In January 2023, when the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce hosted the Florida BBQ Association Butts & Clucks Cook-Off on the Bay at Battery Park, there were more than just competitors on hand.
Food Network and Iron Chef Michael Symon, a popular Food Network personality was there, part of a journey begun in September 2022 when John Solomon, executive director of the chamber, received a call out of the blue from Jessica, the production assistant for the show BBQ USA, which stars Symon.
“At first, it was like ‘OK, which one of the BBQ Cook Teams was playing a prank,’ “ said Solomon. “As we have come to learn, they tend to like a good prank.”
He said the conversation consisted of Jessica saying ‘we saw the name and laughed and thought that it should be a fun contest,” Solomon said. “Then they read about the one-of-a-kind Mystery Box Contest that is part of the event and said ‘Yes, we need to see if the Chamber was interested in hosting.’ Again we all thought there was no way Food Network had noticed us. It’s got to be a prank.”
Two weeks later, Jessica called back and said the producer would like to meet. “Either they were taking this prank far or this had to be real,” he said.
Solomon said that after a 10-minute conversation with producer Nick, they both stopped and said “Wait a minute, I have spent the last 10 minutes trying to convince you to come to Apalachicola, and you have spent the last 10 minutes trying to convince us to let you come film.”
Nick said Apalachicola was the Number 1 selection to film for the upcoming season, that the atmosphere, the number of teams, and the Mystery Box would make a great show, Solomon said.
Solomon said during the event, the Simple Alien production crew were consummate professionals. “Their entire team worked behind the scenes, and we barely knew they were there, except every time you looked up, there was a camera team,” he said.
On Monday, July 31, at 10 p.m. the Butts & Clucks Cook-Off on the Bay goes national on Food Network on Episode 4 of the hit show BBQ USA.
“This is something most contest organizers dream about. The ability to show off to the world what a great event it has grown into. It’s not only that, but the national exposure of Apalachicola is tremendous,” Solomon said.
“We want to take the time to thank again all the sponsors, volunteers, and especially the BBQ teams and judges who make this event possible. Teams, it’s your time to shine,” he said.