The Pit Masters

The Pit Masters (Listed Alphabetically)

Pit Masters will participate as their schedule permits. For an exact list of instructors for any given class please contact us.

Jerry Aguilar

Head cook for the team Burnin and Lootin out of Corona, CA. Jerry has been in the pro BBQ circuit since 2012. Notable accolades include winning best new team (CA RoY) of 2012, Over 20 Grand and Reserve Grand Championships along with over 200 awards for his BBQ.






Sterling Ball

Sterling Ball is the owner of Big Poppa Smokers (BPS) and has become one of the leading internet providers for commercial rubs, sauces, smokers and BBQ accessories.  The Big Poppa Smokers product line of BBQ rubs has been a successful part of the Sam’s Club Invitational, Jack Daniels and American Royal championships; BPS won the American Royal Invitational in 2012. Team BPS has also been featured on the hit television series BBQ Pitmasters. BPS is currently ranked 12th in the Kansas City BBQ Association pork shoulder standings.




Kevin Bludso

Kevin started learning BBQ since he was nine years old as he spent every summer in Texas learning from his grandmother. After attending Bishop College on a football scholarship, he continued catering BBQ on the side while working at the Department of Corrections. In 2008, he opened his first restaurant, Bludso’s BBQ and in 2013, he helped open his second restaurant, Bludso’s Bar & Que. He has been featured on Fox, KTLA, ABC, the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and will be featured as the BBQ consultant on an upcoming episode of Bar Rescue.




Todd Carpenter

Todd is the Pitmaster of All About The Q, and along with his wife Beverly, they make up the team All About The Q. 2014 may be their Rookie season on the BBQ circuit, but Todd is no stranger to competitive cooking, having entered his first contest while in the third grade, specializing in deserts. Being born and raised in West Texas, beef is in his blood and cooking is a passion. Todd and Beverly are both KCBS Certified BBQ Judges and spent a year in that role before becoming competitors, where they have had good results in the Backyard division, and are hoping to carry that on in their pro career. He is also an active CBBQA member, serving on both our website committee as well as a moderator for the CBBQA forums.



Donna Fong

Donna is a KCBS certified Master Judge, a certified PNWBA judge and an IBCA judge.  She is the head cook of Butcher’s Daughter BBQ and a BBQ class instructor with Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ. She has studied biochemistry and protein chemistry in college and works on cancer diagnostics at a biotech start-up company in Silicon Valley.  She has served on CBBQA Board of Directors as vice president, and is currently chair of the CBBQA Judging committee, leads the KCBS CBJ Ambassador program, is a member of the KCBS membership committee, is a CBBQA Institute101 instructor, a CBBQA election chair, and was inducted into the CBBQA Hall of Fame in 2014. She also competed at the American Royal in 2013 and on the TV show, Chopped Grillmasters in 2015.





Steph Franklin

Steph (The Genie) is an award-winning pit master with 19 Grand and Reserve Championships.  He has been ranked nationally in pork and ribs and has been ranked in the top 25 nationally.  Moreover, Steph has been California Team of the Year in pork, chicken, ribs and overall.  He is also an accomplished caterer with over a hundred weddings to his credit.  His BBQ spices and blends are recognized globally as the secret ingredient to winning.





Ric Gilbert

Born from the “primordial ooze” of half used bottles of bbq sauce, spice rubs and blue smoke, Ric Gilbert knew at an early age he was destined to do one thing: bbq. This early awareness to play with fire and food resulted in various epic failures. Undaunted, Ric pressed forward and has amassed over 250 cooking awards and was inducted into the California BBQ Association Hall of Fame in 2009.

His most memorable awards include: Multiple California Grand & Reserve Grand Championships, California Team-of-the Year (for Chicken), 14th place ribs in a field of 500 at the 2009 American Royal; commonly referred to as the “World Series of BBQ;” winner of the Iron Chef BBQ competition in Lodi; 2011 Champion of the Bay Area BBQ Throw Down, 6th best brisket and BBQ sauce in the World Food Championships 2012, Las Vegas.

Ric has appeared on or contributed to local and network television shows including The Cooking Channel, The Food Network and was featured in an episode of The Mythbusters..



Kelly is a KCBS contest Representative, IBCA Head Judge, KCBS Master Judge, Certified Table Captain, CBJ/CTC instructor and is a member of KCBS’s CBJ committee and former member of the KCBS Rep committee. He was named “BBQ Ambassador” by the California BBQ association in 2009, was inducted in to the CBBQA Hall of Fame in 2011and received the Brent Walton memorial award in 2015. Kelly officiates 30 to 35 contests a year in the US and Canada.




Ryan Pang

Ryan is currently Executive Chef and Pitmaster of QBB, Quality Bourbon and Barbecue in downtown Mountain View. He is Alumni of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, where he graduated with honors and won the coveted Service Award. Pang jumped into Competition BBQ leading Bad S. BBQ as pitmaster in 2009 and competed with his Homemade smokers made from vintage GE refrigerator. Pang has had numerous culinary successes in BBQ and Chili competitions and always is a crowd favorite for Peoples Choice Awards.





