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Nominate your Hero of the Grill for your chance to Win $5,000Hero of the Grill
Nominate your Hero of the Grill for your chance to Win $5,000Hero of the Grill
Meet our Pitmasters

Get to know our championship pitmasters
and watch what inspires them to barbecue.

Tuffy Stone

As one of the most influential people in barbecue, Tuffy Stone is a 5x World Champion Pitmaster, a former Marine, a classically trained chef and reality TV star featured on Destination America’s show “BBQ Pitmasters”. Dubbed the “Professor,” due to his scientific approach to smoke, his team Cool Smoke Barbecue has won hundreds of trophies, including top honors at all of the Barbeque “majors” and a record-setting three-peat at the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Barbecue Invitational. Tuffy is the author of “Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue”.

Sterling Big Poppa Ball

Owner of Big Poppa Smokers, Sterling Big Poppa Ball is the founder of two highly coveted competition barbecue events, "The Guinea Pig" event and "The Smithfield® King of the Smoker Invitational Competition.” Sterling’s Grand Champion titles include KCBS Pork Team of the Year, back to back California Team of the Year (2016 and 2017) and is a past World Champion of the American Royal World Series of Barbecue. He has his own line of Big Poppa Smokers rubs and smokers, and his rubs are featured nationwide at restaurant chain BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse.

Melissa Cookston

Known as the winningest woman in barbecue, Melissa Cookston is a four-time Whole Hog World Champion and two-time Memphis in May World Champion. Melissa is the author of two best-selling cookbooks, “Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room” and “Smokin’ Hot in the South”. She is also the owner of the three Memphis BBQ Co. restaurants and the recently opened STEAK by Melissa in Southaven, MS.

Darren Warth

Darren Warth’s mission has been providing Championship quality BBQ to his community and the competition circuit. Darren and his Smokey D’s team have taken home nearly every major title in Barbeque, including the American Royal World series of Barbeque Open, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Jack Daniels World Championship, etc. Through their competitions, they have donated over $35k to children’s charities. Darren also owns three locations of Smokey D’s restaurants in his home city of Des Moines, IA.

Ernest Servantes

Self-taught pitmaster Ernest Servantes has been able to incorporate ideas from the New American Cuisine, but with Texas flair, during his 20 year career. Known for his love and passion for barbecue, he is a 40-time Grand Champion on the competition circuit. Ernest has appeared on several TV shows on the Food Network, Travel Channel and Destination America and has won Chopped: Grill Masters.

Chris Lilly

Chris Lilly of the legendary Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Ala. is regarded as one of the top pitmasters to ever cook the circuit with expertise that spans from competition to cookbooks. He has dominated the field at Memphis in May, winning the contest five times and winning the Pork category a record eleven times. Lilly has also found success as Grand Champion the American Royal Invitational, Reserve Grand Champion of the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Barbecue Invitational, the American Royal Open, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Barbecue Cook-Off, and winner of the first-ever Smithfield King of the Smoker.

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