South Park Magazine

Made to order

Glenn Lyman, chef and owner of "G Cooks," a personal chef service in Charlotte, cooks for the McPhilliamy family.
Glenn Lyman, chef and owner of "G Cooks," a personal chef service in Charlotte, cooks for the McPhilliamy family.

Glenn Lyman has just finished bringing in the groceries. The father of 10-year-old twins hit Harris Teeter, Clean Catch and Earth Fare and is now getting things situated in the kitchen of a quintessential Myers Park home. An orange chili sauce is simmering on the stove, and a just-mixed green rub sits in the blender.

Lyman pauses for a moment, turning towards the island when he actually means to reach into the sink. “I’m still getting used to the kitchen,” he says. “Where the island is, the stove The hardest thing about a new kitchen is learning your way around. I try to set up the same in every kitchen if I can, so I know which way I’m turning.”

Lyman is a highly sought-after personal chef and award-winning grill master. Mutual friends introduced him to Jim and Kelly McPhilliamy about a year ago, and the chef now cooks for the power couple and their kids every few weeks. Jim (a self described foodie) owns Charlotte’s new lacrosse team, the Charlotte Hounds, and Kelly is a Wells Fargo investment banker who spends at least several days traveling each week. Jim takes grilling so seriously that he and several friends enter the Blues Brews and BBQ backyard grillers competition each year. This family of foodies could not have just anyone taking over their kitchen.

Kelly says, “Jim is a great cook, but we’re both so busy, we felt like we were at a point where we needed to make sure we had healthy food for our kids that was easier to prepare, and Glenn really helped us in that regard.”

Lyman says he always starts with a food questionnaire to get a feel for what families like. Then he finds ways to make that food flavorful and healthy. “Our son is 10 and he has outgrown chicken nuggets. He likes fish, he likes a whole array of foods, and Glenn is the reason.”

Today, Lyman is in the McPhilliamy home working on a mouthwatering menu that would be at home in an oceanfront, upscale restaurant. He designed it to combine his own original flavors with some of the family’s favorites. “I’ll cook all day and make four servings of four different meals. When I’m done, I package it up and label everything with specific thawing and heating instructions. It’s dinner for the week,” says Lyman. His Island Jerk Cedar Plank Salmon offers “a real taste of the islands.” The award-winning honey baked garlic chicken wings are lick-your-fingers tasty and often specially requested. The Creole shrimp and grits and baby back ribs are both dishes that are perfect for the grill enthusiast.

“It’s been great for our family,” Kelly says. “I think Glenn takes it as a challenge to make foods the kids will like but make it in a way that’s good for them. Our daughter loves macaroni and cheese, like most kids, so he took it as a challenge to find a way to make mac ‘n’ cheese that was less fattening.”

Small jars with brightly colored labels and fun names are spread out on the kitchen island, but look as if they belong on the shelves at The Fresh Market – among them “Creole Soul,” “Fiesta Blast,” “Island Jerk” and “Citrus Sea Salt.” Lyman has made and sold his own line of spices for four years. Before they were beautifully packaged, he would walk into homes carrying plastic baggies filled with his own blends.

“I just taste something I like and then I go home and recreate it. I’ll change it up a little right now I’m working on a new barbecue rub.” The barbecue rub is still a work in progress, so there is no fancy container yet – just a plastic bag with the word “barbecue” scrawled across it in black ink. But don’t judge a spice by its jar; Lyman’s rubs are never short on flavor.

This past Thanksgiving, Lyman brought a baggie filled with a special rub he created for one of his regular clients, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith. “He’s a good cook. He and his wife are both really good cooks,” Lyman says, grinning. “The year before, I helped him fry a turkey for his Thanksgiving meal, but he likes to be hands-on and do the cooking himself when he can.”

Even as one of the most recognized Panthers, Smith is not even Lyman’s most famous client. Before moving from Ohio to Charlotte in 2010, Lyman got his start as a personal chef cooking for a then 18-year-old, up-and-coming young basketball player who liked shrimp and pasta and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Lyman was LeBron James’ personal chef for 5 years.

“I was an athlete growing up, and I know what athletes need to eat. They’re some of my best clients. But it’s the same with the rest of my clients. Busy professionals with families are my best clients, whether they are athletes or bankers.”

Lyman says working with “King James” helped him hone what he calls his cooking mantra: “Eat like you mean it!” His philosophy is, “Lean and mean during the week, low and slow on the weekends.”

For Lyman, low and slow on the weekends tends to mean a relaxing day by the grill, tongs in hand, a cooler at his feet and his wife and the twins around the table. “Everybody likes home-cooked meals and eating dinner in your own home, and I make that as easy as possible.”

Island Jerk Cedar Plank Salmon

For a real taste of the islands, crack open an ice cold Red Stripe Lager to tame the sweet heat – and make sure to invite your friends. Keep a squirt bottle of water handy to douse any flames on the edges of the planks. But don’t be tempted to open the grill lid too much. You will lose valuable smoke and flavor every time. Serve with GCooks Caribbean Salsa. All GCooks products available at Serves four.

Olive oil for brushing planks4 6-ounce salmon fillets, skin on 1/2 recipe GCooks Jamaican Jerk Marinade (see below)1 tablespoon GCooks Island Jerk Seasoning 1/4 cup allspice berries 4 fresh thyme sprigs 2 untreated cedar planks, soaked in water for 3 hours Pinch sea salt

Marinate fillets in Jamaican Jerk Marinade for at least two hours. Remove planks from water and brush tops with olive oil. Remove fish from marinade and place on prepared planks (2 on each). Season evenly with GCooks Island Jerk seasoning and a pinch of sea salt. Scatter fresh thyme and allspice berries around fish. Place planks directly over heat until planks begin to smoke, but not ignite (keep a water bottle handy to stop flare-ups). Once smoking, carefully move planks to indirect heat and close lid. Smoke from planks, thyme and berries will flavor the fish. Keep lid closed and smoke-roast for about 20 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork, spraying planks with water if flaring up. Avoid overcooking.

Jamaican Jerk Marinade

Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients. This authentic marinade comes together easily in your food processor or blender with untouchable depth. Serves six.

1 large bunch scallions (about 8-9, whole)3 medium shallots, peeled and halved1 piece ginger root, 2-3 inches, peeled and coarsely chopped9 garlic cloves, peeled1/4 cup fresh thyme, with stems, or 1 tablespoon dried2 tablespoons ground allspice1/4 cup soy sauce1/4 cup dark brown sugar1 tablespoon salt1 tablespoon cracked black pepper3/4 cup canola oil1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, unfiltered preferredjuice from 2 large limes1/4 teaspoon ground cloves1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon1 tablespoon GCooks Island Jerk seasoning

Combine all ingredients in a Vita-mix blender or food processor. Blend well. Marinade will be nice and thick.