On Thursday, August 12th at 9 p.m., it’s the premiere of season two of TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters, and it’s a whole different ballgame. While season one followed a group of teams on the barbecue circuit, season two now has a competition-show format, a la Survivor.
In each episode, four teams compete. A “Pitfire Challenge” narrows the field to three, and the winning team of each episode goes on to compete in the finale. The prize: $100,000.
The September 16th episode features Big Mouth Smokers, a Memphis team comprised primarily of teachers from Southwind Elementary.
“Oh, boy,” says Big Mouth’s Tyler Salyer, “here’s what happens ….”
But, first things first.
Big Mouth Smokers — Salyer, Kerrance Chandler, Kelly Lancaster, and Nikki Dildine — are the newbies of the bunch. They are all under 30 and competed in their first barbecue contest just a year ago.
The team has had some success in competitions in Bartlett and Jackson, Tennessee, though they haven't entered bigger contest, such as World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, because of the prohibitive cost of entry fees.
They learned about BBQ Pitmasters through an e-mail from the show's producers looking for audition tapes.
A “what if” spirit hit Salyer, so the group recorded the tape over three hours one weekend. “We didn’t think much about it,” Salyer says. “It was us at [my] house talking about barbecue.”
The producers bit, and Big Mouth Smokers were flown out to L.A. for the competition.
“We go there expecting to cook barbecue, and we’re thrown all different things," Salyer says. "Remember, we are just a year old.”
Up against the Big Mouth Smokers were 3 EYZ BBQ out of Maryland Wood Chicks BBQ out of Virginia, and A Boy and His BBQ out of Iowa.
Members of Big Mouth Smokers signed a contract not to reveal the details of the episode, but Salyer admits the Pitfire Challenge was, indeed, challenging. The meat presented to them for the Pitfire was a head-scratcher. “I can’t find it in a grocery store in Memphis,” Salyer says.
With their mystery meat barbecue, Big Mouth Smokers, along with the other teams, went before the panel of judges — celebrity chef Art Smith, barbecue champion Myron Mixon, and Superbowl winner Warren Sapp.
“I was extremely freaked out by all three of them,” Salyer says. “Even physically. They’re all big guys.
“On camera, they’re stern, tough, and in your face. Off-screen, they were extremely, extremely friendly.”
And while mum is the word on the outcome given contract restrictions, Salyer is nothing but positive about the experience.
“I definitely want to do it again,” he says, “Definitely.”