Barbecue Bros AV Club: “BBQuest” Season 3

Monk: Kelsey Pribilski and the Texas Beef Council are back for the third season of “BBQuest,” and this time they’ve brought along author, live fire chef, and beef expert Jess Pryles of Hardcore Carnivore.

While the first two seasons focused on Kelsey’s (at times unsubtly staged) solo quest to try secret menu items at barbecue restaurants across Texas, with aspiring meat scientist Pryles in tow in season three they go beyond the pit (as the show is subtitled) to also talk with the cattle ranchers across the Lonestar State that provide the beef for Texas barbecue.

Each episode is structured to pair the barbecue restaurants with a cattle rancher that may be taking a similar approach, whether that’s the traditional route of barbecue paired with the old school cattle ranchers or the newer fusion barbecue restaurants and the next generation of a cattle feed yard that are using technology to innovate in the space.

Pribilski and Pryles have an easy chemistry and I like the duo compared with the rotating guest host approach they did for the first two seasons. Each episode runs about 20 minutes which makes for an easy watch. Between spotlighting the newer barbecue joints and shining a light on an industry that folks may unfortunately overlook when visiting those joints, “BBQuest” is well worth the time of streaming viewers hungry for barbecue content.

All 4 episodes of “BBQuest” are available to watch on Hulu or on the Beef Loving Texas YouTube page

Barbecue Bros AV Club: Checking in with “BBQ USA”

Monk: “BBQ USA” wrapped up its first season last week, so I figured I’d check back in and offer my thoughts on the show now that all six episodes have aired.

I noted in my first impression post that I hoped it would continue to in the same vein as the first episode. And it largely did, with host Michael Symon repeating the format at subsequent episodes taking place at festivals in Georgia, Texas, Alabama, New Jersey, and Memphis. While competition barbecue is not my favorite style of barbecue, seeing the teams the show follows compete not only against each other but the entire field makes for good television.

I also wondered if there would be continuity of contestants at the various competitions like there was with “BBQ Pitmasters” season 1 but in the subsequent episodes we meet new competition teams each time and follow them through that competition only. While it would have been nice to follow a team’s complete journey across a series of competitions, that’s actually ok with me. Logistically, I don’t know that there are teams that would be at each of those competitions due to the wide geography and even if there were, it could only have been the bigger, more successful teams. Sometimes, the drama was in watching the newer teams learning from poor showings or harsh scores.

While most competitions were KCBS-sanctioned events, they did visit a Georgia Barbecue Association competition in Tifton, GA as well as Memphis in May, which is a Memphis Barbecue Network event. For the Georgia Barbecue Association its all pork so instead of chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder, and brisket its pork ribs, pork tenderloin and pork shoulder in the blind box turn-ins. Memphis in May does the usual meats in blind box judging but also add an in-person presentation element. If there is a season 2, perhaps they will include other competition formats. May I recommend the Whole Hog Barbecue Series?

Speaking of which, as of this writing there is no season 2 announced but after this first season I for one would be in favor of it. There are so many other parts of the country to visit and other competition formats to explore. “BBQ USA” stands on its own, not only as a docu-series but also as a companion show to the competition format of “BBQ Brawl.”

What about you? What were your thoughts on “BBQ USA”? Are you hoping for a second season?

Barbecue Bros AV Club: First Impressions of “World of Flavor With Big Moe Cason”

Monk: In addition to “BBQ Brawl” and “BBQ USA,” “World of Flavor with Big Moe Cason” is another welcome barbecue/live fire cooking show in the current peak tv landscape. However, it differs from those shows in that its more of a travelogue show about live fire cooking in the Anthony Bourdain tradition mixed with a National Geographic show that teaches you while showing you something pretty through some gorgeous scenery and camerawork. Also, it’s worth mentioning that while Big Moe Cason is not a new face to the barbecue world and has appeared on earlier seasons of “BBQ Pitmasters,” he is a newer face to this kind of show that offers diversity and a different viewpoint and that is welcomed by me.

The first episode takes place in an around Charleston, SC where Moe meets with pitmasters Rodney Scott and John Lewis in addition to learning about the Gullah Geechee culture and food traditions to connect to his own heritage and culture. In particular, he admires Scott for his role as a black pitmaster and entrepreneur and notes that he doesn’t really see that in Iowa and the Midwest where he lives.

