a light crust.

      Potato Steamers


      15 small red potatoes, quartered
      4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
      1 red pepper, diced
      12 mushrooms, quartered
      Leaves of 1 sprig thyme, chopped
      ¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil
      Salt and pepper to taste


      1. Place two large pieces of tinfoil on top of each other on a flat surface. Place all ingredients on the foil and mix them gently using your hands. Fold and tightly seal the foil package.
      2. Place the packet on the main level of grill, on the side set to low heat.
      3. Flip the packet every five minutes. Cook for 25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.



      2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
      2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
      1 red onion, peeled and coarsely diced
      8 strips bacon, roughly chopped
      1 red pepper, diced
      2 tomatoes, diced
      2 cups (500 ml) raw corn kernels, cut from 2 to 3 cobs
      Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme, chopped
      Salt and pepper to taste


      1. On your grill’s side burner or on the stove, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until translucent.
      2. Add bacon and cook for two more minutes.
      3. Add red pepper, tomatoes, corn, and thyme and cook for two more minutes.
      4. Season with salt and pepper, and serve over the salmon.

      Yield: 6 to 8 servings. Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.

      Amanda Siebert