Cooking Channel chef G. Garvin travels to barbecue hot spots across America to find which team in each location is most creative and best represents the local 'cue scene in "Underground BBQ Challenge," a new eight-week series premiering Tuesday, July 15, on Travel Channel.
Each one-hour episode finds Garvin and two guest judges from that city's food scene evaluating the efforts of two local teams competing to win a $10,000 cash prize and, of course, bragging rights. Each team's meal is evaluated on four counts: the taste (aka "meat cred"), the plate presentation, how well the menu represents the team's neighborhood and the success at incorporating a "wild card" ingredient Garvin hands the teams near the end of the cooking process.
First up: a prime-rib face-off in Brooklyn, N.Y., where the Williamsburg Hipsters led by Becky Clark dish out Korean 'cue in a bid to beat the Latin-inflected barbecue prepared by Daniel Ades and his Gowanus Public Defenders.
"There was some logic that went into what meat we gave them," Garvin tells Zap2it. "If we were in a region where alligator was popular, that's what we would use. There definitely was a relationship between where we were and the meat we used. At the same time, if we had been in Atlanta, say, we wouldn't have used chicken. We wanted it to be something that would challenge them to be creative."
The cooks themselves are what make this barbecue "underground," he explains.
"It's not a chef doing it with a $10,000 smoker, someone who has acquired 17 trophies," Garvin says. "These are people who are doing their thing on a Green Egg, maybe, creating really great flavors and having really great parties. They're making beer-can chicken or quail and everything in between."
Future episodes will travel to New Orleans, Miami and Austin, Texas, among other cities.
Do you have a personal favorite in terms of what meat you barbecue?
"Barbecue for me is not just about the meat. It's about the charcoal, the wood, the rub, everything. I've done chicken, quail, and I dearly love a good brisket. Spare ribs I also love, but for me, it's about the process, not just the meat."
What kind of sauce do you favor?
"I'm all about a good rub on the meat, a good brine and a good sauce. It all matters. I try to think about what people might like. At my restaurant, for example, we do a dry rub on all the ribs, but we don't sauce them all, so customers can get either/or, or a combination."
How about the side items you serve? Any favorites?
"It's blazing hot here in Atlanta today, so I'm going to do a Mediterranean salad with bell peppers and cucumbers, onion and jalapenos and tomat's in vinaigrette to lighten things up. I love a good coleslaw, or if make potato salad, I use red new potat's with the skin on. Lobster mac and cheese is always a good fit, but creamed or sauteed corn is actually one of my favorites.
Photo/Video credit: Travel Channel / G. Garvin