'American Barbecue Showdown': Meet the Contestants of Netflix's Cooking Competition (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
It’s officially barbecue season on Netflix! Just one day after Chef’s Table returned with an all-new season dedicated to the smoke-filled cooking method, ET has the exclusive first official look at the streaming platform’s brand new culinary competition, American Barbecue Showdown, and the backyard masters vying for the title of American Barbecue Champion.
Hosted by Rutledge Wood (Floor Is Lava) and Lyric Lewis (A.P. Bio) and judged by barbecue legends Kevin Bludso and Melissa Cookston, the savory reality show sees eight smokers and barbecuers facing off in weekly challenges, from the expert handling of “unique meetings” to mastering “old school techniques,” as they attempt to make the best meals of their lives.
While Bludso and Cookston come with plenty of personality and skills to star in their own show -- “I want to taste the food and the story,” Bludso warns, revealing they are just as lovable as they are tough to please -- American Barbecue Showdown is all about the eccentric culinary competitors hoping to survive long enough to “smoke another day.”
Watch the trailer for the series and then learn more about the eight competitors, from a pearl-clutching Southern belle to a Jamaican pitmaster, below.
St. Louis, Missouri
Some of Boatright’s first memories are of his whole family gathering for their monthly whole hog barbecue meal. He is known around town for his excellent baby back ribs and comes to the competition wanting to honor his family’s barbecue traditions. He is the ultimate backyard barbecuer, with five grills at his home, including one that he made himself. His favorite cooking is low and slow, he loves to sing as he cooks his meat. A family man, married for 23 years and has three kids, he learned his barbecue skills growing up with his father and uncles. Although he may seem like a tough guy, he’s just one big, teddy bear.
Tina is a fierce competitor and is the current reigning BBQ champ at the World Food Championships. “The Southern Belle” comes equipped with her pearls around her neck and prides herself on her ability to cook all styles of barbecue. She is a French-trained chef who competes in 20 barbecue competitions a year and uses her culinary skills as a chef for Meals on Wheels. She is used to being one of the few women in the barbecue world and was the only woman in her culinary class. Her grandfather taught her to smoke meat as a child. Pigs and pearls is Tina’s “idea of heaven” and barbecue is her true passion.
Self-described as “Type-A All the Way," Georgia is an eclectic smoker and loves sauce. She loves having a plan and considers cooking to be the lifeblood of her family. Georgia was inspired to barbecue as a college kid traveling through the outback. She saw locals smoking exotic animals and experienced coin-operated barbecues. She has a great knowledge of barbecue, loves to experiment with her cooking, and her flexibility will take her far. Georgia is super organized and not afraid of hard work.
Michael Collins, “Shotgun”
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Shotgun has an amazing, colorful personality and is full of energy. He credits barbecue with taming himself a little bit. While his approach may be a little rustic and unrefined, he is full of soul and loves a food competition. He loves cooking chicken and ribs, and with his homemade smokers in his backyard, he has prepared everything from black bear to squirrel. Shotgun loves that barbecue brings people together and he barbecues for the neighborhood and his kid’s football team frequently. He loves rubs and wood flavoring in his cooking, and has a strong competitive drive that he brings to the group.
Dubbed “The Lady of Que," Sylvie is one of the most successful barbecue lady pitmasters in California, but aims to be crowned “The Pit Master." She has a vast knowledge of barbecue styles across America and comes with 15 years of barbecue competitions behind her. She has an acute attention to detail and began her career as a food blogger writing about barbecue back in 2005. After posting some ribs she made in her backyard, she was approached by a barbecue competition team, and the rest is history. Sylvie may be older than the rest of the group by over a decade, but she is a ferocious competitor that should not be underestimated.
Describing himself as a “Backwood Grill-Billy," Grubbs has rededicated his life to food after retiring. He suffered a heart attack last year, so he has changed his diet, uses less salt in his cooking and has recently lost 45 pounds. He admits he doesn’t make “fancy plates” and is a hard and fast smoker. His culinary knowledge and experience with all sorts of meats make him a top smoker. He is a hunter and has a lot of experience with wild game and butchery. In his small town, he has bartered his smoked meats for anything from an oil change to a dental bill.
Rasheed is originally from Kingston, Jamaica and dreams of one day opening up his own barbecue restaurant. Rasheed is a world traveler and brings his love of unique flavors and Jamaican roots to the competition. Becoming a true pitmaster is one of his biggest goals. At six feet, seven inches, Rasheed is a big guy with a calm and kind presence. He has smoked nearly everything, and takes the craft of barbecue very seriously. He has been waiting for a moment like this.
Benson, North Carolina
Ashley is a lifelong competitor and has been smoking meat since the age of 12. His family even competed against other families in the neighborhood. Ashley’s barbecue teammate and best friend, Big Worm, died a few years ago. He wants to succeed in the competition for Big Worm and dedicates all of his wins to him. Ashley has a friendly disposition, loves a challenge, and brings a lot of creativity in his dishes to the competition. He has experience competing on the circuit and plans to make Big Worm proud.
Just for good measure, here is one more look at the savory delights to come...