Grilling God: Chad Newton

May is Grilling Month at Food Republic, where we are offering pro tips from chefs and other well-known grilling gods.

Chad Newton — along with his wife Grace Nguyen — are the culinary forces behind Asian Box, located in Palo Alto and Mountain View, California. At the Vietnamese fast casual mini-chain, Newton uses housemade sauces, rubs and marinades to add vibrant flavors to charred proteins such as lemongrass-marinated pork and lime-basil tossed shrimp, all cooked over an open flame. Over the past decade, Newton has held executive and consulting chef positions at some of the Bay Area's most acclaimed restaurants, including Postrio and Fish & Farm. We caught up with the chef to talk about his grilling expertise, which includes a surprising must-have piece of equipment.

Do you prefer working with gas or charcoal?

I prefer charcoal because of the great flavor and intense heat, but sometimes you have to go with a gas grill because it's what you have, so you make it work.

What is the biggest mistake the home griller can make?

The biggest mistake that a home cook can make when grilling is to play with the item being grilled too much. Let it sear! Don't try to turn it too much and don't constantly play with it. Also, make sure you season your food, and taste, taste, taste! People often do not season meat as aggressively as they should. If you start with good meat and season it well, you do not even need a sauce sometimes, especially if you are cooking over wood or charcoal.

What is your favorite cut of meat to grill?

I love to grill a big steak. I change between hanger, ribeye and New York cuts based off of my mood. I simply season them well with black pepper and salt and then at the end brush them with a little soy sauce and wasabi slurry. I also love to grill sausages, in particular a good Louisiana hot link or another spicy sausage.

What are the best vegetables on the grill?

Onions, mushrooms and asparagus. I also love to grill shishito or padrón peppers, simply served with a good coarse sea salt, lemon and some aioli.

What's the best way to cook vegetables on the grill?

Just a little olive oil and good seasoning. Sometimes, you need to skewer items like peppers and onions.

What do you like to drink with your grilled meat?

It totally depends on what I am making, but there is nothing better than an ice-cold can of beer while grilling. I typically like a good Syrah with beef.

What's the most epic barbecue you have ever thrown, or been to?

Hands down, the bachelor/bachelorette party that my wife Gracie and I shared. We rented a house in San Francisco, got a large wood-burning grill and invited a large group of friends. Our good friends at Tacolicious brought over a frozen drink machine fully loaded with perfect margaritas and a watermelon, mint and Rye drink that took the party to the next level. For food we had oysters, banh mi sandwiches, and we grilled 4,505 sausages and giant bone-in ribeyes. It was monumental.

What bands are on your grilling soundtrack?

Instead of music, I like to listen to the Giants baseball game on the radio. It is very calming. It makes it feel like I am at the park tailgating.

What is the worst food item you have seen thrown on the grill?

Any food that has not been seasoned or marinated! Love your food and season it well — you don't have to be an amazing chef to do this.

Most useful piece of grilling gear you have purchased or used?

A miner's helmet for the perfect light and to free up your hands when dark out!

Any burger secrets to share?

Start with good meat, season it well and you have to have a good bun, plenty of good mayo or aioli, crispy shallots or caramelized onion and super sour and crunchy pickles. Cook the burgers medium rare and you are all set. Remember, burgers are subjective. It's what you like on them. But keep it simple and use good product.

More Grilling God advice on Food Republic: