TLC BBQ Pitmasters Season Finale Episode #8 – Texas Rib Throwdown
Read season wrap-up commentary from the Executive Producer John Markus
It seems like a long time ago from Episode 1 in August 2009 where Lee-Ann from Wood Chicks BBQ summarized the sentiment of the pitmasters cast by saying, “ain’t scared of no California BBQ team.” That rallying call turned full circle in the season finale Episode 8 where we show that we can take on the best BBQ teams in America, including two World Champions, and beat them at their own game. As a second-year team with no pedigree nor much experience, we relentlessly worked on our recipes and flavor profiles the entire series until we eventually win over Texas Master BBQ judges far away from California.
This episode was shot over 3-days as a Texas BBQ throwdown and promo shoot. There were surprises and I laughed so hard especially when Jaime of Greer Pits BBQ burned the wax off a judge’s ear with an extra spicy cayenne rib bone for being mean during judging!
We arrived Tuesday for the dinner shoot at the Double-J Art Ranch located a couple of hours from Dallas Fort Worth airport. This was the season finale and Johnny Triggs, the Godfather, would be hosting dinner and a Rib Throwdown the following morning. I suspect Johnny picked ribs to his advantage because he’s a Texas rib legend having won many rib awards and championships. Johnny drew names from a hat and we each were allowed to pick an Igloo with spares and loin-backs in them. That way, no team had an advantage.
Since Johnny offered a trophy but no prize money, the pitmasters turned upon each other like sharks which resulted in everyone digging into their wallets for a winner-takes-all pot. After several calls for $100 each, the competitive bragging jacked the pot to $500 each for a total of $3,500 for the seven pitmasters. Several side bets developed after some more trash talking. Tuffy from Cool Smoke was gunning for some easy money from me so I agreed to bet him $100 that our California ribs would place 1st or 2nd; not an easy feat considering that Myron, Johnny, Jaime, and Tuffy are among the top ribs cooks in the country having won the Rib category countless times (like when Jaime and Johnny won 1st and 2nd in Episode 7 at the Big Pig Jig at Vienna, Georgia, amid the best 125 best rib cooks in the nation).
The dinner was delicious and we had Johnny’s home-made chili, Chef Paul’s smoked chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce and salsa, and Trish’s Mexican casserole. Lee-Ann finished it off with her very yummy perfect 180-score chocolate with peanut brittle and Kahlua syrup.
The next morning, my $200 bullet smokers were lined up at the tail end of a row of heavy artillery of $50,000 worth of pits including 4-Custom Jambos, 1-Jacks Old South cooker, and 3-Green Eggs.
The rib cook went smoothly thanks for help from Shilo since this time since Mark and Gary had to work during this mid-week shoot. Baby backs were turned in at 3 pm and spares at 5 pm. There were 4 IBCA master judges and 3 newly trained judges. The twist this time was that our meat was turned in on a cutting board and we watched the judging via tape-delayed closed circuit TV. It was nerve wrecking yet fascinating to watch the judging. For example, one judge killed Lee-Ann by saying her ribs smelled and tasted of lighter fluid. Also the judges complained the ribs were bland so this caused Jaime to spice up his ribs so much that his 5 pm spareribs set the judges mouth on fire. Jaime figured he was finishing towards the end anywhere so he didn’t care. When the dust settled, I was amazed to find out I won the Johnny Triggs Rib Throwdown! I edged Johnny’s 2nd place by 1 point. Every dog has its day and today was our day. This was a fantastic finish to our Episode 8 Season Finale adventure!
They also flew out a well known NY photographer George Lange and his crew to shoot stills for the advertising print and commercial promo for the show. It took a whole day for wardrobe, food styling, make-up, hair, and setup to shoot our BBQ promo with George. It was clear why he was an award winning NY photographer as his work was creatively stupendous. Since my character was the newbie on the show, they shot me holding a fire extinguisher as if my pit was burning out of control; slapping a cooked pork butt; smelling it; and injecting it with a large syringe. We also did a fun montage of shots reassembled to look like a video (ala Amazon’s Kindle’s ad).
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