1
Aug

Food Network’s BBQ Brawl – Behind the Scenes, Part 1

Back in February, I traveled to Austin, along with a powerhouse group of pitmasters, to film a new series for Food Network called “BBQ Brawl.” This trip was under the radar, as most filming projects require a non-disclosure agreement. We’ve all been excited about the show, and now we can talk about it!

I’m going to do a series of behind-the-scene posts about the production so as not to give anything away before the final episode is aired. 

The show was filmed in a fairy-tale setting outside Austin called Star Hill Ranch. You can actually rent this entire place for weddings and events. Modeled after a typical, old-time Texas Hill Country community, there’s a main street, dotted with little houses and shops, each with charming period interiors. The crew built an intricate, rustic set with grilling stations, a judging counter, and a pantry. While the sun was bright, the weather was quite chilly. 

Produced by Bobby Flay’s production company, Rock Shrimp Productions, this show offers some new competition twists. Bobby and his BFF, Michael Symon, are team captains who each choose four people for their team. 

Each show starts off with a challenge between Michael and Bobby, and the winner each day earns advantages for his team. Having a ringside seat to watch these two masterful chefs compete each day was a thrill and a huge learning opportunity. Their clever use of ingredients, expertise in layering of flavors, and the high level of skill they display is awe-inspiring. 

My fellow judges on this show are Chris Lilly and Moe Cason. We’ve done a number of shows together, and I think that shows in our easy camaraderie and clear mutual affection, admiration, and respect. The competitors were top-notch, and they were at peak performance during each challenge. Lots of top names in barbecue competed for the grand prize: Phil Johnson, Carey Bringle, Tuffy Stone, Joe Pearce, LeeAnn Whippen, Susie Bulloch, Kevin Bludso, and Lynnae Oxley-Loupe. Sometimes our judging panel agreed on a dish; sometimes we did not, which, of course, makes for great television. 

Being on set is a lot like summer camp, and you become quite friendly with the crew. This group took excellent care of us. We had our own little house for hair and make-up, wardrobing, and just hanging out between takes.ย Between the three of us, we knew most of the competitors, but we were segregated, and not allowed to talk to them.

Our wrangler, Dahlia, was a doll, and she was so great about attending to and anticipating our every need.

There’s constant touching up, wardrobe checks, taping clothing, and figuring out how to deal with the elements. 

There’s often downtime in a production of this magnitude, and we spent most of that time attending to our businesses via computer, and playing many rounds of Cards Against Humanity. 

Check back next week for a look behind the scenes of episode two. 

38 Responses to “Food Network’s BBQ Brawl – Behind the Scenes, Part 1”

  1. Carmen Swetland

    Amy, I love watching new and exciting shows on the food network channel. I did watch the first episode of BBQ brawl. Loved the antics between Bobby and Michael. I was hoping to see your dad, Mike, as a judge. I am from Murphysboro, born and raised. My parents are Paul Swetland sr.(deceased) and Janet Swetland. Keep up the good work you do for our town. hoping to see a BBQ cook off in Murphysboro on food network soon.

    Reply
  2. What a fun look behind the action packed first episode. The talent level involved in cooks, captains and judges is just off the charts. This is the first BBQ competition show that has caught my attention in quite a while, I love the different format with teams. Looking forward to more!

    Reply
    • Amy Mills

      Appreciate the kind words, Chris! This was truly a top-notch production ~ when you start with Bobby Flay and Michael Symon, the rest falls into place. I was in awe of all of the competitors. High-level cooking, creativity, thinking on your feet, etc. Hats of to all of them. So glad you enjoyed the format. I think it’s a winner, but then again, I’m a bit biased ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Reply
  3. Michael Lieberman

    Great show ! Not your average cooking show.
    Can you tell me the brand of bbq grill they used ? Not the Weber kettle, the other one.
    Thanks for the great job & show

    Reply
    • Amy Mills

      It was a no-name, inexpensive smoker from a big box store. Nothing fancy at all. Remember, it’s the indian, not the arrow!

      Reply
      • Don

        I thought it was cheap by looking at it and hearing the sound when they closed the lid but wanted to make sure. I’m considering replacing my stick burner and was going to look at this if it was a quality rig. Thanks for the info. Great show. I hope you do another. I really like Michael and I was surprised to see Lynnae voted off the island:)

        After getting eliminated twice from BBQ Pitmasters she may be getting gun shy!

        Reply
        • Amy Mills

          This smoker is probably not what you want. ๐Ÿ˜‰
          So glad you’re enjoying the show~ Michael and Bobby are both terrific and their genuine affection and friendship shines through.
          All of the competitors are very talented and it’s always surprising when the person who you think will prevail makes a mistake that sends them home. Eliminating people is not fun for the judges, especially when we know what they’re capable of.

          Reply
  4. scott ashton

    Amy, awesome show!! I have the record button set, wouldn’t miss the show for anything!! keep up the good work!! 17th street has best bbq that I have ever ate.

    Reply
    • Amy Mills

      So appreciate the kind words, Scott! Very happy you’re enjoying the show … and that you’re a fan of the barbecue! That feels great to hear.

      Reply
  5. Amy,
    Thank you for the kind words about Star Hill Ranch. My brother and I have spent the last 20 years creating this place, and we are so proud and grateful when we have the honor to be part of something so exciting, creative and fun. The production team, competing chefs, judges, and Bobby and Michael were all a delight to work with. And we are so excited that the show is excellent! It is a bonus for us that the production team did a fantastic job capturing our creation as part of the backdrop for a great concept! Thank you for including us! Matt

    Reply
    • Amy Mills

      My pleasure, Matt! What a gift to spend a week at Star Hill Ranch and be part of such a cool production. The setting you created is picture-perfect in every way, and truly a magical setting for the show. I love that you found my post โ€“ thank you for reading. Fingers crossed we get to do it again!

      Reply
  6. DERENDA LANDRUM

    I am so proud of all of you! I have been very Blessed to have yall as friends all of these years! It has been a great pleasure to watch you grow. You are in my prayers to stay safe on your travels and continue to share the wonderful gifts God has blessed you with!

    Reply
    • Amy Mills

      That is the nicest message, Derenda! The blessing is ours; it’s a privilege to be your friend. So appreciate the prayers and well wishes. We barbecue people certainly have a blessed life!

      Reply
  7. Margie Rogers

    I’ve just been bingeing this show and really enjoying it. It may be a gross question, but, as someone who has done my fair share of cooking outdoors in Texas, I just have to ask: how do y’all keep the bugs away from the food stations? Flies and other such pests have been my enemy in those situations so I just got to know. is it some repellent at the perimeter or are the editors just real good at editing them out? Again, I love the show, so thank you for this behind the scenes look!

    Reply
    • Amy Mills

      So happy you’re enjoying the show! This was Texas in the winter, and there were no issues with bugs. Thank for watching!

      Reply
  8. Michael Lieberman

    Absolutely enjoyed this show !
    I am sorry there were only 4 episodes and not more. Hope you do another Brawl series!
    Take care,
    Michael

    Reply
    • Amy Mills

      It was a ton of fun! We hope there’s another season, too. We’ve certainly heard so many positive comments and we appreciate yours!

      Reply
  9. J Lange

    Surprised the filming location wasnโ€™t mentioned in the show or even in the credits. We searched and found this website.

    Reply
    • Amy Mills

      The location was so neat, but they wouldn’t mention the location unless it was provided for free. No free advertising on the Food Network ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Reply

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