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KC pitmaster joins celebrity chefs in ‘BBQ Brawl’; how reality TV pulled Burnt Finger’s pork through 2020 smoke

DATE POSTED:June 12, 2021

When Megan Day hits the screen Monday on Food Network, the Lee’s Summit pitmaster, entrepreneur and veteran of TV appearances — from BBQ battles to morning talk shows — could face her greatest challenge to date, she said.

Megan Day, Burnt Finger BBQ

“This was a completely different style of competition,” Day, co-founder and face of Burnt Finger BBQ, said of her upcoming appearance on the second season of Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl” — an experience that brought her face-to-face with celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, and Eddie Jackson. 

The series 10-episodes will see Flay, Symon, and Jackson coach 12 contestants from across the country, each with the hope of discovering and molding its winner — and securing ultimate bragging rights, the network said. 

“That added a completely different texture and layer to it,” Day said, recalling a previous stint on ‘Chopped Grill Masters’ where she competed (and bested her opponents) solo. 

“To think that [Flay, Symon, and Jackson] know who you are, that’s even more exciting,” she continued. “The first season was more about the teams. This time it’s more about the mentors, making sure their team doesn’t get eliminated. They were very hands-on working with us.”

DVR Alert: “BBQ Brawl” is set to premiere on the Food Network with a 90-minute special 8 p.m. Monday, June 14. Click here to learn more about the show or to watch the past season’s episodes.

Throughout such a process, Day said she learned there’s more to her skillset than meets the eye. 

“I’m known for cooking meat, but, maybe — just maybe, I branched out a little bit and took it further,” she teased, keeping details of the show close to her apron and pointing out existing fans and supporters of Burnt Finger might be surprised by her performance. 

“I got pretty creative and had a lot of fun.”

A new audience at home

Megan Day, Burnt Finger BBQ

Megan Day, Burnt Finger BBQ

TV appearances have become a staple for Day and an invaluable sales channel for Burnt Finger in recent years. An existing deal with the Home Shopping Network (HSN) helped the company stay afloat amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“What we found was many people were struggling to get certain proteins,” she explained, recalling shortages of meat and countless other products in the earliest days of the lingering health crisis. 

“People were turning to a trusted source — which [for many] happened to be the Home Shopping Network. We got to ride that wave of people who wouldn’t normally [say,] ‘Hey, I’m going to buy that meat and keep it in my freezer,’” Day continued. 

“We became that resource for them and saw a nice increase in new customers that not only purchased our precooked and frozen meats, they put it on autoship so that it was coming in every 60 to 90 days.”

Click here to browse Burnt Finger BBQ products available through HSN or here to learn more about the origins of the partnership. 

Learning from butts and buts

Burnt Finger’s relationship with HSN has also opened doors to truly understanding what customers want from the company, Day added. 

“At one point we tried whole pork butts. And it was good, people responded to it, but the [majority of] the responses we got was, ‘I love this … but I wish it was a one pound bag of pulled pork.’ … So we launched one-pound bags of pulled pork and pulled chicken,’” she recalled. 

“I can come up with great ideas all day long. But if it’s not something that someone wants to buy, it does no good. Really trying to understand and learn the audience and what they’re drawn to has been a fun process for us.”

And it’s a process Day hopes her customer base finds similar joy in as she looks to be crowned a “BBQ Brawl” champion. 

“We are in the barbecue capital of the world. So to be able to represent as a pitmaster from this region is a real honor. There’s some really amazing competitors in this season and it was really fun to meet them,” she said. 

“We’re going to head to Stuey McBrew’s [in Lee’s Summit] on Monday night at 8 and hang out there and watch it.”

Click here to learn more about two additional “BBQ Brawl” contestants who hail from St. Louis.

This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that seeks to build inclusive prosperity through a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development. The Foundation works to change conditions, address root causes, and break down systemic barriers so that all people – regardless of race, gender, or geography – have the opportunity to achieve economic stability, mobility, and prosperity. 

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