Rashad Jones of the local Big Lee’s BBQ restaurants has again taken his upbeat personality and passion for cooking barbecue to the national stage.
Jones co-owns and operates the popular Big Lee’s BBQ restaurants with his wife, Patrice. The venture traces back to an entry in a local charity competition by Rashad Jones 10 years ago and now includes five locations with 15 employees.
Rashad Jones was in “Guy’s Big Project,” also a Food Network offering, starring celebrity chef Guy Fieri in 2017. He was awarded a grand prize of making a six-episode series of his own, “Eat, Sleep, BBQ,” which is available on Discovery+ and Amazon Prime Video, according to Patrice Jones.
The couple reached another milestone when Rashad Jones was recently selected for the ongoing Food Network series “BBQ Brawl.” Two episodes already have aired, and the third is scheduled for 9 pm Monday.
Jones joins nine other barbecue restaurateurs selected from across the US as a competitor in the third season of the celebrity judged elimination cookoff style “BBQ Brawl.”
“I love what I do. I have a responsibility to represent Ocala and the barbecue culture,” said Jones, 43, a native of Rahway, New Jersey, who moved to Central Florida at age 11.
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Here’s how ‘BBQ Brawl’ works
In the ongoing third season of “BBQ Brawl,” Rashad Jones is one of a three-member team seeking the prestigious title of “Master of the ‘Cue” by beating out two other teams of other top pit masters from across the US
The barbecue dishes and meals prepared in high-intensity, timed cookoffs are judged by celebrity judges Rodney Scott, Brooke Williamson and Carson Kressley, and the three pit masters in the three teams are coached and led by team captains: celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, Anne Burrell and Jet Tila.
The show is filmed at Star Hill Ranch in Austin, Texas.
A look at the first two episodes
In episode one, which aired May 9, Jones prepared a “deconstructed fajita” kabob during the introductory cooking segment. It was well received by the judges.
Jones then teamed with Don Nguyen of Khoi Barbecue in Houston and Sunny Moody of Moodswing BBQ in Nashville to make up Team Jet, with Jet Tila as captain, and prepare a full meal for the competition segment.
Tila said the team had a “multinational” flavor, which prompted the team to adopt “Jet Set International Smokehouse” as a mock restaurant name.
The team’s offering included pear-and-prosciutto bruschetta, Galbi-style short ribs, flank steak salad, fish sauce caramel wings, Vietnamese sweet corn, garlic-sauteed green beans and bourbon maple pecan pie.
Jones cooked Korean Galbi-style short ribs.
At the close of season three, episode one, Tila’s team was bested by Flay’s team and was forced to change captains, making Anne Burrell the new captain for Jones’ group.
Episode two of season three, which aired on May 16, saw the three teams start with a competition to shuck and remove kernels from corn, grind sausage, cut up whole chickens, and make coleslaw from scratch in the least time.
Team Anne, with Rashad Jones as a member, won the competition.
“I made a lot of sausage, and I could do it fast,” Jones said.
In a second contest in episode two, the teams had to prepare a dish in the “tag team segment.”
Team Anne pulled off a victory with a meal reflecting a “Melting Pot” theme with Jones adding “sweet and sticky Brussels sprouts” and garlic roasted mashed potatoes.
Team Anne’s overall offering included chicken with ginger, garlic and rice, and southwest Tri-tip meat with garlic and herb. The team was considered “safe” from elimination for the time being, as was Team Jet.
One competitor on Team Bobby, which served food with bits of charcoal in it after the food fell into the lid when his grill tumbled, was dismissed for the rest of the season at the close of episode two.
At 9 pm on May 23 on the Food Network will have the team members face new challenges in episode three.
How does Big Lee’s do it?
Jones’ culinary forte is smoking meats like beef brisket for days on “indirect offset wood smokers.” The fire is offset at one end and the smoke is drawn across the grill. He uses “kiln-dried Central Florida oak wood,” which has a variety of aromas, including chocolate and vanilla scents.
He also uses “Sweet Lee’s dry rub” flavoring. The cooking focus is “low (temperature) and slow cooking,” or as Jones calls it, “babysitting” the meat.
The operations center in midtown Ocala includes his food trailer, which was the “start up” for the “Big Lee’s: Serious About Barbecue” enterprise, and a bank of smokers preparing food for the four remote food truck locations. Big Lee’s BBQ also caters throughout the area.
Jones said he trains his team members carefully and insists on “consistency” in food preparation.
“I’m big on exceeding what you expect (in the food),” Jones said.
On a recent day, Big Lee’s BBQ Pit Crew member Tyler Hames was watching over 20 four-pound slabs of ribs on one of the several large smokers at the operations center.
Tyler said once people came from Tuscawilla Park, several blocks away, because they “followed their nose(s)” toward the wood smoke aroma, which he said carries at least half a mile.
Big Lee’s BBQ Food trucks, like the one that parks off Southeast Maricamp Road, are set in four locations countywide.
Nicole Jordan, with Chet Craig Plumbing which is located in a building adjacent to the site where the food truck parks.
“The smoke from the truck smells great and they are always busy,” Jordan said.