Julie Poe

Julie was raised on grits and North Carolina pulled pork. While completing her Animal Science degree at Cal Poly SLO, she was introduced to Santa Maria style BBQ and meat processing. Her BBQ education continued while obtaining her Masters in Nutrition (Ruminant) at Texas A&M where she was introduced to Texas style BBQ and brisket. As an R&D chemist for Dole Packaged Foods, she was trained as a discriminate sensory analyst for their in-house taste panel evaluating pineapple, fruit, and packaged food products. In the late 90’s she began tasting olive oil with UC Davis to improve the quality and standards of US produced olive oil. She was a founding member of all California internationally certified olive oil taste panels and currently serves as a panel member, judge in olive oil competitions, and teaches olive oil tasting classes. She is a KCBS contest Representative, KCBS Master Judge, Certified Table Captain, PNWBA judge, and enjoys spending time with her BBQ family.


Bryan Rice

Bryan is the keel of the Twisted Brisket BBQ Team and like a mad scientist concocts, twists, and blends the art and the science in making our products what they are.  Forming a family team allows for cheers, jeers and tears, and is ‘all in’ for the hard work, the fun and the rewards of this hobby on steroids.  Competing with two brothers and a Dad can be a challenge, but he’s always up for a good ribbing.





Rob Rice

Rob is the founding Pitmaster of Twisted Brisket BBQ.  The team isn’t about title’s but somebody has to be there to take the blame.  Being an avid backyard barbeque cook and watching two full seasons of BBQ Pitmasters the Twisted Brisket BBQ team was born and ready to rock everyone’s world…TV makes everything look so easy, right?

2013 was our first year competing as a Team and we had a few great successes and many learning opportunities.   Both students and teachers of the craft, we have built a great following in a very short time, people have lined up for over an hour to get a taste of what we think is pretty darn good BBQ.




Scott Simpson

Scott is a KCBS Certified Master Judge and Certified Table Captain and has judged BBQ contests sanctioned by KCBS, IBCA and PNWBA as well as non-sanctioned backyard contests with open judging. Scott is also a member of the Smokin’ Yankee’s Competition BBQ team and has served on the CBBQA Board of Directors.





Harry Soo

Harry is a KCBS Certified BBQ Judge and head cook of Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ. Harry has trained over 2,000 pitmasters and barbecue judges and has been featured on several TV shows. He has won 27 Grand Championships, over 80 first places, and numerous KCBS national and international awards including appearing on TLC’s Barbecue Pitmasters Season One, Food Network’s Chopped Grillmasters and Cutthroat Kitchen. In 2012, Harry was selected to be one of the five national barbecue judges in the Kingsford Invitational contest which crowns a single grand champion from eight winners of the nation’s top barbecue competitions. He has served on National BBQ and Grilling Association as the Western Region Vice President and a CBBQA Institute101 instructor. In 2016, Harry was inducted into the CBBQA Hall of Fame.





Andy Soto

Andy is the one-man-cook of Master of Disaster who began competitively cooking in 2007. During his years on the circuit, he has earned an invite to the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational and the American Royal Invitational. You can often see the veteran pit master under his Simple Green canopy or walking around talking to all the teams, new and old. In 2012, he was presented the Brent Walton Award, an award given to CBBQA members who personify the very best of what the CBBQA stands for – service, competition, and education.





Aaron Staines

Aaron has been barbecuing since using the meager winnings from a CA Lottery scratcher ticket for an El Cheapo Brinkmann in his early twenties. A Master CBJ with an interest in the cultural aspects of foodways, his day job is as a portfolio manager and trader for the University of California in Oakland.








Robert Stouffer

Robert is a CBBQA Board member, and CBBQA Judging committee member. Robert is also a KCBS Master Judge and certified table captain who has judged more than 40 competitions. As a BBQ Competition Organizer of 3 contests in southern California and also helps fellow organizers with other competitions.







Chris Visconti

Chris “Bear” Visconti is the Pit Master of Bear’s-B-Q, a competitive BBQ team based out of Southern California. His passion for smoking/grilling started over 30 years ago as a backyard BBQ enthusiast. Chris is a KCBS certified BBQ competition judge and his other related experiences/interests include gourmet cooking, sausage making and baking breads and pastries. Bear’s-B-Q has been competing on the KCBS contest circuit since 2013.






Cindy Rose Wilcken

Cindy has a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, MA in Curriculum Writing, Master Teacher (retired), Mentor Teacher, Master Judge, Certified Table Captain, Graduate of Advanced CBBQA judging Workshop. She is a Lifetime member of KCBS, member of CBBQA and PNWBA and a member of the Anything’ll Que BBQ team. Cindy has judged over 70 BBQ competitions from the West Coast to the East Coast.







Steve Wilson

Steve is the Pitmaster for The Pit Crew BBQ of SoCal. The Pit Crew started competing in 2011 and has four Grand Championships and three Reserve Grand Championships plus multiple category awards, including perfect scores at the 2012 Dana Point BBQ Championship and 2013 Lancaster Cowboy Up Rodeo. TPCBBQ has had a very successful end of the year in 2013, moving up to # 4 in California in overall points and top 40 in the Nation. On November 2, 2013 The Pit Crew BBQ of SoCal won the Grand Championship at the prestigious USA BBQ Championship in Laughlin, Nevada at Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort where they won a 2014 Chevy Camaro SS.

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