KANSAS CITY, MO. – Pitmaster and restaurateur Melissa Cookston is no stranger to the heat of competition barbecue.

She is a seven-time world barbecue champion having won two Grand Champion and five World Whole Hog Champion titles at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. And in 2017 she became the first woman to be inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame.

But in the new Netflix series, “American Barbecue Showdown,” Cookston trades in her competitor’s cap for a judge’s hat.

The eight-episode, barbecue cooking contest show, which debuted in September, puts eight amateur grillers and smokers through a series of challenges devised to push their skills at the grill to the limit (Grilled iguana, anyone?). The show was filmed in September of 2019 in Covington, Ga., and features pitmaster and restaurateur Kevin Bludso as a judge; and co-hosts Rutledge Wood, an auto racing analyst who appeared on ‘NASCAR Trackside’ and the History Channel’s “Top Gear” and actor, writer and producer Lyric Lewis.

In this week’s podcast, Cookston gives a behind-the-scenes look at the show including: a typical day on set, how the challenges came together and what the show runners did to keep food safety top-of-mind.


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