The powers that be at TLC have begun to tweak BBQ Pitmasters, their hit series from last season. They averaged almost a million viewers per episode of the short series and had double-digit increases in the difficult demographic of male viewers. So, what do you do with success? You make changes. A typical cookers row at a KCBS contest, just before turn-in.
Apparently we don’t have enough game-show style cooking competition series yet. They’re revamping this one into a competition much like the old Outdoor Living Network did. Enough of that format, already!!
For whatever reason, a change in hosts was apparently necessary. These things happen in the TV world. They’ve hired Kevin Roberts, “The Food Dude“. You may remember Kevin from his attempt to become the Next Food Network Star. You may even have seen him on The Today Show this morning. (He was the one squirting French’s mustard down his throat like Reddi Whip!) Kevin is good for a laugh. He’s fresh, enthusiastic and entertaining. I can’t fault them on this change.
They say they plan to put an emphasis on the “all-star judging” process this season. Perhaps they should have stuck to the reality/documentary style format and followed certified judges who regularly judge the events on the competitive BBQ cooking circuits, doing both KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) and MIM (Memphis In May) competitions.
While “all star judges” may sound fancy, there is many a highly trained restaurant chef that knows absolutely nothing about barbecue. This was proven in last season’s accounts of Paul’s attempts at competitive cooking. Paul is a classically trained chef who runs his own very acclaimed restaurants but found he had no training applicable to the competitions, consistently coming in last until he studied at the hands of Johnny Trigg. Johnny Trigg has been an all-star cook in the competitive BBQ world and is extremely well respected in that arena. Amazingly, Paul was at least called after Johnny’s tutoring.
“Certified” judges are trained as to what constitutes excellent smoked meats. Many judge on an almost weekly basis throughout the competition season and have trained their taste buds to identify what is award winning smoked meat. I am a Certified Judge for KCBS. I know these people well and many have been judging for years. It’s not just a hobby for them, it is their passion.
The other aspect the show’s producers feel can be shown in the new format is the preparation of a variety of foods, not just the standard competitive categories. Had they chosen their contests carefully, they could have shown the many ancillary (or “extra”) cooking categories included in many KCBS contests. We have judged many contests that feature seafood categories (both general and specific seafoods), steaks, poultry (goose, duck, turkey), side dishes, other meats (goat, lamb, other beef cuts), creative burgers, shish kabobs, and more.
They could have covered some of the back-yard competitions featured in many of the events where the average Joe or Deb can compete in a particular category using their own back yard style grill. Many also feature Kids Que competitions for kids under 12. I believe folks would watch something they felt they had an actual chance of participating in not just superstars in a specific field.
Memphis In May competitions include on-site judging which was lightly touched on this past season. At these events, competitors go all out decorating their sites. This was not shown but could make an interesting segment. Or they might touch on what it costs to actually compete, Not just costs associated with those driving the huge rigs but talk to the majority who are making do with less formal setups. We know cooks who compete with a few Webers and a folding table under an E-Z Up and we know another who designed and built their own spectacular rig from scratch at a cost of about $40,000.
They say some of last years cooks will be featured “in some form” in the new format. Myron and Lee Ann were specifically mentioned. If they aren’t cooking, I consider this an extreme waste of talent. I have judged many contests where Lee Ann and Tuffy have been cooking and a few Myron has participated in, too. (Yes, we judged at that miserable rainy and cold contest in Dover featured last season.) Although all judging at a KCBS event is blind judging, the odds are, I have tasted some things cooked by each of them along the way.
Please folks, just give us back the Pitmaster series we came to enjoy this past season. Follow a few different cooks. Cover other competitions. Feature other aspects of the contests.
Stop messing with success!!