Friday Find: “Gatlin’s BBQ is Building a Legacy as one of Houston’s Best BBQ Joints”

Monk: “BBQ Brawl” season 2 winner Erica Blaire Roby has joined forces with The Smoke Sheet newsletter on her web series “The Pit Stop with Blue Smoke Blaire.” In this episode she is in Houston speaking with business partners Greg Gatlin and Michele Wallace of the renowned barbecue restaurant Gatlin’s BBQ. She gets their backstory on how they each stumbled into the restaurant business after starting off in the corporate world.

On a side note, its good to see our friends at The Smoke Sheet getting more and more into the video game. Check out the rest of their videos at their YouTube Channel and subscribe here.

Description: Pitmaster Erica Blaire Roby (otherwise known as Blue Smoke Blaire) was recently crowned Master of Cue on Season 2 of the Food Network show BBQ Brawl. In this episode of her new web series The Pit Stop with Blue Smoke Blaire, she visits with Greg Gatlin and Michelle Wallace of Gatlin’s BBQ, one of Houston’s most highly-acclaimed BBQ joints. They discuss their journey from the corporate world into the world of BBQ and how they are building a lasting legacy in their community.

Recap: BBQ Brawl S2E9 – “Future ‘Cue” & S2E10 – “Master of ‘Cue”

Monk: In a bit of a change of pace, I’m going to try my hand at TV recapping for the second season of BBQ Brawl, which airs for *checks notes* 10 episodes *gulp* on Monday nights at 9pm ET on Food Network. 10 episodes? Well let’s see how this goes…

Well barbe-cuties, it’s come down to this. After nine weeks and 10 episodes, the successful second season of BBQ Brawl came to a conclusion this week with a double episode season finale. Who will outlast the other competitors to win the title of “Master of Cue” and get a Food Network Digital deal? Will it be the quiet assassin Ara, his teammate David the Beast, the arguable MVP contestant from the second half of the season Brittani, or the resurgent Erica? Only one way to find out…

On what looks to be a very cold Texas day, Eddie announces that the advantage challenge is a “Classics Remixed” for the contestants to add smoke to a dish that normally doesn’t have it. So a chance to show some creativity in their dishes.

This advantage would be big for Team Bobby and Team Eddie because if one of them loses in the team challenge, then they are officially out of the competition. It seems after losing his number 1 draft pick last week in Christopher, Eddie is still feeling out the working relationship with Brittani. Which is a little odd, because she has proved herself time and time again, particularly when she was still on Team Michael.

In the end, Erica’s grilled peaches and cream with smoked nuts beats out Ara’s cold smoked ceviche, David’s smoked spaghetti and meatballs, and Brittani’s “angeled” (not deviled) eggs with blackened shrimp. That gives Team Bobby a head start in the “A Whole New ‘Cue” challenge to create a new style of barbecue in 2 hours. This will really be an individual challenge for each contestant to showcase their own version of what the future of barbecue is.

Erica’s “Heritage Feast” combines Moroccan and Cuban flavors, the two parts of her heritage. The mojo pork tenderloin was nicely cooked by Bobby and is “the perfect bite” according to Brooke. Her Moroccan-rubbed chicken playing off a tagine is tasty, while both her carrots in North African spices with yogurt and Moroccan-spiced oranges get plaudits.

Brittani’s “fruity cue” will have a fruit component in each dish. She goes with surf and turf but her citrus-poached lobster tail that isn’t quite fruit forward enough and her charred pork chops with peach barbecue sauce that is tasty but a little overdone. Her pasta salad is “a little basic” while her ambrosia salad with smoked apples and pineapples doesn’t wow the judges either.

Ara combines fine dining techniques with old school barbecue for his platter. His lavender lamb chops that were cooked sous vide then grilled lacks the lavender punch and the Asian seafood stew is flavorful if not a little overcrowded with too many flavors. Ara finishes with a grilled red cabbage salad with smoked trumpet mushrooms.

