Kevin's BBQ Joints

Kevin's BBQ Joints Blog

Best in Smoke – Amy Mills Tunnicliffe Interview

The finale for Best in Smoke on the Food Network ends this Sunday, so I wanted to sit down with one of the judges, Amy Mills Tunnicliffe for a little behind the scenes information. See her responses below and be sure to check out the finale to see who wins the $ 50,000 prize!

(clockwise from top):Bryan Caswell, Mitchell Davis, Amy Mills Tunnicliffe, and Tim Love

Could you give me a little insight into what it was like judging this show?
Judging Best in Smoke was a tremendous experience. The set was spectacular … with the Statue of LIberty looming over us and the dramatic New York City skyline as the backdrop. We were on set from 5:00 am to midnight or later every day. The judges and hosts were filming stand-ups while the contestants were slaving over the hot pits. Not at all glamorous! I couldn’t even count the number of crew … the production company was top-notch and incredibly professional and organized.

Had you ever judged a TV show before?
I’ve judged the best of the best of barbecue contests, from Memphis in May {I was a finals judge this year–thrilling!} to the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue Cooking Contest. It’s one thing to write down your opinion on an anonymous scorecard and a whole different thing entirely to critique someone’s food face-to-face, knowing it’ll be broadcast on television and your words will be captured for posterity. We took the judging process very seriously and we each talked extensively about the food as we tasted each entry. Due to the time allotted for the show, most of that is cut in the editing process and each judge is left with maybe a sentence each. I wish the viewers could’ve seen more of the judging process.

We also walked through each person’s kitchen at various points during the cook. We were able to ask questions and observe what they were doing. It was interesting to see how that translated to the end product. Sometimes clever ideas, such as Brad and Brooke using the sugar from the donuts to coat strawberries, didn’t execute so well. Sometimes things we thought would never work ended up tasting really good.

Viewers who are part of our barbecue community should remember that this was never billed as a strict barbecue contest with the rules and procedures to which we’re accustomed. It’s a cooking show!

WI had an interview with Bryan (the host) and he seemed to lend that this was more tried and true BBQ than other bbq based tv shows, is that the case from your perspective?
The definition of “barbecue” is fairly broad here. Time is tight for many of the challenges and there is a a lot of grilling with some traditional barbecue, too. We judges decided that the words “meat and fire” pretty much summed it up.

The contestants knew the format and they were asked to submit a number of recipes for consideration. They were prepared for the challenges and the types of food they might be cooking.

The show is designed to appeal to a wide viewing audience who have made shows like Chopped and Top Chef Masters popular. Even though it’s not strict competition barbecue as defined by some of our more fanatical barbecue friends, I hope the barbecue community will embrace it in the spirit in which it is portrayed and support our friends who are competed tirelessly on the show. The contestants were top-notch and totally represented. The barbecue community should be exceedingly proud of them.

What should I know about BIS that people might not glean from the 30 second promo?
The level of skill and expertise possessed by the contestants was unsurpassed. The difficulty of the challenges, limited ingredients, extreme weather and short cook times will make for exciting television.

Lastly, they said there were challenges that involved racing around Manhattan. Did they go to any bbq joints or bbq carts?
I cannot divulge that information … you’ll need to watch and see what happens! The finale is fast-paced. Really, you could have had an episode about each particular challenge … so many things happen that don’t make the screen.

Posted in BBQ On TV on by kevin - Comments (2)


  1. I liked her insights on the massive editing of the judging. I wish the show was supported with unedited footage online, I suspect that some of the vocal critics in the BBQ community might be more receptive of the program and format. Just my $.02

    Comment by Chris — May 28, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

  2. I have to say that, though I enjoyed the show, I hated the judging. From this viewer’s perspective it appeared that the judges were snooty and biased toward Matt early on for the simple reason that he was non-traditional. It was a telling flaw that the show only really told us once who the “people” voted for – and it was Brad, who’d been ripped by the judges and would have been booted if he hadn’t won immunity with his food. What do you want to bet that the judge’s favorite, the “winner,” had the lowest fan score that day – and probably others.

    Unfortunately, because of the judges, the show felt manipulated and staged, as far as the end result was concerned. I don’t know who would have been better choices, but there certainly had to have been better choices to fill those slots. If there is a second season of the show I hope they replace the judges – as well as the overly phony “southernfied” frontman for the show. Only his annoyingly obnoxious fake accent kept him from being completely forgettable. IMHO

    Comment by Jimm Gordon — May 31, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

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