Michael Symon follows barbeque competition circuit in new Food Network show ‘BBQ USA’

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Host Michael Symon interacting with Hog Diesel at the Olathe BBQ Championship in Olathe, KN, as seen on “BBQ USA”
Photo courtesy of Food Network

Michael Symon is getting to know the ins and outs of barbeque across the country while learning more about the people who make it in Food Network’s latest show “BBQ USA.”

The six-episode series showcases some of the most talented barbeque teams as they work to perfect their craft. Symon leads the viewers through Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Kansas, Georgia and New Jersey to see these teams compete in barbeque competitions including Rhythm & Ribs BBQ Festival, Cedar Fest, World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, and more.

As the chef behind restaurants such as Mabel’s BBQ and Lola’s Bistro, Symon was the natural choice to lead the way in this series.

“I love any food where there’s a process and patience to it. I love a steak on a grill, but there’s something magical about taking a brisket or a bone and beef rib and seasoning it, tending to the coals, and 14 hours later you have this beautiful product,” said Symon. “I love the patience that goes with it. You get the gratification of the time you put in. All of the elements [of barbeque], it gets specific about seasonings, sauces or no sauces. It’s specifically American, there’s nothing more Americana than barbeque.”

In “BBQ USA,” Symon gets up close and personal with the barbeque competitors who have put their entire lives into the craft. Unlike Food Network’s competition-style shows, “BBQ USA” takes more of a documentary-style approach and can really dig deep into what makes these competitors tick.

“What makes it unique is because it’s an hour-long show, we can do a deep dive and get to know these teams. At the end of the show, there are winners and losers, and the teams we see don’t always win,” said Symon. “It’s more about getting to know the teams, barbeque and giving them tips along the way. You’re going to learn a lot about barbeque, it definitely has a documentary type and educational type feel as well as going through the motions of competitions.”

Host Michael Symon Interacts with 3 Taxi Guys at the Memphis in May in Memphis Tennessee , as seen on “BBQ USA.”Photo courtesy of Food Network

The first episode of “BBQ USA” premiered on July 11, and Symon says that those who tune in are going to learn a lot about barbeque from those who are competing. Symon himself believes that there are aspects of barbeque that those who want to try their hand at the craft can really lean into.

“I think one of the great misconceptions is that barbeque is a technique and not a sauce, and people should realize the time that goes into it. I think that people sleep on any tough cut of meat, it can be barbequed just like it can be braised or stewed,” said Symon. “People normally think of ribs, brisket, chicken, but there’s so much more out there. In ‘BBQ USA,” people were barbequing alligator and all kinds of crazy stuff. In Louisiana, that might be natural but in New York or Cleveland, it’s not natural at all. Know where you are and make what you do regional. In Cleveland or New York, we don’t have to do Kansas City-style or Texas-style barbeque, lean on what you’re surrounded by.”

 Symon notes that the comradery in the community is incredible, with many of the competitors coming together to help each other out even though they are in competition with each other.

“I think the cool thing about the barbeque community is that it’s competitive, but it’s very united, too. These are people that are in competition on a weekly basis, but they deeply care and look out for each other. They share tips and tricks more readily, there’s very little of not sharing secrets,” said Symon. “There’s an incredible comradery, they’re giant traveling families. But at the end of the day, they are competing and they want to win.”

“BBQ USA” airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network. All episodes of “BBQ USA” are available to stream weekly on discovery+