Well, we are now 3 episodes into the newly formatted "BBQ Pitmasters" on TLC. I guess the best way to describe what I have seen so far is part game show, part "American Idol" and part "Chopped". It is reminiscent of past barbecue competition series in its format and style but with some new twists.
Gone is the public access to what happens to teams on the competition circuit and in is what happens to these teams in a controlled contest environment. The show reaches beyond a typical barbecue contest by asking cooks to prepare more than just brisket, chicken, ribs and pork butt. By adding a wildcard meat category and side category, the show tries to extend the range of each cook. Thus turning the competition into something that should be called America's Best BBQ Caterer.
I am not a big fan of the new format. I know "chopping" someone after their first turn-in helps build drama but it detracts from the show overall. If I was sent home for what was judged as inferior alligator, without tasting my pork butt entry, I would be hot! Just like Kyle Laval of TheSlabs did regarding his seafood turn-in. In addition, the sides also seem to be getting in the way of the judging too. All of these cooks can produce an excellent barbecue product and the final meat turn-in should determine the winner and not whether someone dislikes mayo in their coleslaw.
Speaking of mayo in the coleslaw, the judges have not been what I expected either. As I thought he would be, Myron Mixon is the best of the three and realizes it is a meat contest and not a sauce contest. Without him there, I really feel the direction of this show would really lose its way. No disrespect to Warren Sapp or Art Smith, but those guys get caught up too much in the sauces and side dishes. I realize this is not a KCBS contest and that the judging process has to be changed in order to account for Sapp's and Smith's lack of barbecue competition knowledge. The whole process seems to come down to who can prepare the best outdoor picnic.
The best part of the show are the teams and they are reason why I am watching. The teams they selected have been terrific. It is a great that my fellow competitors are getting the exposure they deserve. When all is said and done, the winner of this competition will go home with $100K and some major bragging rights on the competition circuit!
I hope that there will be a season three of "Pimasters." It would be nice to see it take place back on the circuit again and to throw in some of the elements of season two with it. Maybe they could sponsor an up and coming team through the competition season and chronicle their quest toward their first grand championship? I know a team that would volunteer for that! When it comes down to it, whatever incarnation TLC chooses, I am just thankful there is a show on television about BBQ!