Houston pitmaster participates in Food Network’s BBQ Brawl


Ara Malekian, Harlem Road Texas BBQ’s chef / pit chef in Richmond, participates in the second season of Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl”.

Photo: Food network, Production company / Food network

A Houston-area pitmaster is about to get some well-deserved national exposure.

Ara Malekian, the native Armenian who channels the Texas cowboy look with charming and understated impetus, is one of 12 pitmasters featured on the second season of Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl,” a TV show. competition which begins a series of 10 episodes on June 14. The pitmaster / owner of the famous BBQ on Harlem Road in Texas in Richmond will represent Houston’s skilled barbecue scene and flaunt their own chef’s chops as he and his fellow contenders work their way through individual challenges and team barbecue battles.

This new edition of “BBQ Brawl” presents another scream in Houston: Eddie Jackson, the former NFL player turned “Food Network Star” who made Cypress his home, is new to the series, joining Bobby Flay and Michael Symon. . The three celebrity chefs will act as mentors for the 12 candidates who will be divided into three teams.

“BBQ Brawl” was filmed at Star Hill Ranch in Austin in March, a year after the nation’s restaurant industry was plunged into chaos and the series’ contestants with barbecue companies had to pivot from creatively during the pandemic.

While Texas barbecue traditions are portrayed on the show, the smoked meat master contenders come from all parts of the county where regional barbecue styles flourish. In each episode, they will be tasked with showing off their skills in smoking, grilling, fine dining, baking, and even cocktail making by cooking over a wood fire with pork, brisket, different cuts of beef, sausage and seafood. “Anything you can think of to grill, we’ve done it,” Jackson said. “This show has a lot of everything. It really pushes the boundaries of what barbecue can be.

Malekian turns out to be particularly qualified for “BBQ Brawl”. Classically trained in Europe, Malekian and his family moved to California in 1987 where he attended college and continued to work in restaurant kitchens. In 2000 he started working for celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck as a business manager, traveling extensively across the country opening restaurants for Puck. In 2006, he moved to Texas to be closer to his brother who moved to the Houston area. After several years of pop-ups and restaurants, Malekian opened his own barbecue business. Harlem Road Texas BBQ in Richmond and has quickly become a favorite with Texas artisan barbecue connoisseurs.

On the show, Malekian’s gastronomic background comes into play with his cooking techniques and plating skills, not to mention his barbecue skills.

“You will be able to see how each of them showcases our techniques,” he said, adding that the competitors found it difficult to think on their feet and prepare meals under strenuous time constraints.

It doesn’t hurt that Malekian also has a pretty impressive figure with his all-black wardrobe, hat, boots, and neat mustache. Within the local barbecue community, he is often seen with a cigar, his ubiquitous cup of Armenian coffee, and known for his genius disposition and fluency in seven languages.

“BBQ Brawl” will undoubtedly draw an even larger audience to Harlem Road Texas BBQ. Malekian plans to offer specials at his Richmond BBQ restaurant based on the challenges of the competition. He’s also set to significantly expand his business when a nearby Amazon facility is completed next to his store later this year.

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  • Greg Morago

    Greg Morago was editor and reporter for The Hartford Courant for 25 years before joining the Houston Chronicle as a food editor in 2009. He writes on food, restaurants, spirits, travel, fashion and beauty. . He is originally from Arizona and a member of the Pima tribe of the Gila River Indian community.


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