Kevin's BBQ Joints

Kevin's BBQ Joints Blog

Best in Smoke – Food Network

The Food Network is taking a big step further into the BBQ genre with the (4) episode series Best In Smoke which premieres on Sunday May 8th at 10 PM. The show is hosted by Bryan Caswell who was a finalist in season three of The Next Iron Chef and is chef/owner of Reef, Stella Sola, and Little Bigs, all in Houston.

I have to admit that I was a little skeptical when I first heard about this show as the past ‘BBQ’ shows on other networks proved to be more about time limits and pointless non-BBQ related eliminations instead of focusing on the BBQ itself. Best in Smoke appears to be different. From just the few minutes we (myself and a number of bloggers) got to speak to Bryan it let us know that he is extremely passionate about BBQ and food in general (we could hear him bark orders to food purveyors and staff in the background in between answering questions to us). If you go off of contestants and judges alone you know you’re in for a great overall show.

For a small ‘taste’, here’s their promo video:

Here’s the scoop: “The six competitors’ first challenge is to create their single best bite of barbecue. They can smoke up whatever they want, but the judges will only take one single bite. In the next round, the competitors find out that they have another chance to stay in the game. They have to cook cocktail party fare for an art gallery show in Chelsea. One pitmaster is eliminated at the end of the show.”

Here are the Contestants:
‘Famous Dave’ Anderson (Minneapolis) – Founder, Famous Dave’s America

Photo of Dave Anderson

Chris Hart (Boston) – Winner, Jack Daniels’s Invitational World Championship BBQ 2009

Photo of Chris Hart courtesy of Ted Lorson

Sara Horowitz (El Paso) – 2nd Place, Versus National BBQ Championship Series

Photo of Sara Horowitz courtesy of Mark Lambie – El Paso Times

Matt Lang (Brooklyn, NY) – Former Head Chef, Fette Sau

Photo of Matt Lang courtesy of Time Out New York

Chris Lilly (Decatur, AL) – Vice President, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q Restaurant

Photo of Chris Lilly

Brad Orrison (Ocean Springs, MS) – Founder, The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint

Photo of Brad Orrison

Here are the Judges:

Amy Mills Tunnicliffe17th Street Bar & Grill and author of Peace, Love, and Barbecue
Chef Tim Love – Owner of The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro
Mitchell Davis – Vice President, James Beard Foundation

Photo of the judges and host courtesy of the James Beard Foundation (clockwise from top):Bryan Caswell, Mitchell Davis, Amy Mills Tunnicliff, and Tim Love

What are your initial thoughts/ Please let me know what you think after you watch the first episode this evening. I’ll be putting in my two cents after tonight as well.

Posted in BBQ Competitions on by kevin - Comments (34)


  1. I’ll put my thoughts in after the show as well, but if I hear the phrase “good smokin’ luck”, I may just throw something at my TV!

    Comment by Wayne Brown — May 8, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  2. Join our Live chat tonight during the show at! We might have a special guest show up!!

    Comment by Grilling with Rich — May 8, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

  3. Like you Kevin I haven’t found a BBQ show I liked. I been to a lot of Cook Outs and theirs something in the air that the networks have not captured on camera. These teams put their hart and soul into their food. I like to see a show that shows the real behind the Q. How these guys drive hundreds of miles in weeks to compete, how they put thousands of dollars into their rigs, food and gas bills. A show with like 5 teams from 5 different regions in one season. More of a day in the life of, type thing. Maybe we’ll have to do it ourselves. Money maker I think. But anyhow, I hope this show all the best. I was not over the top for the first show. Maybe the last few will change my mind.

    Comment by Jeremiah Johnson — May 8, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

  4. Oh and if your wondering how I got to see the show before it aired tonight, I got hooked up from a Nor Cal Buddie.

    Comment by Jeremiah Johnson — May 8, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

  5. I’m looking forward to the show, I think they have a lot of potential to get it right.

    Comment by Chris — May 8, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

  6. Orrison is the biggest TOOL ever and there’s no way this show will be any good with his mouth all over the place. Without anyone repping from Central Texas (Lockhart, Luling, Taylor, Llano, Elgin, etc.) this show has no real BBQ cred at all unless they only cook pork. None of these guys knows anything about cooking GOOD brisket.

    Comment by James Rockford — May 8, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

  7. James – Not for nothing, but Hart took 1st place Best Beef Brisket at the American Royal Open a couple of years ago (there were 530 competitors for the title). His brisket’s _very_ solid.

    Comment by Moe — May 9, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

  8. I missed last night’s episode and can’t find any results on the Food Network: who was the first contestent to be eliminated? Thanks.

