Destination America “Smoked” – Battle of the Barbecue Teachers – Part 2 of 2
In part 1 of this post, I shared how I got on “Smoked” and what the show is about. I hope you are ready to hear the thrilling conclusion! In this part 2, I am sharing my reaction after watching the show.
Much like the Karate Kid movie, I was invited to compete on the show with the assistance of one of my students from Slap Yo Daddy dojo (school). We were scheduled to battle against Mike Davis, owner of Lotta Bull BBQ school and his student of choice.
The teachers, Mike and I would battle in the first two rounds, and the students, Barry Johnson for Mike Davis and Mike Lindley for me, would battle in the third and decisive round.
Spoiler alert. If you have not seen the show, I’m going to reveal who wins at the end of my blog.
After successfully auditioning for the Teacher Battle episode on SMOKED, I had to figure out how to get my equipment from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas, for the shoot. Lucky for me, I coincidentally received a Facebook message from Texas pitmaster Doug Scheiding. Doug shared the wonderful news that he won the World Championship at the 2015 Houston Livestock and Rodeo contest. Doug won using my Jailbird Chicken rub, so I felt a shared pride.
I mentioned my challenges as I rounded up supplies for the SMOKED shoot. Doug, who lives in San Antonio, immediately offered to lend me his competition barbecue trailer and gear. Austin is only about an hour from San Antonio… a much better commute than my trip from Los Angeles. I’m always amazed by the generosity and graciousness of fellow pitmasters who, when you ask for a hand, give you two. With Doug’s help, I had one less logistical challenge to worry about.
My chosen star pupil, Mike Lindley of Smokin Mo’s BBQ, and I would fly to Austin, pick up Doug’s equipment, and then head out for the shoot location. As you know, I generally compete with my trusty Weber smoker, so Doug offered to give us some advice on how to properly use his drum smoker.
We had an extra day to set up and prepare for the shoot, so Mike and I flew to Austin, rented a car, and met Doug on the set. Doug had driven about 100 miles from San Antonio to drop off his trailer and gear for us and had to immediately head back to work.
Doug is a great example of the barbecue community and has a heart of gold. He had also helped Mike Davis haul his drop-shipped smokers to the set. Before he took hit the road, he ensured that we had all the gear we needed and got us settled. After the shoot, Doug drove back to Austin to haul his trailer back to San Antonio. What a guy!
Mike Davis and his chosen student, Barry Thomson of Swiggin Pig BBQ, joined us on location where the producers took us through a set walk-through. We also signed paperwork and discussed the rules. In a nutshell, we would cook three meats, including a 30-minute Kingsford One-Bite Challenge and a one-hour Shell Rotella Grill challenge. For the Kingsford challenge, we could cook on any smoker or grill, but we were required to use Kingsoft charcoal.
I found out that Rotella is an automotive lubricant, and the sponsor Shell Oil had parked a shiny blue custom pit on the set. The Rotella trailer had a grill on one side and a smoker on the other. The coin toss winner would choose his preferred side to cook on. My student and I checked out the Rotella and felt confident that either side would work for us.
The third meat would be a long-haul meat, such as pork butt or brisket. Of course, as regulars on the competition circuit, we are very familiar with those meats, so we prepared injections, marinades, and rubs in anticipation of those type of entries.
Because we would get Iron-chef-style, last-minute meat or seafood assignments for the Kingsford and Rotella challenge, I gave my partner Mike Lindley my list of potential recipes. My recipes had to be simple and versatile so we could adapt to whatever proteins might be thrown at us. I had just come off shooting Food Network’s Chopped Grill Masters, so I had many recipes and tricks up my sleeve. Also, I write a recipe blog, so I’m never short on ideas for spectacular and tasty creations. I sensed I had an advantage over my competitor and friend Mike Davis in the creativity department. He is my fellow competitor and friend, and we’ve competed against each other for many years. Of course, I tried not to let Mike Davis’s 100-plus Grand Championship credentials intimidate me with my two dozen Grand Championship awards!
SPOILER ALERT – If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know that we tied in the pork tenderloin Kingsford One-Bite challenge. Myron decided the tiebreaker and awarded the win to Mike Davis for his simply elegant one-piece presentation of tenderloin medallions against my LA-style pork wonton street tacos.
I won the Rotella challenge with Myron’s tie-breaker vote for my California-inspired Santa Maria tri-tip with red wine reduction sauce. So, the teachers were tied going into the final round when our best students would take the driver’s seat for the Wagyu Brisket finale.
In the third and final round, which would decide the winner, my star pupil Mike Lindley cooked his heart out, and I was confident that he would prevail over Barry Johnson. Mike’s meat looked fabulous and tasted like top competition brisket. Further, our opponents had some snafu with their burnt ends and decided not to turn them in. So, the judges only sampled their brisket slices from the flat muscle. I thought that that was a fatal error for Lotta Bull BBQ and believed that since we had the skill to execute both muscles of the brisket perfectly, we would win.
I was surprised that both celebrity pitmasters and judges, Brad Orrison and Melissa Cookston, favored Lotta Bull’s Wagyu brisket, even without the burnt ends. I was told our brisket was too tender and sliced too thick. Oh well, the judges had spoken, so we graciously accepted defeat.
And yes, I did fulfill my side bet with Mike Davis. As promised, I made a YouTube video that declared that I got SMOKED by Mike Davis of the Lotta Bull BBQ school. As we say in the barbecue business, you are only as good as your last win, and you are only as bad as your last loss. Mike Davis and Barry Johnson beat us on that fateful day in Austin, Texas.
When I cross paths with Mike and Barry in the future, you can be sure I’m going to ask for a rematch! We were friends and fellow pitmasters before the show, and we remain so after. I congratulated Mike for his win, and I know that Mike will be taking his sweetheart and wife Debbie on a long-promised vacation. Well done, Mike and Barry!
Time and time again, I see it: win or lose, barbecue competitions bring out the best in people. Doug jumped in to help both teams. We all worked hard and had fun, and we will all be back to do it again soon.