Recap: BBQ Brawl S2E1 – “Introduce Your ‘Cue” and “Just One Bite”

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…

For the second season of BBQ Brawl, Eddie Jackson joins Bobby Flay and Michael Symon at Star Hill Ranch outside of Austin and the number of contestants is increased from 8 to 12. The winner of BBQ Brawl season 2 will win a featured role on Food Network Digital and the title of “Master of Cue.” And in addition to the increased contestant pool, the premiere entitled “Introduce Your ‘Cue” is super-sized at an hour-and-a-half.

After a little bit of banter between the captains, (particularly Bobby Flay who “won” season 1 through Leanne Whippen), we begin to meet the contestants.

Christopher Prieto, owner and pitmaster at Prime Barbecue in Knightdale, is actually the first pitmaster introduced to the audience and is later described as Symon as “very confident, maybe on the edge of arrogant…may not be a bad thing.” He proudly claims the title of “BBQ Nerd” and isn’t afraid to throw science into his vernacular when describing his dishes.

The rest of the contestants are as follows:

  • Brittani Bo Baker – Bubba’s Q Food Trucks, Tampa, FL
  • Megan Day – Burnt Finger BBQ, Lee’s Summit, MO
  • Christina Fitzgerald – Sugarfire Smoke House, St. Louis, MO
  • Max Hardy – River Bistro, Coop Detroit, Detroit, MI
  • Lu Holter – Croix Valley Foods, Hudson, WI
  • Brendan Lamb – Smiley’s Craft Barbecue, Roanoke, TX
  • Ara Malekian – Harlem Road Texas BBQ, Richmond, TX
  • Terry Matthews – BBQ Daddy Catering, Phoenix, AZ
  • Erica Blaire Roby – Blue Smoke Blaire BBQ, Dayton, OH
  • David Sandusky – Beast Craft BBQ Restaurants, St. Louis, MO
  • Taylor Carroll – Southern Belle BBQ, Atlanta, GA

The show joins the contestants in the middle of their first challenge, which is to create their best barbecue bite in 30 minutes. Then, the judges taste each dish then go through a draft of the contestants, schoolyard style. Eddie gets to pick first as the newest captain, and he actually selects Christopher Prieto. Prieto doesn’t seem phased by being picked first, even as the first pick last season ended up being the first eliminated. The rest of the draft shakes out as follows:

Team EddieTeam BobbyTeam Michael
David Sandusky
Christina Fitzgerald
Brittani Bo Baker
Ara Malekian
Taylor Carroll
Erica Blaire Roby
Terry Matthews
Brendan Lamb
Christopher Prieto
Max Hardy
Megan Day
Lu Holter

After the teams are formed, the judges are introduced and they are no slouch. The first one introduced is actually Rodney Scott! I had somehow missed that he was involved in season 2, and its a welcome surprise. Then its Top Chef: Charleston winner Brooke Williamson, yet another great judge. Finally, Carson Kressley of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame is introduced as the last judge, completing quite the panel. Carson then introduces the first team brawl as a “First Impression BBQ Feast.” No rules, no limitations, just make the best meal possible. Each of the captains join the team and they start meal planning for the 1.5 hour cook.

Team Bobby makes an “Ode to Texas BBQ” focused around ribeye steaks with collard greens, sweet potato hash, smoked jalapeno creamed corn, and smoked cornbread.

Team Eddie made a “Backyard Feast” with Christopher taking the lead on the proteins in filet tenderloin and chicken thighs with sides of “cola slaw” made with soda, bacon-wrapped green beans, and a lightly smoked mac and cheese.

Team Michael finishes up with an “International BBQ Feast” with smoked chicken over an eggplant puree, smoked eggplant, smoked then fried cauliflower, and a smoked apple rosemary crumble.

Team Eddie and Team Bobby are announced as safe, with Team Michael predictably landing on the bottom based on the judge’s reaction. David’s cauliflower and Christina’s eggplant puree are the two weakest dishes and one of those two is going home. Christina goes home for her lacking eggplant puree, which she wasn’t super happy about having to cook in the first place. She seems to have some pretty impressive credentials so it would have been nice to see her cook more meat. Bells for Christina Fitzgerald.

