Cook French Barbecue on the Grill in Your Own Backyard

Mill Valley chef Roland Passot began his culinary career at the age of 15 in Lyon, where he learned from some of the most famous chefs in France. In 1988 he opened San Francisco’s La Folie (recently closed after 32 years) with his wife, Jamie, followed by Left Bank Brasseries in Larkspur, Menlo Park and San Jose. Here Passot gives us some of his barbecue secrets.

What is French barbecue?
French barbecue is different than American. My wife is from Texas, she has a secret recipe that she doesn’t want to share with me, but she makes that very hot. French barbecue is different because we don’t use as much sweet. We do a lot of kebabs, sausages like merguez, fish, with African spices. If we want it a bit more spicy, we’ll use piment d’espelette with a marinated chicken. We might do sardines or shrimp on the skewers or put down half lobsters or oysters with cucumber, horse- radish and sour cream on the warmer. I also like to grill watermelon or stone fruit with a little bit of olive oil and serve with cheese or prosciutto.

Do you prepare your own spices when you barbecue?
The other day we were cooking some ribs with a dry rub and we used a spice blend called Marrakesh Sitar from the San Francisco company Spice Tribe. It’s a mixture of ginger, coriander, honey, turmeric, cassia cinnamon, paprika, rosebud, cumin, orange peel, allspice and green cardamom. It is delicious and it’s great for people who don’t want to grind their own spices.

What’s the best drink to have with barbecue?
I love Champagne, but with barbecue, I like a good beer. I also love rosé in the summer, and you don’t have to spend a fortune. Sur un Coup de Tête is from the Passot family plots in the Beaujolais region; it is very tasty served slightly chilled and drinks very easily.

What’s your ideal barbecue day?
For me, barbecue is casual. We turn the barbecue on, play pétanque, grill, drink and have fun. That’s what it’s all about, I think.


Serves 4–6


3 peaches (quartered)

3 plums (quartered)

3 nectarines (quartered)

3 avocados (quartered, skin on)

herb yogurt (recipe provided)

1 cup toasted almonds

1 cup caramelized honey and Thai chile vinaigrette (recipe provided)

sliced serrano ham or prosciutto

1 cup watercress (washed
and picked)

olive oil

Maldon salt

Herb Yogurt

1 cup whole milk yogurt

1 tablespoon basil (chopped)

1 tablespoon chives (chopped)

1 tablespoon caramelized
honey and Thai chile

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Keep cold until ready to serve.

Caramelized Honey and Thai Chile Vinaigrette

1 cup honey

1/2 Thai chile

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

Heat honey with the Thai chili over medium to high heat until caramelized. Remove from the heat and strain to remove the chile. While still warm, whisk in the vinegar and cool down.

To Make

Brush the peaches, plums, nectarines and avocados (skin on) with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill each cut side of the fruit 1-3 minutes total (depending on ripeness of fruit). Spread the herby yogurt on the bottom of a plate and top with the toasted almonds. Remove the fruit from heat and slice into appropriately sized pieces, removing the skin from the avocado, and put on the plate. Place a few slices of the serrano ham around the fruit. Garnish with the cleaned watercress. Drizzle with the caramelized honey vinaigrette and finish with a little Maldon salt.