Amy Mills
Owner and Pitmaster, 17th Street Barbecue
Murphysboro, IL
Heiress to the 17th Street Barbecue empire, Amy Mills is the industry's go-to girl for all things barbecue. Recipient of the coveted Barbecue Heroine prize, she leads 17th Street alongside her dad, Mike Mills. She also runs OnCue Consulting, the only barbecue business consultancy in the world, which offers seminars and training in the culinary techniques behind great barbecue. She’s a featured judge on various cooking shows such as Food Network’s BBQ Brawl, Chopped, Food Network Canada’s Fire Masters, Best in Smoke, Kingsford Invitational and Smoked.

Amy’s book, Peace, Love, and Barbecue, which was co-authored with her dad, was nominated for a James Beard Foundation award and was awarded the National Barbecue Association Award of Excellence. Thanks to their book success, the Mills family spearheaded their own digital series, Peace, Love, and Barbecue, which debuted on YouTube in 2016. Their second book, Praise the Lard, was published in May 2017.
LeAnn Mueller and Alison Clem
Owners and Pitmasters, la Barbecue
Austin, TX
LeAnn Mueller is a third-generation barbecue legacy — granddaughter of Louie Mueller, who started his famous barbecue restaurant in 1949, and daughter of Bobby Mueller, who carried on the tradition. Years later, LeAnn found herself in a unique position to take on that legacy and opened la Barbecue in 2012. Since launching to mass approval, la Barbecue has remained on Texas Monthly's Top 10 Best Barbecue list for 8 years.

There’s nothing like a sizzling romance and Mueller has proven that with her wife, Alison Clem, on and off the grill. Together they work at la Barbecue, which proudly stamps its female-owned, LBGTQ+ status on its website, and continuously wins the hearts of BBQ critics. In 2017, la Barbecue, which honors the legacy of Bobby Mueller while adding a twist to classic recipes, made it on Texas Monthly’s quadrennial list of Top 50 Barbecue Joints in the state and surpassed other highly regarded barbecue restaurants in local critic rankings.
Rodney Scott
Founder and Pitmaster, Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ
Charleston, SC & Birmingham, AL
Pitmaster Rodney Scott has been cooking whole-hog BBQ over wood coals since he was 11 years old. He spent the next 25 years working with his family in their BBQ stop in Hemingway, SC, until 2017, when he partnered with The Pihakis Restaurant Group and opened Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ in Charleston, SC. That same year the restaurant was named one the 50 Best New Restaurants by Bon Appetit Magazine, and in 2018 Scott was awarded the James Beard Foundation award for Outstanding Chef Southeast. Scott later introduced his famous vinegar-based "Rodney Sauce" and poured it into the hearts of BBQ lovers in Birmingham, AL. This location features his famous BBQ pit-cooked ribs, chicken and turkey. Soon, Scott will pour his famous sauce in Atlanta, GA, and is cooking up plans to open a second location in Birmingham in 2021.
Kelly Fields
Chef and Owner, Willa Jean
New Orleans, LA
Having mastered her craft for over two decades, accoladed Chef and Owner Kelly Fields opened restaurant and bakery Willa Jean in 2015, showcasing her robust pastry expertise and passion for Lowcountry-Southern cuisine. “With simple, nostalgic dishes that are served with intention and care, I like to think that we pay tribute to the South’s sense of belonging,” Fields explains. As a leader in the city’s dining scene, she distinguishes the Central Business District restaurant with comforting soul food in a warm, approachable atmosphere.
Sam Fore
Chef and Owner, Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites
Lexington, KY
Samantha Fore is a first generation Sri Lankan-American from Lexington, Kentucky. She started her pop up restaurant in 2016, after traditional Sri Lankan brunches in her home outgrew her dining room. Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites menus include Sam's spin on Southern classics and riffs on her mother's time-tested recipes. Tuk Tuk is one of the few representations of Sri Lankan cuisine in the United States and reflects Sam’s Sri Lankan upbringing in the American South. Her work has been featured in Food & Wine magazine and by Bon Appetit. She is a 2019 Smith Fellow with the Southern Foodways Alliance and was selected as one of Plate Magazine’s 2018 Chefs to Watch.
Karen Akunowicz
Chef and Owner, Fox & the Knife
Boston, MA
Karen Akunowicz is the 2018 James Beard Foundation Award winner for Best Chef: Northeast and Chef and Owner of Fox & the Knife in South Boston, recently named one of Food & Wine’s ten Best New Restaurants 2019 and as one of Eater National’s 16 Best New Restaurants in America. Akunowicz is proud to be a No Kid Hungry Chef, working with the organization Share our Strength to eradicate childhood hunger. Featured in Season 17 of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” she is currently working on her second cookbook and continues to feed Boston at Fox & the Knife, the opening of which was a long-held dream.
Ashleigh Shanti
Chef de Cuisine, Benne on Eagle
Asheville, NC
Ashleigh Shanti is Chef de Cuisine of Benne on Eagle in Asheville, NC. Working closely with five-time James Beard Award finalist Chef John Fleer, Ashleigh pays homage to the rich African-American culinary traditions that once thrived in The Block – the neighborhood surrounding the restaurant – as well as honoring her own history as a Southern, African-American female.