Pitmasters Kaitlyn Magee (from left), Jeremy Williams, Craig Carter and Stephanie Wilson will represent Kansas City on an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped Grill Masters” that airs July 31, 2018. The winner advances to the finale on Aug. 28. Jason DeCrow |

Four KC pitmasters to compete for $50K on new Food Network’s ‘Chopped Grill Masters’

Judges Geoffrey Zakarian (from left), Amanda Freitag and Moe Cason evaluated the dishes made by Kansas City cooks on an upcoming episode of Food Network’s “Chopped Grill Masters.” Jason DeCrow |
Judges Geoffrey Zakarian (from left), Amanda Freitag and Moe Cason evaluated the dishes made by Kansas City cooks on an upcoming episode of Food Network’s “Chopped Grill Masters.” Jason DeCrow |

Fire up the grill and grab your tongs, Kansas City: The new season of Food Network’s “Chopped Grill Masters” features four local pitmasters.

The five-part tournament starts with a KC-themed show that airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 31. That episode pits four Kansas City grilling experts against one another; the winner will compete for $50,000 in the Aug. 28 finale.

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The Kansas City contestants are:

Caterer Craig Carter, who honed his barbecue skills while tailgating at Arrowhead Stadium;

Kaitlyn Magee, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who learned to grill from her dad, Q39 founder Rob Magee;

Jeremy Williams of the award-winning competition barbecue team Fergolicious BBQ; and

Stephanie Wilson, pitmaster for theslabs.com, an online retailer of barbecue sauces and rubs.

The show, which is hosted by Ted Allen, was filmed in March in New York City. The celebrity judges included restaurateur and cookbook author Geoffrey Zakarian, New York chef Amanda Freitag and legendary pitmaster Moe Cason.

The contestants can’t reveal who won until the show airs.

Williams, who lives in Gardner and works as a physical education teacher at Nike Elementary School, said in a phone interview that all four contestants wanted to win, but that it was even more important to rep Kansas City barbecue.

“Heck with those other cities,” he said. “We want to show Kansas City’s the best barbecue region.”

Williams added that competing on the show was the hardest thing he’s ever done.

On the show, pitmasters face off in three timed rounds: Appetizer, entree and dessert. In each round, the contestants must make a dish that incorporates ingredients from a mystery basket.

Food Network revealed in a press release that the KC cooks had to make dessert with pineapple and banana and prep an appetizer out of double-cut pork chops.

Wilson said the pork chops were at least three inches thick.

“I don’t care if you’re Houdini,” she said. “There is no way you’re gonna get that done in 20 minutes.”

Wilson said she had to tell herself to slow down so she wouldn’t cut herself: “If you psych yourself out, you’re done.”

Finishing on time felt nearly impossible.

“The clock doesn’t stop,” Williams said. “It’s evil.”

Equipment was also an issue. Because the show was filmed in a TV studio, the pitmasters had to work with stovetop grills and smoking guns — which is a lot different than working outdoors with live fire.

Williams said Food Network production crews traveled to Kansas City twice to shoot additional footage, so viewers might recognize some local sites on the show.

The last season of “Chopped Grill Masters” featured two KC-area pitmasters, including Megan Day of Burnt Finger BBQ and Richard Fergola, Williams’ partner in Fergolicious BBQ.

Fergola was eliminated in Round 1 of his episode after a barbecue salad failed to impress the judges. Day won her first episode and scored a spot in the finale.

In the finale, Day was chopped in the entree round after her venison and chorizo burger was smoked by the competition.

Williams is planning a watch party for the show at Austins Bar & Grill, 245 N. Moonlight Road in Gardner. The party, which is free and open to the public, starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday.


Four KC pitmasters to compete for $50K on new Food Network’s ‘Chopped Grill Masters’