    Comment by Dahlynn — May 9, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

  9. Sara Horowitz was eliminated.

    Comment by kevin — May 9, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

  10. Thanks for the info! Dave Anderson is a friend and I didn’t want to call him in case he was eliminated! :)

    Comment by Dahlynn — May 9, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

  11. pretty kool clint tat on matt. sr

    Comment by smokinronnie — May 10, 2011 @ 12:08 am

  12. I was disappointed in this new show. The premise is silly. Have some cooks run to a truck for their ingredients. Poor famous Dave had a disadvantage. I thought Chris Lily was going to throw an elbow getting his protein. The food network is trying to produce a show at low cost. They have put it in their cookie cutter format and have baked an inferior product.

    Comment by Chilebrown — May 10, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

  13. Food Network is way out of their league. Stick to sushi and french finger foods. I didn’t like this show right off, what with the dumb one-bite thing. One bite is fine, but make them all the same meats. Level the playing field.

    Comment by Phil B — May 12, 2011 @ 2:11 am

  14. I enjoyed the show. As a backyard smoker myself I enjoy watching the real pitmasters do their thing.

    Comment by Jeff D. — May 16, 2011 @ 5:19 am

  15. I know that these judges have big accolades in their pockets for BBQ. But I had no feel for them knowing what the hell they were talking about. They seemed fake. And I agree with @Chilebrown, the format is incredibly stupid. This didn’t seem like a BBQ comp. it was more of the same old same old “lets make people miserable while producing food and them criticize them harshly for not catering to our ridiculous tastes”. I mean, did anyone in the producer’s tent look at a weather report? I for one, will not be watching the rest of this series.

    P.S. Why the hell are they holding a BBQ comp. in New York City???

    Comment by buddascrayon — May 16, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  16. Is it really necessary to have such rude judges? The biggest tool is that judge Mitchell. What a rude, obnoxious person. Do you really think that makes more people watch or turn people off? Put down for the latter of those two!

    Comment by Momb — May 21, 2011 @ 10:35 pm

  17. Where can I get a Best In Smoke hat????

    Comment by Frank Eriksen — May 23, 2011 @ 3:53 am

  18. Anyone see what they rolled the corn on the cob in during the last episode?

    Comment by Brent — May 23, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

  19. The judges were jerks, and the winner was a joke. They slanted that contest to his strangths. Grilled TOFU, are you kidding.Someone needs to tell Tim Love to come down to earth with the rest of us. He is a pompus know it all. If they wanted him as the “foot in mouth jerk judge”, the got a winner.

    Comment by JP — May 30, 2011 @ 3:10 am

  20. I just finished watching the final and I am very disappointed. What an absurd contest this turned out to be. The host was terrible and the judges seemed snooty and rude. It was uncomfortable watching them watch each other before they rendered a verdict. It felt like the show was being developed minute to minute with the producers not knowing what to do next. The location in an open field looked cheap and being in NYC seems to have caused the producers to try too hard to be clever and chic. The dishes they threw at the contestants in the last show were absurd. They finally allow a 14 hour smoked meat to enter into contention, but then serve it up to a bar with a bunch of vegetarians. Are you kidding?

    Comment by Wayne Gibbous — May 30, 2011 @ 4:08 am

  21. Overall, it was an ok show…Really didn’t like the judges at all. At the end, the Tofu part was ridiculous…The last competition should been straight curve balls–let’s judge these guys on what they do best–barbecue…One other thought, how do you judge if the contestants are using different meats. Each daily competition should have been using the same meat…Famous Dave clearly had a disadvantage having to race to the meat truck….

    Comment by Mike — May 30, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  22. I agree with the last posters- we watched all of the shows thinking we’d learn a lot about making good BBQ. It was as though they added whatever challenges they needed to to make sure Matt won. Tofu? That’s when it became obvious that this was a joke. “let’s cook Tofu for Vegetarians and let them help decide who wins a BBQ competition.” And I agree that the judges were complete snooty jackasses, which seemed to be what they were going for, so I guess they accomplished what they wanted. Hopefully BBQ Pitmasters comes back with their Season 1 format so I can watch a decent BBQ show again!

    Comment by Joe — May 30, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

  23. This show STUNK… and I wrote food network to complain. I also say “ditto” to the last posters… The judges stunk..that Tim Love Guy was a real knucklehead…the challenges stunk… and half the stuff they cooked they grilled ??? Guess I’ll keep learning with trial and error, at least my family and neighbors don’t mind my experiments !!!

    Comment by Rusty138 — May 30, 2011 @ 11:27 pm

  24. I could not agree more. The show was CLEARLY designed for the NY guy to win. Tofu BBQ=WTH. I like food network but they should be ashamed of this one.

    Comment by Kb — May 31, 2011 @ 2:24 am

  25. i really appreciate everyone’s input. any other suggestions would be great!

    Comment by kevin — May 31, 2011 @ 2:31 am

  26. The challenge with the girls birthday party. The guy who won the challenge gave the kids what they wanted, yet the judges had him last. The tatooed guy from NYC was awarded first place, yet, the kids at the party were not happy eating their food. So, should you cook for the judges or for the people the party is for? I say for the people the party is for, the kids. The judges should have booted whomever the kids voted in last place.
    Also agree about the running part. Let the cookers do their thing, let them cook, it is not a running contest.