As for the rest of the season of BBQ Brawl, the production values seem higher in season 2 and hopefully they will have more traditional barbecue challenges in addition to live-fire grilling (though I get the logistical challenges with filming a 10-12 hour or more cook). I’m also liking the judges for the season, and Carson Kressley adds a bit of levity to counteract the more serious cooking critiques from Rodney Scott and Brooke Williamson.

I’ll be following the progress of Prieto, as he is the only contestant with NC ties plus I’m curious: will his confidence take him to the title of “Master of Cue” or will it end up tripping him up along the way? I can’t wait to find out.

What was your favorite part of the premiere episode of BBQ Brawl season 2? Leave your response in the comments and be sure to check back next week for a recap of episode 2.

Linkdown: 4/14/21


Tomorrow night, UNC Press is hosting an online discussion with Adrian Miller, whose book comes out at the end of the month. Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue is my most-anticipated book of the year and I can’t wait to have it in my hands in a few weeks. The cost of the event is $15 and it benefits the Boston Book Festival.

Description: Just in time for the start of barbecue season, we’re eager to sink our teeth into award-winning food historian Adrian Miller‘s new book Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue. In this special pre-publication event, we’ll sit down with Miller—winner of the James Beard Book Award for Soul Food and a consultant on Netflix’s Chef’s Table BBQ—to hear the stories of how Black barbecuers, pitmasters, and restauranteurs helped develop this cornerstone of American foodways and how they’re continuing to influence American cuisine today. And, since Adrian’s book includes more than 20 authentic recipes, we might get some tips on how to make the most of our own adventures with the grill or smoker at home!

Native News

Smoke Show BBQ is a new Texas-style barbecue pop up in the Charlotte area from transplanted Texan chef Brandon Belfer who has worked at fine dining spots The Stanley, Crunkleton, The Asbury, Kindred, and Hello, Sailor

Charlotte-based Mac’s Speed Shop finds itself coming out of the pandemic in a strong position for growth

Roddey’s BBQ has changed their lunch hours in Rock Hill to Fridays only

Olde Mecklenburg Brewing’s Southern Spring Fest will feature smoked pork and brisket in addition to the oyster po boys and crawfish

Christopher Prieto of Prime BBQ in Knightdale has joined the previously announced pitmasters for the Inaugural Pinehurst Barbecue Festival

Non-Native News

Distant Relatives is a new barbecue trailer in East Austin serving “modern African American barbecue” and is already making waves

Beaumont-style links are making a comeback

Speaking of Beaumont, craft barbecue is catching on there

Bourbon + Barbecue = Crazy Delicious

Friday Find: Christopher Prieto of Prime BBQ on Kevin’s BBQ Joints

Monk: Christopher Prieto was interviewed by Kevin’s BBQ Joints in a podcast that was posted last November, a few months into the restaurant opening during a pandemic. The restaurant opening is the focus of the interview, and they decide to save Christopher’s origins story for a future podcast. Kevin doesn’t have to prompt him too much, as Christopher certainly has his long-winded spiel down pat, much like I experienced in my preview of the restaurant nearly a year ago. Bonus for viewers on YouTube as opposed to the podcast: Christopher gives a tour of his restaurant, which he is clearly proud of (and for good reason).

In this episode I chat with Chris Prieto from PRIME Barbecue in Knightdale, North Carolina.

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PRIME Barbecue
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday. – 11AM – Sold Out
Located at: 403 Knightdale Station Run, Knightdale, NC 27545

Be sure to check out the complete restaurant tour at the end of the video.

This chat was so great. It was actually supposed to happen over a year ago, but it seems like it was fate to happen now because we got a chance to explore what it was like to open a dream restaurant(one he bad been planning for 2 years) during the pandemic. He opened Cinco de Mayo and goes into depth the build up to realizing that his opening would be completely different than he imagined and all the hurdles and fluctuations they had to go through to turn a sit-down business into a completely to-go one.

For his restaurant he obsessed over every single detail and goes into great depth about this in our chat. He also talks about his relationship with his mom and dad and how upsetting it was to not have them there for the opening.

He goes into insane detail about everything they are offering and the logic that goes into why they are on the menu. It sounds incredible. Especially options like Creekstone Brisket, scratch-made sausage, lechon and red beans and rice.

