Johnsonville Tongsman Contest – “Food Is Love”

The festive vibe of downtown ATL, during the SEC Championship, was the prefect backdrop for the exciting finals of the 2021 Johnsonville Titanium Tongsman Contest.

L to R: Don Rountree – CEO Roundtree Group; April Vois, & Anne Todd – GRM, Lesley Gamwell – Roundtree Group

Two talented chefs, Angelia Howard and Brent Little, went head-to-head or tongs-to-tongs (ouch! sorry) competing for the prestigious title.

The great state of Tennessee can claim both finalists – Angelina from Nashville and Brent from Memphis.

My pal Lesley Gamwell, from the Rountree Group, knows I love chefs, cooking competitions, and great food. She kindly invited me to join the fun at the the Johnsonville Tongsman Contest.

What topped her invite was a promise to meet the chefs. When I learned there were 3 (!) women pit masters involved, my response was a Big Yes.

Chefs: Angleina Howard, Melissa Cookston, Lee Ann Whippen

The Talented Grill Chef Cast

Loved the idea of award winning grill masters supporting the finalists as ‘chef mentors.” Angelia Howard was paired with “chef mentor’ Richard Ingraham. ‘Chef mentor’ Melissa Cookston was on-hand to help Brent Little.

The prestigious judges included Chef Lee Ann Whippen who was proof that women could and can succeed in the male dominate BBQ world.

The Dude Pit Master judges: Johnsonville 2020 Tailgate Pro winner – John Cooper; Willie Robertson and Justin Martin – both from the popular TV show Duck Dynasty – completed the panel.

Bottom row: Judges; Top row: Finalists and ‘Chef Mentors’

The Prep

Watching the chefs prep was every bit as exciting as the actual contest ‘sausage on the grill.’ Johnsonville brought in two of the best pit masters to mentor the finalists – Chef Melissa Cookston and Chef Richard Ingraham.

You could feel the tension as the finalist chefs Angela and Brent sliced and diced, conferring, at times, with their ‘Mentor Chefs.’ All four chefs were focused and definitely in their zone.

Chef Melissa & Chef Brent

It was evident that Chefs Melissa and Richard were as committed to the competition as their protegees.

Chef Angelina & Chef Richard Prep

Family, Friends & Fans

In any competition the cheers of friends, family, and fans help bring it home. Food competitions are no different.

Frequently there is more to the win than the title and prizes. The win can help propel your career to the next level. Even for chefs or cooks who don’t win, the media – traditional and social – attention can bring new opportunities.

Chef Angelia’s dad. Ron Howard Senior, watched his daughter as she lived out her dream. Mr. Howard chatted with me about his daughter and the pride in his smile was beyond touching. See for your self!

Chef Brent’s wife and adorable little sons cheered their dad on with colorful signs… and a little dance!

Chef Brent Little’s Family Cheers Him On!

The smell of grilled sausages in the air was absolutely mouth watering. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to taste the competition entrees – the “Dat Super Savory Gumbo Smoked Sausage” from Chef Angelia Howard –

….or “Hasselback Memphis-Style Sausage Burger” from Chef Brent Little –

…but the grilled Johnsonville sausages offered to the folks attending the event were delicious. It was a yummy surprise to bite into a juicy sausage and have spices expound in my mouth with the perfect touch of heat. A squirt of mustard was the right way to go.

So who won you ask? The judges awarded the Tongs to Chef Brent Little.

However, it seemed to me everyone won from Chef Angelina and her dad who saw his daughter take an important step in her culinary journey to Chef Brent’s sons who were so excited to cheer their dad to fans who experienced creative, passionate cooking.

In my mini interviews, Chefs Melissa and Richards reminded me that professional culinary competitions maybe exciting but cooking and preparing food are very special ways to express love – for a professional chef or a home cook.

For Chef Melissa, “Food is love” is about the experiences that bring friends and family together.

Chef Richard, explained that for him, ‘Cooking is love’ means,”You can’t get any more intimate. You are imparting part of your soul into your craft.”

Johnsonville Tongsman Contest was a indeed a day of delicious food wrapped in love.


Johnsonville | Chef Melissa Cookston | Chef Richard Ingraham | Chef Angelina Howard | Chef Brent Little | Chef Lee Ann Whippen | Roundtree Group| GRM | Willie Robertson | Justin Martin

Author: Toby Bloomberg

Share This Post On


  1. Your interviews with 7-Time World BBQ Champ Melissa Cookston, Dwayne Wade’s Chef Richard Ingraham and father of Chef Angelia Howard (Johnsonville contest finalist)and others are so meaningful. Food is love, and thank you for making that your theme. Great event and great blog!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for your kind words Lesley. Not only were the chefs talented but they were gracious and kind to me. As were you – ensuring I had access to the chefs and especially their prep areas. It was a blast!

      Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.