“They call me Griddle John,” John Edwards said.
Since he was a young boy, John, a 2006 graduate of Franklin County High School, has been cooking for a crowd.
“My mother and grandmother taught me what they knew,” John said. “We basically always cooked for an army, even though there were only six of us. We had friends and family coming in and out of our house all of the time.”
When he was about 15 or 16 years old, he took over cooking dinner.
“I cooked whatever was on sale at Pic Pac,” John said, about the former grocery store in South Frankfort that closed in July 2019. “We got all of our meat there — pork chops, steak.”
For sides, he would make macaroni and cheese, and his favorite — asparagus, which he prepares by wrapping it in tin foil with butter and Cajun seasoning and putting it on the grill.
John prefers to grill on a charcoal grill because of the smoky flavor it gives the food.
“When cooking meat, you want to get the char and caramelization on the meat,” he said. “A gas grill will make the marks on the meat, but you don’t have the flavor.”
When John first started grilling, he said that he had a hard time getting the charcoal to stay lit.
“It would drive me insane,” he said. “I used a whole bucket of lighter fluid.”
Eventually, he learned a few tricks, such as using charcoal starters and shredding paper under the charcoal grate.
John’s favorite meat to grill is pork tenderloins, which he cuts into chops and marinates them in beer, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and other seasonings. He serves the meat with grilled squash and zucchini prepared by wrapping it in foil with onions, seasonings and butter and cooking it directly on the coals.
John’s grilling skills has even earned him a position cooking at Sig Luscher Brewery on Mero Street. He started cooking there in the fall of 2019.
He cooks on a charcoal grill outside of the brewery. Sometimes he borrows his friend’s food truck and parks it outside the brewery and cooks.
His most popular dish at the brewery is Pork Souvlaki Kebabs and Gyros. John and Sig Lusher owner Tim Luscher, developed the dish together.
“Tim is from New York and he was telling me about a guy in his neighborhood who sold Pork Souvlaki,” John said. “We made them one night and everyone loved it.”
The Souvlaki is made with pork tenderloins that are cubed and placed on a skewer then grilled. It’s served on a grilled pita bread with lettuce, tomato, red onion and tzatziki sauce.
“People like it. I have regulars come every week to get a gyro.”
John also likes to grill burgers on a charcoal grill.
“I put a divot in the middle of the patty so it doesn’t have much shrinkage,” he said.
He flavors his burgers with chili powder, which he said he uses on almost everything, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and Cajun seasoning.
“Chili powder gives everything a little extra kick,” he said. “You also definitely can’t go wrong with MSG. It packs your meat full of extra flavor.”
MSG is sold as the brand Accent in grocery stores, he said.
One of the more challenging meats to grill is fish, John said.
“Grilling fish is problematic. It can fall apart easy, especially salmon,” he said.
John wraps the fish in banana leaves before placing it on the grill so that it doesn’t stick to the rack.
Other grilling tips John offers include making sure the charcoal is smoldering before you start cooking.
“You don’t want to put lighter fluid on the charcoal when the food is on the grill,” he said.
He also has safety recommendations.
“I’ve burnt myself I can’t tell you how many times,” he said. “Nothing too bad though. Mostly little burns.”
To avoid being burnt, he now wears big leather firing gloves.
Griddle John’s Pork Souvlaki Gyros
Pork Souvlaki (Greek Style Pork on a Stick, wooden skewers):
4 lb pork tenderloin
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons of sea salt
1 tablespoon of Accent brand seasoning (Monosodium Glutamate)
1 ½ tablespoons of oregano
Souvlaki Grilling Sauce:
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
1 squeeze bottle
Spiceziki Sauce (Tzatziki with serrano peppers):
16 ounces Greek yogurt
½ peeled cucumber
1 ½ serrano pepper
1 tablespoon of dried dill
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic
Instructions for Souvlaki:
Cut tenderloin into about 1 pound slices. Then split those pieces into half pound slices. Next cut them in half again to get ¼ pound slices then cut the ¼ pound slices into 4 equal pieces. What you’re left with is pieces of meat around 1 inch each. 4 pounds of meat will yield enough to make 16 souvlaki.
After cutting all your meat, put it in a large bowl. Add sea salt, lemon juice, olive oil, Accent seasoning and oregano and mix by hand for a couple minutes until all the meat is coated and ingredients are dispersed. As I said before this is enough to yield 16 meat sticks or 16 gyros, you can freeze what you don’t need and use it later or make all 16 for your family and friends. They go quick!
After getting the meat marinated refrigerated for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours to pack in that amazing Greek flavor.
After it has marinated it is time to skewer the meat. Soak the skewers in water for at least an hour in water then put 4 pieces of meat on each skewer.
Grill the skewers until cooked while flipping regularly and squirting the Souvlaki Grilling Sauce with each flip shake bottle before each squirt to be sure it does not separate. Be aware: The sauce will cause the grill to flare up so be prepared to shut the grill when the flare ups start.
Making the Spiceziki Sauce:
Combine cucumber, serrano peppers, dried dill, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor.
To make regular Tzatziki sauce just leave the serrano peppers out (But trust me it is really good with them!)
Pulse on high until it is all mixed together and chopped up very finely. Add Greek yogurt and continue to mix until smooth and everything is mixed well.
Making the Souvlaki into a Souvlaki Gyro:
Coat a pita bread with the Souvlaki Grilling Sauce on both sides and place on the grill while flipping until golden brown.
Pull pita bread off the grill and spread Spiceziki Sauce upon the pita bread.
Add shredded lettuce, 2 slices of Roma tomatoes, and some chopped red onion on top of pita.
Take the souvlaki skewer and remove the meat onto the pita bread.
Fold the pita bread and enjoy!