This restaurant is 100% of what he dreamt about and he has been preparing himself for his entire life for this.

Monk’s Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2020

Monk: Our last piece of business before we close the door on 2020, here are my favorite barbecue meals of 2020. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d get to a full list of 10 like I did for 2019, but even with everything going on I still had some great meals.

10. Beef rib from Midwood Smokehouse

Midwood Smokehouse has a weekend beef rib special available every weekend for the (relatively) low price of $32 per bone. Midwood charges a flat fee and compared with what you’d pay if you had to pay by the pound, that’s a saving of at least $10-15.

9. “Bird is the word” smoked then fried chicken sandwich and smoked gulf shrimp from Leah and Louise (Charlotte)

“Bird is the Word” is a smoked then fried chicken sandwich topped with pickles and comeback sauce from Leah and Louise from James Beard-nominated chef Greg Collier and his wife Sabrina. It was also one of the best sandwiches I ate all year, even if it was technically not at a barbecue joint. The other smoked item I enjoyed on that visit was the “On My Way Home” which was “big a$$ smoked gulf shrimp” in a lemon, butter, and worcestershire sauce with cornmeal brioche.

If you are anywhere near Charlotte, get yourself too Leah and Louise at Camp Northend.

8. Smoked beef tenderloin from my backyard

My big Christmas smoke this year was both a smoked turkey breast but most importantly, a smoked beef tenderloin. I dry rubbed the tenderloin with kosher salt earlier that day before rubbing it with Billy Twang’s Old No. 3 Rub (review here) as I got my Oklahoma Joe’s offset up to temp. Two hours later, I had a perfectly medium tenderloin that sliced into perfect medallions. Yet another winner to file away for future smokes.

7. Chopped pork from Rick’s Smokehouse (review)

Rick’s was the favorite of my new Lexington discoveries as part of last year’s Lexington barbecue quest, landing just below my co-favorites Lexington Barbecue and Bar-B-Q Center and the re-review of Smiley’s (see below). Nonetheless, Rick’s is a winner that carries on the Lexington tradition for a relatively new restaurant (opened in 2009).

6. Tres Amigos platter (brisket, pork, and ribs) with smoked turkey and jalapeno cheddar sausage from The Smoke Pit

Mine and Speedy’s full review is forthcoming, but we enjoyed our visit to the newest location of the expanding local restaurant chain, which started in Concord and has grown to 4 locations. Charlotte-area folks: don’t sleep on The Smoke Pit.

5. Texas Trinity and beef rib from Prime BBQ (story)

At last February’s media event for Prime BBQ (in before times), after an extensive tour of the then-in construction Prime BBQ, the group was treated to a lovely meal of brisket, ribs, and sausage (aka the Texas Trinity) and a small beef rib. Eventually I will make it back to Knightdale for an official review, but this was quite the meal.

4. Pork belly burnt ends and sliced pork belly from my backyard (story)

While I still haven’t quite lived up to my promise that I would smoke pork belly again very soon, it is very much on my to-do list for upcoming backyard smokes in 2021. I still dream about those pork belly burnt ends from time to time.

3. Chopped barbecue sandwich with hush puppies and a Cheerwine from Smiley’s Lexington Barbecue (review)

Eight years after my first and only visit to Smiley’s, I wanted to get another visit end in case it truly does end up closing due to road expansion. And what I found was a 5 hog joint in limbo, unsure of the timing when it will be forced to close. Nevertheless, the sandwich I got on that day was the perfect Lexington barbecue sandwich.

2. Beef rib, brisket, ribs, and cheddar bossa sausage from Jon G’s Barbecue (review)

You guys all know how I feel about Jon G’s by now, so not too much more needs to be written here except that you should make the trip out to Peachland, particularly if they have a beef rib on special (but be prepared to pay for it). One of my barbecue new year’s resolution is to make the trip more often and continue to spread the word of Jon G’s.

1. Pork, ribs, and chicken from Southern Smoke BBQ (review)

Southern Smoke was my favorite barbecue at the midpoint of last year and that carried on through to the end of 2020. Matthew Register and team are doing great things in Garland, and I urge folks to make the trip like I did.