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August 31, 2010 > Kaiser Permanente surgeon competes in national television BBQ show

Kaiser Permanente surgeon competes in national television BBQ show

Submitted By Johnny Ng

A GSAA surgeon without professional cooking experience came within a point of beating the reigning world BBQ pork champion to win a nationally televised BBQ show.

John Melone, MD, along with his "Bare Bones BBQ" team made up of fellow surgeon Hanlon Jen, MD; Tom Broaddus; and Ven Omotoy, all who work together in the operating room at the Kaiser Permanente Fremont Medical Center, recently cooked off against three professional teams in the second season of TLC's "BBQ Pitmasters." The weekly TV series has the nation's top barbecuers competing for a top prize of $100,000 and the title of BBQ Pitmaster.

In the competition, Bare Bones BBQ's main course of crown pork roast with ham hock bacon jus and avocado cilantro potato salad captured the taste buds of the judges, taking them to brink of victory in the episode that aired August 19.

"It was the most succulent piece of pork that I even put in my mouth," said "BBQ Pitmasters" judge Art Smith. In addition to Smith, well-known as the former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey, the other judges were Warren Sapp, a retired Oakland Raiders defensive lineman; and Myron Mixon, a world-class BBQ champion.

"I'm very happy with how well our team did," said Dr. Melone. "We won just by being there and competing."

Prior to facing the judges for the main course challenge, Bare Bones BBQ had to compete in the appetizer challenge with rattlesnake as the surprise protein.

"We were actually prepared for this and had a grilled rattlesnake Dijon mustard recipe," said Dr. Melone.

In the appetizer challenge, Bare Bones BBQ grilled their rattlesnake and served it with a triple mustard sauce. The judges were lukewarm to their appetizer, but it was enough for the team to edge out team QN4U and take them to the main course round. QN4U, a well-known team from Clovis, California, was eliminated from the competition.

But how did a backyard barbecuer like Dr. Melone even end up competing against professionals in a nationally televised competition? After learning that TLC was looking for "wildcard" competitors for "BBQ Pitmasters," he put together an audition video and submitted it. To his surprise, he was picked from hundreds of submissions to compete in the show.

Last month, Dr. Melone and his team packed up their BBQ equipment along with all of their "secret" ingredients and headed down to Los Angeles for the competition. Soon after arriving, Bare Bones BBQ was quickly awed by all of the "BBQ royalty" who were their competitors. Combined, their three competing professional teams have amassed almost 50 BBQ Grand Championships and 30 years of experience.

"They came towing in their $60,000 BBQ rigs behind their trucks and here we are pulling up with our little Webber grills," said Dr. Melone. "We were simply just backyard barbecuers."

But Dr. Melone is not a complete novice when it comes to BBQ. He's been a backyard barbecuer for almost 15 years, ever since a fellow doctor asked him to smoke a turkey. Last year, he won the blue ribbon for best chicken and ribs at the Alameda County Fair. He even treats the surgery department to a BBQ whenever it does well on its services scores.

His late father, Rudy Melone, PhD, was also a food pioneer. In 1978, his father founded the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the annual "Stinking Rose" festival. Every year, Dr. Melone and his brothers still have a booth at the festival and cook up special garlic dishes.

Even though Bare Bones did not win the competition, it was a valuable opportunity to learn directly from the BBQ masters.

"I can't wait to fire up the grill and try out all of the techniques that I learned from them," said Dr. Melone.

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