Lovers of all things barbecue will go head to head in the new season “BBQ Brawl.”
On June 14, Food Network chefs Bobby Flay and Michael Symon will go head to head in a truly one-of-a-kind barbecue competition. Each chef will coach a team of barbecue chefs who will be competing elimination-style until one “Master of Cue” remains.
However, this year brings the addition of a new coach: former NFL player turned Food Network chef Eddie Jackson will host his own team of players who will also be vying for the title of “Master of Cue.”
“For me personally, me, Bobby and Michael have a great friendship, a great love for barbecue and cooking open fire,” said Jackson. “I’m a huge competitor, that’s another reason why I was great for the show, [Flay and Symon] compete all the time and have friendly banter.”
“It was a really fun dynamic to bring,” said Symon. “Eddie is ultra-competitive, a pro athlete, and likes to bust chops. He likes to have fun and knows his way around a grill. He is a perfect addition to the show.”
Filmed in Austin, Texas, the 12 competitors will face two rounds of barbecue battles that test their individual skills along with how well they work together as a team. The captains — Flay, Symon and Jackson — must do everything in their power to keep their players in the game, even if that means diving into the challenges themselves. The competitors’ food will be judged by a panel of judges featuring barbecue legend Rodney Scott, famed chef Brooke Williamson, and lifestyle personality Carson Kressley, who will decide which team was least successful in each episode, with the competitor deemed the weakest link eliminated.
“I think it’s such a unique show. You’re bringing in people that are true masters of the craft,” said Symon. “I feel like it has that ‘Iron Chef’ feel in the sense that these people are really good at what they do and have achieved a lot of success in their careers already. We’re trying to push them to be slightly uncomfortable — the thing about barbecue is that people live in a region and have a specific style and that’s what they cook in. When you put them in this competition and then give them challenges that may have nothing to do with their region, it makes them think a little.”
Lee Ann Whippen, a member of Flay’s team emerged victorious, earning the title of “Master of Cue” in the first season of “BBQ Brawl.” Naturally, Symon and Jackson set their sights on taking down Flay once and for all.
“Bobby always wins. Sure, there’s ‘Beat Bobby Flay,’ but he’s a champion. He won the first season, so me and Michael got together to take him down,” said Jackson.
“Bobby’s got to go down. I’ve been fortunate enough to beat him in other shows before, but I’ve got to bring it this season,” added Symon with a laugh.
For Symon and Jackson, what sets “BBQ Brawl” apart from other barbecue shows is that you really get to see the versatility that barbecue has to offer, and the pair are happy about the level of awareness that the show brings to barbecue as a whole.
“The level of chefs we had in this show this season was amazing, I was blown away by the food they put out using just a smoker or grill. The biggest surprise was the level of talent this season,” said Jackson. “You are really going to see the versatility of barbecue and a vast array of things you can do on the grill.”
“I love it, it brings more awareness. The past couple of years have had a big spike in awareness for barbecue, and Food Network was a big part in that,” said Symon. “I think for the longest time, unless you were born and raised in the barbecue belt, when people thought barbecue, they thought about putting sauce on something on the grill. It wasn’t about low and slow, it was putting stuff on a grill. Barbecue is a technique, and shows like this bring more awareness to it and make people understand what goes into it.”
Both Jackson and Symon agree that this season will have viewers on the edge of their seats and that they should expect the unexpected in terms of who moves forward in the competition.
“We have a lot of heralded pitmasters and some people who got into it differently, similar to last season,” said Symon. “One of the people that did so well last season was a blogger, her technique was spectacular and that worked for her very well in the competition. That continues to reign true this time. To succeed in this competition, you need to be steeped in BBQ and you have to have a little difference in cooking style.”
“We don’t just have pitmasters, we also have competitors who have a diverse background in barbecue, like those showcasing pastries and desserts made on the grill,” said Jackson. “That’s the cool thing about this show, it’s not your typical pitmaster show. It has a lot of different things, throws lots of curveballs and shows the versatility of barbecue.”
The second season of “BBQ Brawl” premieres on Food Network at 9 p.m. on June 14.