Through these interactions he gets inspiration for his dish that he served at last November’s Holy Smokes Barbecue Festival, a Gullah Geechee-inspired red rice dish with fresh caught crab and oysters and homemade beef sausage he collaborated on with John Lewis.

In episode two, he goes abroad to Colombia to learn their live fire traditions of cooking beef done by their cowboys, or llaneros, going back generations. He tries different foods and customs before again applying what he’s learned to the cooking of a large meal of veal llanero, fried piranha, grilled plantains, and yuca for a festival of llaneros by the end of the episode.

Through the first two episodes, the situations can be a little contrived in terms of filming Moe coming up with a menu through a series of filmed interactions before a big cook by the end of the episode. But in the end, “World of Flavor” is eminently watchable and Moe is a likable host between his big teddy bear exterior as well as his desire to learn about different cultures and apply it to his own cooking. I’m happy to follow along his journey across the world.

“World of Flavor with Big Moe Cason” airs Monday nights at 9pm ET on Nat Geo

Description: The Navy veteran and champion pitmaster Big Moe Cason sets out on an incredible journey to discover mouthwatering dishes cooked over an open flame. Cason dives for fresh conch in the Bahamas, roasts gator in Louisiana, connects with his roots in South Carolina, and wades into piranha-infested waters in Colombia. Moe explores the connections between American barbecue and cultures around the world along the way. While spanning the world, he serves up dishes that are sure to make the locals proud.

Barbecue Bros AV Club: First Impressions of “BBQ USA”

Monk: One of the first successful barbecue competition/reality shows that I personally remember watching was “BBQ Pitmasters” which premiered way back in 2009. Before it shifted to a closed competition format starting with season 2, it’s first season followed a stable of competition teams as they travelled to barbecue competitions across the country from Nevada to Missouri to Delaware to Georgia. It introduced the wider barbecue world to personalities like Myron Mixon, Leeann Whippen, Johnny Trigg, Harry Soo, and Tuffy Stone as they struggled through the elements at barbecue competitions in these locales in hopes of getting a top 10 call in one of the four meats – chicken, ribs, pork, brisket – or for the overall winner.

“BBQ USA” premiered this past Monday, July 11 in the same 9-10pm ET timeslot as the recently finished third season of “BBQ Brawl.” It’s no secret that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last season but based on the premiere episode, “BBQ USA” looks to be a spiritual successor to that first season of “BBQ Pitmasters” with better production and Michael Symon as narrator/host of sorts.

In episode 1, we meet 5 teams the day before the Qlathe Festival in Olathe, Kansas: Slaps BBQ, Meat Rushmore BBQ, High I Que, Hog Diesel BBQ, and Fergolicious BBQ and get a little background of the teams as we follow each one through the day of competition. That means starting the fires at 3am right in through turn-ins for chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket throughout the next 14 or so hours. We get to see the stress of the cooks and turn-ins, with some of them coming down to literally the last second. Finally, we are in the tent with the teams for the calls for each meat and the stress of getting your name called; or in many cases, not.

To me, the best part of the show is seeing the human element in the moment of a real world competition with not only the other 4 teams but the rest of the field. While I generally liked all of the competitors involved with the past few seasons of “BBQ Brawl,” it’s really interesting to see how the teams stack up not only with each other but with the wider competition (in this case, Qlathe had 72 total teams). So while we did have an overall winner in a team we happened to be following in Slap’s BBQ (as well as Fergolicious BBQ finishing second), we also get teams like Hog Diesel BBQ who didn’t get a call and has to go back to the drawing board for the next competition.

Based on the previews and show description, we will be at another competition next week and may or may not see some of the same faces from this episode. The trailer shows more well-known teams like The Shed, Christina Fitzgerald, and Ubon’s BBQ, so I’ll be curious to see how much it really changes each episode in terms of who they follow. Regardless, I’ll be watching.

What were your thoughts on the premiere? Will you be watching this season? Do you prefer this format versus “BBQ Brawl?”

“BBQ USA” airs Monday nights at 9pm ET on Food Network