Meet the Pitmasters: Chopped Grill Masters

Get to know the 16 pitmasters entering the Chopped kitchen. Each chef is repping their region's barbecue style to battle it out for the $50,000 grand prize!

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Photo By: Jason DeCrow

Race to the Regional Showdown

Kansas City, Memphis, North Carolina and Texas: The four styles of barbecue have come to the Chopped kitchen to prove once and for all which 'cue is the true champion.

Craig Carter — Kansas City

Craig has been competing on the barbecue circuit for over 15 years. Ultimate Tailgate, his competition BBQ team, started in the parking lot of Arrowhead stadium and he currently runs his own catering company C C'S Catering Creations. Craig considers himself a ribeye guy, but when it comes to sides, he’s a master at brussels sprouts.

Kaitlyn Magee — Kansas City

Kaitlyn began learning barbecue from her father while in the thick of his competition glory days, and as a child she began competing in kid ’cue contests. She graduated from Dad’s alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America, and currently works as the kitchen manager of her father’s Kansas City restaurant.

Jeremy Williams — Kansas City

A native of Kansas City, Jeremy grew up on the sweet and spicy flavors that Kansas City BBQ is known for. As a co-owner and pitmaster of Fergolicious BBQ, Jeremy travels across the country spreading the word of BBQ by competing and teaching his craft. When he’s not chowing down on BBQ, Jeremy reaches for a thick, meaty slice of lasagna.

Stephanie Wilson — Kansas City

Stephanie is the pitmaster for, an online retailer of BBQ sauces and rubs. They’re all about building layers of flavor to make the perfect competition winning bite – a combination of smoky, salty and sweet.

Claire Campbell — Memphis

Claire’s been on the barbecue scene since she was three years old and joined Ubon’s BBQ team. After growing up on a cattle farm in Mississippi and trying her hand at being a fashion model, Claire attended Ole Miss and currently teaches school children about food.

Walter Crutchfield Jr. — Memphis

Walter is the owner and pitmaster of Crutchfield’s BBQ, which he likes to refer to as a growing mom-and-pop restaurant. What started out as a food truck is now a brick-and-mortar restaurant. To set his ‘cue apart from the rest of Memphis, Walter’s sauce is a touch sweeter than the classic Memphis-style sauce with an extra hint of brown sugar.

Melvin “Boots” Johnson — Memphis

He’s from Compton, California, and he lives in New York City, but Memphis Barbecue runs through Melvin “Boots” Johnson’s veins. When he was a kid, Boots’ parents opened a barbecue restaurant in Compton, and after it closed down, he just kept on cooking. After stints in Vegas and for Iron Chef Bobby Flay, Boots made his way to Forrest Hills, Queens where he now serves as the executive chef at Queens Bully.

Ernie Mellor — Memphis

Ernie owns Hog Wild catering company which he says is hands down, without a doubt the best catering company in Memphis. He’s cooked for Prince William and Prince Harry, attributing his signature flavors to his BBQ rub, or as Ernie calls it, his “special dry sauce.”

Melanie Dunia — North Carolina

Born and raised in Raleigh, Melanie wants nothing more than to see Texas barbecue go down. As the executive chef of The Pit Authentic Barbecue, Melanie specializes in Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue.

Adam Hughes — North Carolina

Adam is the pitmaster for Old Colony Smokehouse, a competition barbecue team known for their whole hog ‘cue. Old Colony has competed in over 38 contests over the past two years, winning two grand championships and over 25 Top 10 finishes.

Christopher Prieto — North Carolina

Christopher, aka #BarbecueNerd, is the owner and head pitmaster of Prime Barbecue in North Carolina. From catering to live food shows and the competition circuit, Chris is full of barbecue knowledge and approaches it as a science.

Jerry Stephenson Jr. — North Carolina

Jerry is the owner of The Redneck BBQ Lab and Redneck Scientifics competition barbecue team. He has three degrees, including a master's in child psychology, but with 20 grand championship wins in the past five years, Jerry’s ready to compete to become a Chopped grand barbecue champion.

Leonard Botello — Texas

Leonard is the pitmaster and owner of Truth BBQ which focuses on Central Texas-style barbecue. He grew up around his parents’ Tex-Mex-style restaurants and wants to bring a cool, hip flare to barbecue. Leonard’s favorite cut to cook is brisket.

Carlo Casanova — Texas

Carlo is the pitmaster and owner of KG Cookers BBQ and is a big fan of hickory wood when it comes to smoking his meat. After playing professional rugby for five years, Carlo now lives and breathes Texas BBQ. What’s the special ingredient for his Texas mopping sauce? Cola.

Esaul Ramos — Texas

Esaul is the owner and pitmaster of 2M smokehouse which focused on Central Texas-style barbecue. He grew up in San Antonio with a dad who liked to grill and started grilling for himself at a young age.

Sloan Rinaldi — Texas

Sloan is the pitmaster and owner of Texas Q, a pop-up barbecue catering company. If you want real brisket, Sloan says you’ve got to go to Texas, and she can’t wait to take the Memphis pitmasters down.