'BBQ Pitmasters' premiere to feature Bedford fest

BBQ Pitmasters

8 p.m. Sunday

Destination America

Posted 7:35am on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012

Friends and customers keep asking Harold "Buzzie" Hughes to spill the beans.

As if any self-respecting barbecue king would do that.

Hughes is the owner of Buzzie's Bar-B-Q in the Central Texas town of Kerrville. According to Texas Monthly, it's one of the 50 best barbecue joints in the state.

Three and a half months ago, when TV's BBQ Pitmasters came to North Texas for the Bedford Blues and BBQ Festival, Buzzie put his skills to the test in a cook-off against two other Texas barbecue wizards.

The winner earned $2,000 and bragging rights as the BBQ Pitmasters Texas champ.

But Hughes and his rivals, Ernest Servantes of Burnt Bean Co. in New Braunfels and Will Fleischman of Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas, were sworn to secrecy until the episode airs.

So the bragging -- in the form of a bold sign in front of the restaurant and spicy talk on the website -- would have to wait. Until now, with the season premiere of BBQ Pitmasters at 8 p.m. Sunday on Destination America.

The episode was originally scheduled to air in November, but there was a month of production delays in New York resulting from Hurricane Sandy damage.

"It's been tough," Buzzie says of the waiting, win or lose.

When it comes to slow-cooking a brisket (with the fat up, naturally), he's as patient as they come. But chatting up his experiences on BBQ Pitmasters is something he has been bursting at the seams to do.

"Kerrville is a small community, so everybody knew I went to do it," Buzzie says. "So now all I hear, day in and day out, is 'How'd you do? How'd you do?' There are a lot of people foaming at the mouth about this. And all I can say is, 'I can't tell you. You'll have to watch the show.'"

It has gotten to the point that he can't even go to the grocery store in peace.

"So I go late at night now with sunglasses and a baseball cap on, hoping that people don't recognize me," he says.

Short of there being an embarrassing food-prep disaster (which didn't happen), Buzzie's appearance on BBQ Pitmasters is sure to transform him from a local barbecue legend into a national celebrity.

"Fame is great," he says. "But that's not why I got into the barbecue business. I just enjoy cooking."

Buzzie and the others were given two cooking challenges on the show: a brisket and a cowboy steak.

While his opponents tried to jazz up their dishes with culinary trickery, Buzzie's philosophy was to stick to the basics but to do them exceptionally well.

"A lot of people can barbecue," he says. "But serving the perfect piece of meat, something that's tender and not burned and seasoned just right, that's kind of an art."

Buzzie is the first to acknowledge that no two pitmasters see eye to eye on every aspect of barbecuing.

In Sunday's episode, for example, the three competing cooks disagreed on whether to cook their brisket with the fat up or down (Buzzie is a fat-up man) and whether to inject juices into the meat (Buzzie doesn't think brisket needs it).

"You can ask 10 different barbecue guys questions and you'll get 10 different answers," Buzzie says.

But here's one aspect of barbecuing that Buzzie thinks isn't open to debate:

"Your grill is your buddy," he says. "You take care of it and it will take care of you. Keeping it clean, knowing what you're cooking on it, knowing how hot you're going to cook it and how long you're going to cook it all play a factor in how your meat is going to come out in the end."

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