In Savannah, Ga. four grillers stood before a panel of judges, waiting for the OK to race to their designated grills and start grilling up some morsels.
When they were finally given the cue the grillers ran off, with a mere 20 minutes to prepare a dish that consisted of green tomatoes and quail.
Anybody who was watching “American Grilled” on July 30 might have recognized two of the grillers who were frantically trying to beat their deadline: Jack Waiboer of North Charleston and Cheyenne Ledyard of Summerville were two of the competitors on the new grilling game show that airs on the Travel Channel.
Waiboer is a pitmaster for Kraft Foods and owns Carolina Pit Masters Barbecue Cooking School. Ledyard runs an online store called The BBQ Pantry, and also caters. Both compete in statewide barbecue competitions.
The two locals were joined by Tina Cannon, a wedding and event designer from Peachtree, Ga., and Lee Cheeks, a custom machinist from Aiken who builds grills.
The show’s producers travel across America and find notable local grillers to participate in the game show. A new city is visited each week; a new hour-long episode airs every Wednesday at 9 p.m.
July 30’s episode was called “Southern Char,” with competitors urged to grill some delicacies that represented the South.
Out of the four competitors only one walks away with a $10,000 prize.
After each round a panel of three judges tastes and critiques the prepared plates. The competition was hosted by David Guas, chef/owner of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, Va. Gaus was joined by guest judges Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe, a barbecue award winner and cookbook author, and Ted Dennard, owner of Savannah Bee Company.
After reviewing the dishes a competitor gets the chop. Cheeks was eliminated after the first round.
In the second round grillers had 40 minutes to prepare a dish with Vidalia onions, pork cheeks and turnip greens. Ledyard struggled to get the onions cooked all the way through, and did not have enough time to pour sauce on all the judges’ plates.
Ledyard was the second contestant to be eliminated.
Although disappointed and feeling like he should have been able to move on to the next round, Ledyard said he’s happy he had to the chance to put his name out there and compete on the show.
“Travel Channel was very kind to pick me from the pool,” he said. “I think they showed me in a good light.
“It was a great experience to be judged by the panel of judges we had,” he said. “I got to put myself out there. That’s what it’s all about.”
Ledyard had a viewing party of the show when it aired July 30.
“I’m living the barbecue dream,” he said. “I enter so many contests and you can’t win them all.”
In the last round Waiboer and Cannon were faced with a pork rib roast rack, fresh shrimp, stone-ground grits, and honey harvested by judge Dennard. Competitors were given 50 minutes to grill.
“I’m going to make great food, Southern style, and I’m going to stick it right in their face,” Waiboer told the viewers as he began to grill – and decided to create a shrimp ’n’ grits plate for the judges.
“Here in the Lowcountry we eat shrimp at least once a week,” he said in a testimony. “When you see shrimp ‘n’ grits, you have to make shrimp ‘n’ grits.”
Waiboer ran into trouble in the last round when his grill started a fire, burning his meat. He was able to cut off the burnt parts of the meat. Judges commented on some charred spots on the meat but told Waiboer it still tasted great – along with the shrimp ‘n’ grits.
“I want to show my kids that when you set your sights on a goal, and you work hard, you can accomplish whatever you want to accomplish,” Waiboer told the judges.
Despite the overall positive critique, Cannon came out on top in the competition.
Waiboer said that although he did not win he still had a blast competing.
“I’d do it again if they asked me to,” he said. “I had a great time.”
Waiboer said he loved being portrayed as the “gentle giant” on the show.
“Travel Channel portrayed me very well,” he said.
Waiboer strongly believes it should have been Ledyard who joined him in the final round.
“Cheyenne did really well and I’m sure he has a bright future,” he said. “I’m sure it (the show) is going to help his Internet business.”
As the first runner-up in the competition, Waiboer has an opportunity to be selected for “American Grilled: Second Chance.” Viewers are invited to vote for their favorite runner-up from all episodes of the season, and at the end of the season the griller with the most votes will return for a second chance (http://www.travelchannel.com/tv-shows/american-grilled/articles/american-grilled-second-chance).