Food Recipe: Barbecue Mac & Cheese

Vast Kitchen and Bar executive chef, Jordan Gillis, upgrades the comfort staple
Photographs by Kris Ilich/Vaughn Images

“When I was a kid, my favorite food was mac and cheese,” says Jordan Gillis, executive chef at Vast Kitchen and Bar in Shelby Township. “On Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even Easter, my mom would make baked macaroni, and as I got older, I started making it myself.” Gillis began cooking at the early age of 4, and whenever one of his parents was preparing a meal, he was “glued to their side,” he says. “My mother always told me I would grow up and become a chef.” On cold fall days, Gillis likes to make this BBQ Chicken Mac & Cheese, which brings him back to those holiday memories.

BBQ Chicken Mac & Cheese (Serves 15)

1 lb. elbow macaroni
16 oz. finely shredded mozzarella
16 oz. finely shredded mild cheddar
16 oz. finely shredded Parmesan
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese
1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
4 large chicken breasts
1 lb. bacon
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup green onions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook chicken, seasoning to your liking. Fry bacon, and remove grease. Chop chicken, bacon, and green onions, and set aside. In a large pot, bring two quarts of salted water to a boil and cook noodles until semi-tender. Heat heavy cream in separate pan on medium heat until it starts to simmer. Add lemon juice, hot sauce, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Sprinkle four ounces of Parmesan cheese and four ounces of mild cheddar cheese into the mixture, continuously stirring until all of the cheese has melted evenly into the sauce. In a large bowl, combine cooked noodles with cheese sauce so that noodles are thoroughly coated. Then, grease a nine by 13-inch casserole dish and pour in half of the noodle mixture. Top with the remaining cheddar, Parmesan, mozzarella, one half of the bacon, and one half of the chicken. Add in the rest of the noodle mixture, followed by the remaining Monterey Jack cheese. Cover dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Then, remove foil, and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, drizzle barbecue sauce over the top to your liking, sprinkle with green onions, and enjoy!