Monday, May 26, 2014

Making a Difference. One Cookout at a Time.

I wanted to post this earlier, but I didn't want to rain on anyone's Memorial Day cookout.

Including my own.

So I'm posting this now as to give us food for thought for next year.

Maybe it's because I have sons who are 'draft-able'. Or maybe it's because of I have young in-laws who are currently serving our country.

Or maybe it's because I'm simply older and more reflective.

Whatever it is, a friend posted this pic on Facebook and for some reason it hit home for me.

Granted, I love to grill. Especially if I'm given 3 full days to do it. I've even posted numerous grilling recipes over the years. And I will continue to do so. But next year with a difference. And maybe you will too.

In a world where athletes, movie stars, and pop singers pull down more money than the GNP of many nations, it's hard to swallow the fact that our servicemen and women - those who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way for our benefit and (in some cases) for the benefit of those who actually despise them - sometimes have to struggle when they return home.

I often approach those in uniform at the airport, in a restaurant, or downtown and thank them for their service. You might too.

Maybe it's time to do more than just talk. So here's my thought. I hope I can get some buy-in.

At your next backyard Memorial Day shindig, put out a bucket for donations. And let your guests know about it in advance so they can come prepared. The next day, send the proceeds to your non-profit of choice (ie. Wounded Warriors). It works. And it will grow. Here's how I know.

Back when we had a big house, we hosted an annual Blues Brothers party in February. I'd cook up a Chicago blues feast, everyone would come dressed as a character in the movie, my son-in-law and friends would play live blues music, and the piece de resistance would be my son and my good friend Jeff lip-syncing 'Soul Man' to the delight of everyone in attendance (oh…and they were spot on!) We put a bucket out with a sign stating that we were on a mission from God. Each year we'd raise a couple of thousand of bucks for an orphanage in Mexico, Alaska, etc.

I know it's not a lot of money. But hey, what if 10 of us were committed to doing something similar. 100? 1000? 10,000? Now, we're talking serious cash.

This backyard party cost next to nothing (unlike the huge celebrity 'fundraisers' that cost more to produce than they raise…and trust me on that…I was a non-profit fundraiser for 25 years…) and everyone knows exactly where their money is going. And there's no middle man taking a hefty cut.

Better yet? Invite some servicemen and vets from the neighborhood over. Don't fawn. Just thank 'em and offer them a cold beer and a brat.

So, with that in mind, what do you think?

Are you with me?

If so. Whip up some of these brats. They're cheap. Delicious. And together we can pay homage to those who lay down their lives for us.

Bon Appetit!

Chef Warren


Double, triple or quadruple this. It's all good.

PREP: 10 minutes            COOK: 1 hour


8 good brats. (If you can get them from your butcher, great. If not, Johnsonville is a good national brand.
2 Spanish or sweet onions (Vidalia, Walla-Walla) peeled and sliced

6 garlic cloves, minced or crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 bottles good amber beer - don't bother with lite or cheap beer crap
1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

8 brat buns


1. Preheat outdoor grill.
2. Melt 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 an onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté an addition 2 minutes. Add the brats, salt and beer and bring to a slow boil.
3. Quickly lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered.
4. In the meantime, heat remaining butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining onion slices and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.
5. Remove brats from pot and grill over medium heat until nicely brown, about 10 - 15 minutes.
6. Serve on buns with sautéed onions and plenty of good beer.
7. Put out a bucket for donations.
8. Send donations to non-profit of choice.
9. Repeat every Memorial Day.


  1. Hey Warren, thank you for this.

  2. What a fantastic idea, and what a gripping photo. Sort of puts things in perspective

    1. I was also moved by that photo, Shannon. Kudos to whoever came up with the idea.

  3. This idea is phenomenal! BBQ with a cause

    1. Yep, Melanie. It's amazing what could be accomplished if each of us played a part.

  4. Thanks for reminding us, Warren. Lovely post!

    1. Thank you, Coco. Here's hoping you have a great weekend!