    Comment by Bob — May 31, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

  27. This show was a total joke. I don’t know what the judges thought they were judging…sitting there eating BBQ all prim and proper with a knife and fork. I don’t have anything against the dude that won, but the show clearly was geared for him to win. Here’s an idea – Episode 1 – smoke a chicken; Episode 2 – Ribs; Episode 3 – Pulled Pork; Finale – Brisket. Would that be so bad?

    Tim Love is a joke. He was way over the top. Must be trying to get his own Food Network show.

    The Mitchell guy…WTH?

    Also, I ate at The Shed (Orrison’s place) twice last week and that was some fine food. Pretty good brisket for a Mississippi boy! Maybe I’m biased, being from Mississippi myself, but Brad and Famous Dave were the only people on the show I could tolerate.

    Comment by Ryan — June 1, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  28. “Best in Smoke” looked, from the beginning, like a lame attempt at a quick way to cash sponsors for a few extra weeks of air time. Other than the contestants chosen, I don’t think I was wrong.

    1. The Contestants involved were excellent.

    2. The MC of the show has no capacity for the job. He may be a cook, but he is not a communicator and has no ability at moving a show forward.

    3. The Judges were zeros. The Texas judge’s “gag” was descriptive of the trio’s performance in terms of their personal ability to bring credibility to their judging. They had no credibility. At best, they offered only cliched opinions.

    If the show runs again, and I doubt that it will, please find an MC with a clue and some judges with something other than boring attitudes for their judging capacity.

    The Texas judge may have been a legend, but it was clearly a legend that exists only in his mind.

    Comment by Curtis — June 2, 2011 @ 4:41 am

  29. First of all, the judges completely destroyed any credibility in the show. The contestants were very well-chosen; however, as previous posters have said…..What is the point in having people run to a truck in a race to choose your meat? This is not the Boston Marathon, this is a BBQ competition.

    Speaking of BBQ…….TOFU??? What was that about? That was just stupid. How do these idiot producers get their jobs? Do they know the right person?

    This show was very obviously slanted with the Tofu competition. How many times do you see tofu on the menu at a BBQ restaurant? That was like introducing caviar into a Paula Deen episode.

    Speaking of Tim Love…….what an obnoxious, arrogant little yuppie. I hope he’s proud of himself and his pathetic attitude. By the way Tim……arrogance doesn’t equal the ability to perform well.

    Comment by Norma — June 2, 2011 @ 4:57 am

  30. My husband and I were very disappointed with this show. He is just starting to learn the art of smoking, and we were hoping to get in on some good ideas. I agree with the comments above. There was a lot of grilling done and it seemed like the more gourmet and fancy it was, the more chance to win. On one episode they had the kids judge, and that barely counted toward the overall score. There was more time spent on running to the truck and choosing meat than techniqes used by the contestants. Were there any recipes for rubs or sauces given? This show was a good idea gone bad.

    Comment by tennisons — June 3, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

  31. As you will tell by my comments,I know nothing about the art of BBQ. That being said:

    I was bummed that the only lady was eliminated after the first show.

    I was a little skeptical about Matt at the beginning . I had heard of Famous Dave and The Shed, but I had never heard of Matt. He won me over. He made some very interesting dishes.

    Brad was hiliarious. I think he needs his own show.

    And competely unrelated… why is Bryan Caswell not wearing a ring? Food Network, that’s false advertising :-)

    Comment by Abby — June 5, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

  32. I missed the last episode and couldn’t find it on the Food Network website….but such as life. I agree with all of the comments that I have read on here….
    Why run to a food truck and why use different ingredients with each contestant? I think that if they would have designed it more like “Chopped” but in a BBQ sense and let the competitors compete over the 6 week period, losing one each week, it would have made for a much more interesting show. I would have chosen different judges and a different host also. Pick someone with a personality that wants the viewers to remain interested and some judges that can remain unbias and consistant.
    What made the show for me was watching Brad Orrison and his zest for life. Not only was this a competition for him, he was also in it to have fun and promote his business. Between Brad Orrison and Famous Dave this show was worth watching, other than that…not so much. You don’t have to have a stick up your behind to a great cook!

    Comment by Kimberley — June 6, 2011 @ 1:37 am

  33. Doesn’t Famous Dave remind you of Al Roker, especially in the voice?

    Comment by Bob — June 6, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

  34. I watched the show, it was a Joke, you give a BBQ Chef the task of cooking for a KIDS Birthday Party and then let 4 Judges known in the Food world as Experts b ut in the BBQ world have no Clue tear him apart. They judged Brad like he was cooking for them instead of the kids, I told my people at my BBQ Joint I would have laughed in there face and walked off the show. He did Just what they asked and better than the rest. Then you let 2 contestants judge people who they are going up against, WHO do you think they are going to get rid off, the one who can beat them of course. Really Blew it with this show Guys.

    Willis Thompson
    Wildfire BBQ Grill
    Tallahassee, Fl.

    Comment by Ed Thompson — August 30, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment