True grilling enthusiasts will tell you, this cooking style is definitely an art form. Sure, anyone can throw something on a grill and make it taste good, but becoming a pitmaster is a different level. For Compton, California native Kevin Bludso, his love for smoking and grilling various dishes started when he was young.

"Coming from Compton and going to Texas every summer to visit my granny, I loved watching her on the pit," Kevin Bludso shares. "I thought barbecue was fun as a kid, because when you fired up the pit, you knew something fun was about to happen. My grandma ran a juke joint and I used to work with her in the summers, but I always vowed I wouldn't get into it as a kid. But, she would always say, 'boy, you love cooking, and don't even know it.' I guess she was right."

Fast-forward to present day, and Bludso has not only opened multiple restaurants, but he's also been tapped to be the host of Netflix's "The American Barbecue Showdown" and was most recently named a 2023 James Beard Award-winner for his cookbook, Bludso's BBQ Cookbook: A Family Affair in Smoke and Soul.

Bludso's BBQ Cookbook: A Family Affair in Smoke and Soul
by Kevin Bludso

Price: $27

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Said to be one of the first main faces of Los Angeles' modern barbecue movement, the Cali-based pitmaster argues that West Coast barbecue is definitely in a lane of its own.

"People get LA twisted saying we don't have good barbecue. You have to understand African Americans were migrating to LA back in the 1960s; people from Memphis, Texas, Kansas City, the Carolinas. We had all the styles in one place, and still do. But, if you go to one of those places, you will likely only get the barbecue style specific to that region."

In addition to the melting pot of styles and flavors, Bludso shares that it also boils down to the type of woods you have access to, as this really helps set your smoking profile apart from others.

"Georgia has the peach wood, Texas has the oaks. I mean, you can even be from Alaska, and do some good barbecue if you know what you're doing."

When it comes to knowing what you're doing, the Bludso's BBQ owner schools us on his top tips to help perfect our grilling technique this summer. Oh, and what we should have to create the perfect summer spread.

"The first thing I always tell people, is to learn your pit. Learn how to light your fire," Kevin Bludso explains. "Once you learn that pit and keep it at a consistent temperature, you're going to do some incredible things every time. Of course, your seasonings and woods matter, too. It is an art, but it's an easy art to learn."

"For the perfect summer BBQ spread, you need good meat and sides, great music, good people around you and even better vibes, he adds."

As for what's next for the Netflix talent, he shares that he has a new restaurant opening soon in Santa Monica, and there may even be a second cookbook in the works, too.

"I got a couple of things planned for TV, too. I'm just going to keep pushing. I'm 58-years-old, but still feel like a youngster in this game."

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