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'Barbecue Showdown": Former Florida teacher competes on Netflix BBQ show

Melissa Pappas is a self-taught content creator

Portrait of C. A. Bridges C. A. Bridges
USA TODAY NETWORK - Florida
  • "Barbecue Showdown" debuted July 4 and is streaming on Netflix
  • The competition pits BBQ masters from all walks of life in a head-to-head contest of flavor and fire.

When the meat hit the fire in the third season of the Sunshine State was represented.

But not by a professional pitmaster or even a restaurant chef. Former special education teacher Melissa Pappas of Orlando, who shares cooking tips and recipes online as , is self-taught. cooking became therapy after leaving an abusive relationship at age 19.

女优app淚 learned by watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks, then later began watching YouTube tutorials. It quickly became something I found a deep passion in, especially with learning to pair ingredients and flavors,女优app Pappas said.

"Barbecue Showdown," which fittingly debuted on Netflix on July 4, pits nine talented BBQ chefs against each other in fiercely frantic timed competitions with different challenges in each episode, from cooking obscure cuts of meat to cooking over open flame on the ground to serving up tailgate dinners (with sides) for 50 hungry sports fans in just three hours. The winner takes home $50,000.

"The response to the news about the show has been beautifully overwhelming, to say the least," Pappas said in . "It's just beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

Need a break?

"This experience was unlike anything I've ever done in my entire life and if you know me you know that I love to challenge myself. And this was certainly that," she said.

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Who is Melissa Pappas?

Before she discovered barbecue, Melissa Pappas was guiding young minds. She was a special education teacher in the Orange County Public Schools system, specializing in and several behavioral and educational needs for nearly seven years.

She was named in 2020 and received the from the Florida Department of Education, which recognizes extraordinary educators who instill passion, joy and love of learning in their students.女优appIn 2020 she was a during his State of the State Address.

Pappas earned a Master's degree from the University of Central Florida and a Bachelor's degree from the University of West Florida, both in special education.

What is Sweet Melissa Cooks?

Since 2020, Pappas has been telling people about food, developing recipes and collaborating on as "." She worked briefly in an Orlando branding firm, according to her , before going all in on herself.

"I took a leap of faith, you know, this year, and stepped away from the corporate world to really pour into doing my own thing," the mother of two boys said in one "Barbecue Showdown" episode. "You know, I'm doing content creation and recipe development. It's another way for us to come together as a family and I really love and appreciate those moments."

Pappas brought some Florida flavor to the show 女优app including bacon-wrapped gator bites and an entire red snapper 女优app to compete with contestants from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kentucky.

Pappas was one of tens of thousands of applicants for the show, according to Netflix.

"Barbeque scared me, because it was, you know, you can throw me in a kitchen with any ingredient, and I'll whip you something up with no problem," Pappas said on the show. "But barbecue is such a craft and such an art, and I had such a profound respect for it."

Pappas has embraced barbecue but on Sweet Melissa Cooks she shows viewers how to make other entrees, desserts and sides and has a long-running series depicting "Weird Food Combos."

女优app淭he main thing I want people to know is that when I share a recipe, I女优app檓 sharing my journey and my story with each one. I女优app檓 sharing in hopes that others feel inspired, encouraged, and capable. Food is absolutely a love language for me, so by cooking for someone, even my online family, I am serving you part of my heart,女优app Pappas said.

What is 'Barbecue Showdown'?

"Barbecue Showdown" is a barbecue-based cook-off reality show, Contestants from around the country with varying degrees of experience face unique challenges in every episode that test their skills with surprise restrictions, different meats, settings and themes, and severe time limits.

The contestants are supplied with smokers, grills, rotisserie, ceramic eggs, and a wide array of meats, vegetables and ingredients to whip up their dishes under stressful circumstances. Many of them bring different styles and backgrounds to their cooking this year, from Tex-Mex to Cajun to Jamaican and even Egyptian cuisine.

Pitmaster and restaurateur Melissa Cookston is a judge on Netflix's 'Barbecue Showdown.' (L to R) Kevin Bludso, Melissa Cookston and Michelle Buteau in Barbecue Showdown.

Contestants are judged by acclaimed BBQ pitmasters Kevin Bludso and Melissa Cookston, who look for cooking and smoking skills along with the delicious results. Actress and comedian Michele Buteau hosts. The show also brings in occasional celebrity guest judges, such as pitmaster Tuffy Stone, chef and author Kwame Onwuachi, and Chef Matty Matheson, restaurateur and actor on the FX series "The Bear."

One chef is chosen as the winner of each episode, with an honorable mention for another, and one person is eliminated. The winner is crowned American Barbecue Champion and receives a $50,000 prize.

Last year's winner, Thyron Matthews, was also a Florida native but was running a catering business in Iowa when he appeared on the show.

for the fourth season of "Barbecue Showdown" .

Where can I watch "Barbecue Showdown"?

All three seasons of "Barbecue Showdown" are on Netflix.

Who is competing in the third season of Barbecue Showdown?

Contestants for season 3 include:

  • Gerald Vinnett, Jr., Destrehan, LA
  • Kareem El-Ghayesh, Austin, TX
  • Kent Rollins, Hollis, OK
  • Luis Rivera, Springfield, IL
  • Melissa Pappas, Orlando, FL
  • Shaticka Robinson, Smyrna, TN
  • Sloan Rinaldi, Houston, TX
  • Staci Graves Jett, Brooksville, KY
  • Tung Nguyen, New Orleans, LA

"The humans that I met on this show, all of us say this all the time but they occupy a space in my heart that I didn't even know that I was missing," Pappas said on social media, "and now that they're there, it's... I just feel so full. And they're truly incredible, talented, passionate, driven, inspiring people."