“Underground Barbecue Challenge,” a cable series cooked up by Michael Weber and produced by The Michael Group, will debut on the Travel Channel Tuesday, July 15 at 8 p.m. after a year in production.
In the eight one-hour episodes, Cooking Channel host Chef G. Garvin of Atlanta travels to eight cities across America to find the most creative local grillmeisters in two competing neighborhoods.
The team that’s deemed the best barbecuers takes home a $10,000 prize and bragging rights.
The series kicks off with a prime rib face-off between the competing Williamsburg Hipsters dishing out Korean “cue” in a bid to beat the Latin-influenced flavors of the Gowanus Public Defenders in Brooklyn, New York, at a big Saturday night party with 80 to 100 guests.
“The people who barbecue are creating really great flavors and having really great parties,” says Garvin. “They’re making beer-can chicken or quail and everything inbetween.”
Garvin and two guest judges from that city score each team’s meal based on taste, creativity, plate presentation and how well the menu represents the team’s neighborhood, explains Mike Schmiedeler co-executive producer with Weber.
Guest judges include former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth, who weighs in on the Austin brisket battle, and Cardinals pitcher Trevor Rosenthal, who casts his vote in Detroit.
The Travel Channel greenlighted Weber’s concept in April, 2013 and shooting started in August, as the local crew traveled to Miami, Memphis, Detroit, Austin, St. Louis, New Orleans, Kansas City and Brooklyn.
“It was a joint effort with the network to determine the strongest cities for the show,” says Schmiedeler.
“We had many submissions from cooks in those locations. We sent a casting director to see the finalists cook and give us their recommendations. They told us, ‘these guys are good.’”
The Chicago crew was comprised of showrunner Rob Smart, DP Oral Usher leading a team of up to six cameramen, three audio engineers, a line producer and several associate producers and production coordinators. Additional crew as needed hired in each city.
“We traveled our Chicago crew to each city because consistency was necessary,” notes Schmiedeler. “We had a crew of 20 to 30 people shooting two set-ups in each city.”
Field shooting wrapped in December and the studio scenes finished up in March. Postproduction was headed by editor Brad Phelen and his team, and the last show was delivered in May to the Travel Channel. Their EP on the series was Dale Roy Robinson.
Schmiedeler joined The Michael Group last year, after 14 years at Towers Productions, were he held positions as VP/development- managing director, and VP/production. He has been the production executive on more than 20 non-fiction series and 20 specials for major cable networks, including A&E, Discovery, National Geographic, CBS Sports and many others.