LEE’S SUMMIT’S BARBECUE QUEEN IMPRESSES THE FOOD NETWORK
On the professional barbecue stage, Lee’s Summit’s Megan Day is reigning queen, bringing Kansas City-style barbecue to national TV audiences. Together, she and her husband, Jason Day, comprise the husband-wife competition team Burnt Finger BBQ, whose barbecue and business savvy have propelled the couple to the forefront of the industry and Megan to Food Network stardom.
How did you get your start?
In 2008, barbecue wasn’t the juggernaut that it is now. We’ve watched barbecue grow into a spectator sport. We had to generate funds to support our competition hobby, so friends formed an LLC and started BBQAddicts.com.
Then someone asked my husband, Jason, how would you barbecue bacon. He ended up creating the Bacon Explosion, which is bacon-wrapped, bacon-stuffed sausage, which was covered by The New York Times and generated huge publicity for us. Here we were, with nothing to sell but with all this publicity. We quickly trademarked the Bacon Explosion. By May 2009, we had a sauce, a seasoning and a fully-cooked version of the Bacon Explosion ready to ship!
What led you to “Chopped Grill Masters?”
A year and a half ago, I decided to leave corporate America so my husband and I could take our barbecue business to the next level. Within a week of me leaving my position, we landed our largest client for orders of the Bacon Explosion, and we were contacted by a 300-store specialty chain that had heard about our sauces and seasonings. So whatever gives you that gut feeling, listen to it!
I was fortunate that someone very influential in the barbecue industry knew what my goals were and said “You can do this.” They connected me with producers of “Chopped Grill Masters,” who were looking for female barbecue competitors. I contacted and Skype interviewed with the casting director and ended up flying to Queens, New York, to film the show.
Tell me about the actual competition. What was in your basket?
I made it past the elimination in the appetizer round. In the entrée round basket, I had venison, fiddlehead fern, s’mores skillet and heirloom tomatoes. I knew the venison was a lean meat, so I incorporated chorizo to add some fat and make a venison chorizo burger. What you don’t see on the finale was that I lost valuable time because I poked my finger opening the chorizo casing. I had to stop and step away from my station for several minutes while a medic checked my finger and the producers inspected my station.
The judges loved my burger. What I took away from it was I wasn’t chopped for what I put on the plate, I was chopped for what I didn’t put there. I would have liked to have offered a fiddlehead and avocado mayo and some fries to round the plate out. The winner was a classically-trained chef, Joe Johnson, who transformed his basket. He’s an inspiration to me.
Although you didn’t end up taking home the title of Chopped Grill Masters Grand Champion, what benefits have you seen from this national exposure?
Now at barbecue competitions, people know my name. That’s very fun amongst my peers to have an opportunity to stand out. There are a lot of great folks who do what we do. To have them know my name and get that respect, you couldn’t ask for a better outcome. I’ve also had some fun opportunities in Kansas City. Collaborations are bubbling to do some philanthropy with the good that’s happened to me.
Yes, I’ve seen you’ve been representing KC on other stages as well!
Shortly after the “Chopped” finale, I was paired with former pro-football player Art Still and we won first in the 2017 American Royal celebrity cookoff. Then our team, Burnt Finger BBQ, walked away with ninth place overall in the American Royal.
Later that week I got to fly to New York to represent Kansas City barbecue on a “Today Show” football food segment. It’s been a lot of fun to be able to spread the love of live-fire cooking. That’s what it’s all about.
What does Thanksgiving look like at your house? Do you keep it traditional or do you add some barbecue flair?
It’s really pretty traditional, but our life is surrounded by live fire – we have two smokers and three grills at our house plus a smoker and a grill we use in competitions! For Thanksgiving, we’ll smoke a whole turkey. My husband’s first recipe post in 2008 on BBQAddicts.com was how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey, and we’ve just grown from there.
One of our favorite sides is charred Brussels sprouts and cranberries in a brown butter sauce. We really char those Brussels sprouts! We do a pumpkin cheesecake and monkey bread on the smoker. One of my favorite things to do is an off-the-wall dessert or recipe on the grill. It’s a rich menu, no matter what.