David believes that direct grilling with sustainable ingredients is the future of barbecue. Like Ara, he also does lamb chops but direct grills them by adding height to a kamado cooker with a metal ingredient basket. I’m not sure how much this actually changes the direct grilling dynamic that removing the deflector plate from the kamado cooker doesn’t already accomplish, but he’s feeling good about it. The judges love his smoked roasted carrot with fish sauce but his grilled calamari with charred kale isn’t cooked all the way through, resulting in a rubbery calamari. His “trumpet mushrooms pulled pork” gets dinged for not being anywhere close to tasting like pulled pork despite a similar texture.

Team Bobby is named first (again) which means Erica is going to the finale! Then, in a slight twist, Carson notifies the remaining three contestants that they are all in the bottom and have to go to the judges shed. After briefly recounting each remaining contestant’s journey and some of the issues in their dishes, Brittani goes home but not before getting props for representing women in barbecue.

Bells for Brittani, the Floridian steamroller who is only going to get better as she increases her confidence.

And with that, I am looking forward to next week’s…wait what? That’s right, we’re rolling right into the season finale! Double header, baby.

Bobby and Michael are no longer mentors. For this finale, they are sous chefs for the 6 hour “No Rules” challenge. But in addition to dinner, there will be two more unscheduled challenges along the way.

David’s mind goes right to pork steaks, which makes sense for someone from St. Louis. Ara of course goes with Texas beef ribs and wants to put Richmond, Texas on the map with a win. Erica confidently decides to do ribs with blackberry barbecue made with her dad’s competition rib rub.

A little over an hour and a half in, the judges are hungry for a burger so call a 20 minute burger challenge with Eddie joining the judges for the tasting and drinking while abstaining from any actual judging.

Ara and David initially start out both doing smash burgers while Erica is doing a Greek wagyu burger topped with feta and tzatziki. David, once again with his timing issues, eventually pivots to a backyard grilled burger. And that ends up working in his favor, and he gets the “W.” Meaning he gets to pick the judging order which will be: 1. Erica 2. Ara 3. David.

David seems to think going last will be in his favor, but the judges wonder if going first and being able to set a high bar might have been the move. Nevertheless, the contestants continue with their cooks…

A couple hours later, Brooke announces the second challenge is a loaded bake potato challenge with the winner getting Eddie as a sous chef for 30 minutes. Erica’s delicious-sounding Italian loaded baked potato in a fried potato skin reigns supreme and she puts Eddie right to work.

For the final round of judging in BBQ Brawl season 2, the judges, mentors, and three remaining contestants all sit down to a table and eat everyone’s food together. A nice touch.

Erica kicks it off with her “Louisiana southern comfort food” with every dish having a Louisiana or southern connection. Blackened snapper with shrimp creole, beer can chicken with Cajun fire hot sauce, and competition ribs with blackberry BBQ sauce are her proteins and it seems as if the ribs are a huge hit. Her corn maque choux wth fried okra has a nice textural change up, while her Spanish lemon zest almond torte finishes off the meal nicely. I do believe she has set the proverbial high bar.

Ara goes next with a meal he would cook for his friends at this restaurant with a beef rib, smoked half chicken, smoked cauliflower, Vietnamese green papaya salad, and a bread pudding with bourbon caramel sauce. While Ara clearly impresses with his Texas beef rib, he may have counted on that a little too much as his other dishes don’t quite hit the mark. For instance, the bourbon caramel sauce on his bread pudding is a little on the sweet side, says Rodney.

With this final meal, David wants the judges to know where he comes from and his story through his food. He goes with reverse-seared pork steak, direct smoked chuck eye prime rib, creamed corn with okra, deep fried Brussel sprouts, and corn pudding with peaches. The pork steak is on the dry side but his chuck eye gets some praise. His Brussels may have sat in the vinegar a little too long and at that point I wonder if he regrets going last.

After the meal, the judges step away from the table to deliberate but I have to say that its Erica’s competition to lose from my perspective. Ara in second and David third on my scorecard.

The judges return and announce that the winner of BBQ Brawl and the “Master of Cue” is…Erica!

She is speechless and gracious in victory. Bobby admires her ability to keep her cool which really showed on the screen throughout the season (particularly in dealing with her teammate Terry). I’ll have more thoughts next week but considering the streak she was on, its no surprise to me that she came out on top in the finale.

Congrats to Erica Blaire, and we are looking forward to seeing how your reign goes.

What was your favorite part of BBQ Brawl season 2? Are you hoping for a season 3?