Chef Dawn Tyson (Courtesy Dawn Tyson)

The Fourth of July is the ideal time for a barbecue.

Food industry veteran Chef Dawn Tyson got her start at a Thai restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland.

She then moved to New York City following her college graduation and took a publicist job at BMG/RCA Records.  Soon after taking the position, Dawn began catering and baking for artists and co-workers, eventually deciding to start her own catering business, Dawn’s Dish.

Chef Dawn owned and operated a cafe in upstate New York, before deciding to sell her business to move on as a coordinator at the Culinary Institute of America.

Tyson spoke to theGrio about some Fourth of July recipes, great for any cookout, and her recent book Soul: Southern American Cuisine.

When it comes to Independence Day, Chef Dawn said the first thing you think of is “any kind of barbecue: ribs, chicken, fish.”

While barbecue food is generally thought of as bad for your health, Dawn said she has been recommending healthy side options to friends for this year’s cookout.

“A lot of people I’ve been pushing to do some grilling of fruit, which is outstanding,” she said.  “I love grilled pineapple.”

“I’ve told people to go a little lighter with the coleslaw recipes, not so much mayonnaise, maybe a light vinaigrette.  Adding some more, fruits and vegetables to their diet.  I always say everything in moderation, so the soul food, it’s fabulous, but you could always add some other stuff to it to counter balance all of that.”

Mixing it up

“Hot dogs are sort of my weakness,” Chef Dawn confessed. “I do look for different flavored hot dogs.”

If you are looking to change up your menu for the Fourth this year, she suggests trying sage and rosemary chicken dogs that you can purchase at a local grocery store.

Chef Dawn shared a dessert recipe that can be done right on the grill.

“It’s sort of a change up on one of the recipes I have in my book,” she said. “There is a cobbler recipe that is in my book, with the cobbler recipe I always use peaches or fresh fruit, that you can do on the grill.”

Chef Dawn has fond memories of making this same recipe as a child.

One of my favorite childhood memories is making this cobbler with my grandmother. I used to climb the peach tree in my grandparent’s front yard and gather all the peaches for the cobbler. My grandmother would let me use a butter knife to cut the peaches up for her when I was little. I know the peaches were not cut perfectly, but my grandmother always praised the job I was doing. And no matter how the cut peaches looked, the cobblers always came out perfect!

“You can put it on the side burner and by the time you finish your main course, it will be finished.”  The full recipe for ‘Grandma’s Peach Cobbler’ from Chef Dawn is listed at the end of this article.

More Recipes 

Chef Dawn’s first book, Soul: Southern American Cuisine, was published late last year.  The cook book includes recipes for many comfort food dishes that Dawn, herself, frequently creates.

“It was on my bucket list to have a book published,” Dawn said. “I really wanted to do soul food so that’s what i did. ”

She credits a conversation with her mother about two years ago with motivating her to get going on her first book.

Next are five recipes Chef Dawn Tyson gave theGrio to share with readers for July 4th.