CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Executive chef Alex Colaianni is used to teaching in the hustle and bustle of the restaurant industry. 

During the pandemic, he lost his job but still found a way to pass along his cooking knowledge. Chef Colaianni is friends with the McBride family of Maryland. When he learned 11-year-old Grayson McBride had an interest in cooking, the idea of virtual lessons was born. 

Every three weeks since May, they have teamed up online making everything from macaroni and cheese to hamburgers. At the end of July, the two were able to meet in person where Grayson received his very own chef’s coat. 




The lessons have been such a hit. Chef Alex says he is thinking about doing lessons for the public ahead of Thanksgiving. He is also developing a new restaurant slated to open in the Triangle in the near future.

Check out some of Chef Alex Colaianni's recipes:

Grayson's Macaroni & Cheese

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

3 cups water

3 cups milk

1 cup 1/2 & 1/2

1 pound Cavatappi (uncooked)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp granulated garlic

3 cups shredded cheddar

1 cup shredded gruyere

1 cup shredded mozzarella


  1. In a large sauce pot, melt the butter over a medium flame. Do not brown.

  2. Add the flour and quickly whisk the two together to make a roux. Cook for about 15 seconds, stir constantly.

  3. Add 1 cup of water and mix completely with the whisk to eliminate all clumps of roux. Increase heat to med-high heat and mix for 1 minute.

  4. Add the remaining water, milk and ½ & ½. Add the salt, mustard and garlic, mix well

  5. Bring to a simmer and add the pasta. Mix well to avoid clumping. Cook on a med-high heat until the pasta is al dente just shy of a boil. Stir often. 

  6. When pasta is done, add the cheeses. Remove from the heat and stir well until to melt and incorporate all the cheese. 

  7. Let pot rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Simple & Good Roasted Chicken:

1 whole, fresh 4 to 5 pound bird, make sure it is not already brined. 

Small packets of fresh thyme and rosemary

3/4 gallon hot water ( tap hot water)

3/4 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup soy sauce

4 cups ice cubes

1 red onion

1 head celery

1 can spray oil (olive oil based is best)


*Note: This is a two day process that includes an overnight brining of the chicken. You will need to ensure you have a pot or container that is large enough to hold the chicken & brine covered but also fit into your refrigerator. 

1. Empty and rinse well the chicken. 

2. For the brine, combine the salt, sugar and soy sauce in the hot water. Mix until salt and sugar dissolve. Add 5 or six sprigs each of thyme and rosemary. 

3. Add the ice cubes to cool the brine. 

4. Place the chicken on your pot or vessel. add the brine until submerged. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. Allow between 10 and 15 hours in the brine. 

5. Following day when ready to roast. Preheat the oven to 425. 

6. Select a roasting pan large enough to safely hold the chicken.

7. Cut celery stalks in lengths equal to the length of your pan and arrange them about 2 inches apart. 

8. Remove the root end from your red onion and cut the onion in 4 equal sized wedges and arrange them sloping toward the center of your pan between the celery to create an "onion saddle" for the chicken to rest in. Add remaining rosemary and thyme to the pan. 

9. Carefully remove the chicken from the brine and allow to drain for about 30 seconds, legs pointing downward over the pot.

10. Place the chicken, breasts up in the "onion saddle" 

11. Spray a coat of the olive oil on the skin of the chicken 

12. Place in the oven. 

13. The cooking process for the chicken will take a total of 1 hour and 45 minutes, so plan accordingly. In this method it is important to not open the oven at anytime during the cooking 

14. After 40 minutes at 425, turn the oven down to 325 and cook for 40 more minutes.

15. After the 30 minutes at 325, turn the oven down to 275 for 25 more minutes. (it is important to cook the inner thigh meat and breast meat to 165 degrees but with a 4 to 5 lb chicken this method should take you to that point without overcooking your chicken)

16. Remove the chicken from the oven, place it on a cutting board and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before carving. 

17 Hold onto the pan with the chicken "au jus" for finishing each plate once carved. 


Mexican Street Corn:

4 ears of corn

1 cup water

1/2 cup mayo (Duke's if you have it)

1 tbsp lime juice

1 tsp chili powder

2/3 cup cotija cheese (finely chopped)

2/3 cup or so chopped cilantro

salt to taste. 


*Note: Mexcian Street corn is best and traditionally prepared on an open grill. The method used in this presentation was "roasting" it in a pan inside. 

1. Remove the husks from your corn and wash them. 

2. In a small mixing bowl combine the mayo and lime juice 

3  In a second small bowl, combine the chili powder, cotija cheese and cilantro. Mix well and spread this out on a plate large enough to roll the ear of corn on.

4. Use a large pan (large enough to fit all four ears at once) with a lid, place it over a medium-high flame or heat and allow to heat for about 5 minutes, lid off. 

5. Carefully place the ears in the pan, cover. 

6. About every 4 minutes turn each ear a quarter of a rotation. As they roast you will hear "popping" sounds similar to making popcorn. Afte rotating each ear, recover and repeat until you have roasted all sides. 

7. On the last side before covering, carefully pour the water in the pan. Season with salt over each ear and cover. This will steam the corn to complete the cooking. 

8. Uncover, remove from the pan and place on a plate. While hot, quickly brush each ear generously with the mayo mixture. 

9. Then roll each ear in the cotija mixture coating evenly. 

10. Serve immediately.