Hendersonville resident competes on new season of Food Network's BBQ Brawl

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Hendersonville's Sunny Moody recently competed on the third season of Food Network’s smokin’ show BBQ Brawl.

“That was so much fun being able to be a part of the show, actually, and meet Bobby Flay, Jet (Tila) and chef Anne (Burrell), and they were all incredible, it was so neat,” Moody said.

“You’re going to have to tune in to see whose team I ended up on, but it was so much fun, the entire time that I got to spend there was incredible, it was just a really great experience.”

Set at the Star Hill Ranch in Austin, Texas, nine BBQ pitmasters have been divided into three teams and will compete to win the title of ‘Master of ‘Cue’ under the coaching of Chefs Anne Burrell, Jet Tila and the show’s reigning champion Bobby Flay.

One winner will be crowned ‘Master of ‘Cue’ in the season finale later this year and will appear across Food Network’s digital platforms as its official BBQ expert for the year.

BBQ Brawl returns for third season

Contenders Sunny Moody and Tony Froyan prep elements for their first Advantagre Challenge dish, as seen on BBQ Brawl, Season 3.
Contenders Sunny Moody and Tony Froyan prep elements for their first Advantagre Challenge dish, as seen on BBQ Brawl, Season 3.

Flay, Burrell and Tila mentor and coach the nine BBQ pitmasters in the barbeque world, testing their culinary skills and ability to work as a team throughout the season.

“This year's intense barbecue challenges, breakout BBQ hopefuls, and top-flight Food Network chefs that put their reputations on the line has BBQ Brawl promising to again strike a chord with viewers this season,” Courtney White, president, Food Network and Streaming Food Content, Discovery Inc. said in an earlier statement.

“With Anne Burrell and Jet Tila challenging Bobby with their competitive DNA and deep culinary experience, the excitement this season runs hotter than ever.”

A panel of judges featuring whole-hog barbecue pitmaster Rodney Scott, chef Brooke Williamson and television personality Carson Kressley will decide which pitmaster is deserving of the title, ‘Master of ‘Cue’.

Team captains Flay, Burrell and Tila will work to keep their team members in the game in each episode, guiding the nine pitmasters through grilling and smoking challenges.

The judges will determine which team has been the least successful in the challenges and one competitor will be eliminated.

In the end, only one pitmaster and captain will remain.

For the love of BBQ

As for her love for BBQ, Moody began experimenting with a pellet grill in her backyard in 2017.

“I fell in love with the barbeque family and the barbeque community because they were so helpful with teaching me and any questions that I had you could always find somebody to ask and learn more,” she said.

“It just became a passion for me, it’s honestly not something that I ever thought that I would be doing but I definitely have a fire for it and a passion for it.”

Not long after, her husband, Jeff, built a 500-gallon propane smoker and they began competing in backyard barbeque competitions as a professional team. They placed in their first competition.

“And of course, you get hooked at that point (and think), ‘well maybe I can do this’,” she said.

Moody’s BBQ friends began encouraging her to compete individually about a year later, and she and Jeff competed against one another in a state competition.

“He won the first time, and then I started winning after that,” she laughed.

“It kind of became a little bet between us, who would place higher,” she said, adding that being a couple and competing against each other was a lot of fun for them both.

On the road again

Her BBQ journey began in Arizona, where people enjoy a little backend heat, she said.

However, in Georgia and other southern states, barbeque traditionally incorporates more sweetness and less heat.

“So, it’s learning the proper woods to use to create that delicate smoke flavor all in the meat and adding the proper flavors whether it’s sweetness or heat depending on the area of the country you’re competing in and which meat you’re competing in to let the flavor of the meat shine as well,” she said, noting that adjusting flavor profiles when competing around the country is important.

In addition to her Grand Champion and Reserve Grand awards, multiple first place and top 5 finishes in several BBQ and Grilling categories, Moody also became the 2021 World Food Steak Champion in November.

And she's not the only barbeque champion in the family.

Moody, her husband and their four daughters, ages 5-14, travel across the country providing live classes and demonstrations while competing in various events and barbeque competitions. Moodswing BBQ is Moody and her husband’s professional competition barbeque team.

The couple's daughters seem intent on mastering the craft.

“They follow some of our ‘cues and I will teach them everything that I know, but I will also lay out tons of bottles of sauces and tons of bottles of rubs and I’ll say, ‘pick your own and try to create a flavorful meal’,” she said.

“It’s been so much fun just to see each of them blossom and develop and love different types of cooking.”

On the road, they hope to inspire barbeque enthusiasts everywhere to find the same passion in live fire cooking that has brought so much joy to their own family.

Fighting for life

Following life-altering diagnoses of a brain and spinal malformation and Multiple Sclerosis, Moody underwent a lifestyle transformation through a significant weight loss of 80 pounds, igniting a passion inside her to lead a healthier life. Soon thereafter she became a certified nutrition coach and personal trainer.

“My arms and legs would go numb… and so I couldn’t move, and we didn’t know what was happening,” she said.

Nausea, migraines and imbalanced eyesight began to overwhelm her daily activities. Brain surgery and paralysis were discussed as possibilities.

“I decided I wanted to fight,” she said.

“I did everything in my power to improve my health on my own, so I turned to fitness and nutrition.”

One week prior to her brain surgery, a final scan revealed that the surgery was no longer imminently needed. While she had not been healed, doctors allowed her to manage her symptoms.

Moody began developing recipes while working with food and healthier alternatives through her background in nutrition and teaches others to create mouthwatering barbeque dishes.

And while a cookbook is not currently in the works, her website, sunnymoody.com features Moody’s backyard grilling recipes for basic beginners, the family’s competition recipes, event and class schedules and healthy grill recipes.

Stream episodes weekly

The first episode, 'Cue the Introductions, aired last week, and an additional seven episodes are scheduled for the season. New episodes will run weekly on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET | 8 p.m. CT.

Following a big team shake-up in the first episode, the pitmasters practice team building and play BBQ games in the second episode, BBQ Games.

In the finale, competitors will have one more chance to prove themselves worthy of the ‘Master of ‘Cue’ title while cooking a full BBQ dinner feast in only six hours using an entire suckling pig as the judges throw twists and turns at them during the challenge.

For exclusive barbecue how-tos, cookout recipes and more, visit FoodNetwork.com.

Katie Nixon can be reached at knixon@gannett.com or (615) 517-1285.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Hendersonville resident competes on new season of Food Network's BBQ Brawl