Big Lee’s Rashad Jones: ‘I beat Bobby Flay’
On the heels of opening his first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Ocala's Rashad Jones gets national TV attention for out-cooking the celebrity chef on the Food Network.
Rashad Jones, as seen on “Beat Bobby Flay, Season 34.” [Food Network]
Big Lee’s pitmaster Rashad Jones continues his longstanding winning streak on the 12th episode of “Beat Bobby Flay” season 34, “The Win Beneath Their Wings.”
The show aired July 6 on the Food Network and repeats of it can be seen at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 10; 3 p.m. on Thursday, July 13; and 7 p.m. on Monday, July 31. Locally, it’s available on Spectrum TV Ch. 59.
In the high-pressure “Beat Bobby Flay” episode, “Cowboy” Kent Rollins of Oklahoma and Jones go tong to tong to out-cook Flay, a celebrity chef with a notorious competitive streak. To qualify for the opportunity to “beat” Flay, the chefs face off against each other with a secret ingredient of Bobby’s choice.
“He very rarely loses on the show,” Jones said of the star.
The initial round of “Win Beneath Their Wings” tasked Jones and his first opponent, Rollins, with transforming a grilled sirloin cap.
Rollins made “barbecue fajitas,” but Jones edged him out with his super-thin-sliced classic barbecue sandwich.
“I cut my meat very thin — I mean, I shaved it,” Jones said. “I knew 20 minutes would be enough for that thermal energy from my grill pan to penetrate that meat, break it down enough because it’s small enough to get it tender.”
To defeat the show’s star in the second round, Jones cooked up some unbeatable chicken wings.
“What’s that smile on your face?” Flay asked Jones. “You look like you have some sort of a trick up your sleeve.”
The Ocala pitmaster just laughed and didn’t say anything.
“One of my secrets,” he told the “Gazette,” “was the Mississippi Delta Blues Blueberry Barbecue Sauce, an ode to Uncle Leon (the inspiration behind Big Lee’s in Ocala),” Jones explained.
The Big Lee’s co-founder had some other maneuvers.
“I made a stove-top smoker, believe it or not,” he effused. “I smoked my wings, and then grilled them on a flat grill top to get some nice grill marks on there.”
Jones, who combines experimentation with tradition, made a rustic slaw.
“I didn’t go for your traditional, typical run-of-the-mill coleslaw that you can get from KFC or any other place,” he said with a laugh. “I introduced a new vibrant taste that had some bold flavors. I used dill, Greek yogurt, and I grilled some bok choy.”
Jones also took a corn cob and cut it lengthwise into quarters.
“I made what we call in the barbecue world, corn ribs,” he said, adding that he charred them and tossed them in a seasoned butter sauce.
Celebrity judges Kardea Brown and Carson Kressley teamed up with guest judges Robbie Shoults, Hugh Mangum and Mama Tanya to choose Jones as the winner in both rounds of the episode.
Ocala’s beloved barbecue man is the chef who now gets to shout, “I beat Bobby Flay!”
Renowned for his Ocala-area food trucks, Jones had more news to share last week: the grand opening on July 4 of his first Big Lee’s Serious About Barbecue brick-and-mortar location.
One diner set up a tent and waited as early as 7 a.m. to be the first through the door, Jones said.
The “quick-service” restaurant, at 2611 SW 19th Ave. Road, also called “Easy Street,” features an open kitchen and order counter. Jones said his employees are trained to explain menu items so customers don’t have get caught off guard or have to order under pressure.
Located in a complex anchored by the Regal Hollywood 10 cinema, the eatery was once occupied by a Jimmy John’s and accommodates around 40 guests inside and 10 outside on a pet-friendly patio. Beer, wine, fountain drinks and Jones’ signature Big Lee’s Tea are available.
The restaurant is named in honor of Leon “Big Lee” Archie from Greenwood, Mississippi; the uncle of Jones’ wife, Patrice, and co-owner of the eatery. The “genius smoker” apprenticed Jones shortly before he died in 2012.
Jones honors Big Lee and keeps his memory alive, praising him for his “incredible skills” and the “unparalleled quality” of his ’cue.
“Even though there’s a lot of good things happening, we’re still looking at how to continuously improve,” Jones assured.
“Like I always say,” he continued, “anytime I do this stuff, it’s a win for my team. It’s a win for Ocala and what I call the whole Big Lee’s community.”