Nugget Rib Cook-off Judges

As 24 rib cookers from all over the world compete for top honors at the 2014 Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off, a carefully selected panel of judges will work behind-the-scenes to determine who makes the best ribs! It's not just bragging rights they're competing for - $14,500 in cash is up for grabs for the cookers who impress the judges. As always, the judges are not permitted to sample any ribs from the cookers before the judging takes place on Sunday, August 31, 2014. The judging is double-blind, meaning neither the judges, nor the staff setting up the judging know which ribs belong to which cooker. The judges will eat the same ribs served to customers during the cook-off. The winners will be announced at 2 p.m. on the West End Stage on Monday, September 1, 2014. This year's judges are a mix of top culinary professionals, food critics and media personalities, all of whom share a passion for delicious BBQ.


Alan Zeman - Head Judge

Chef Zeman graduated first in his class at the Culinary Institute of America. He has earned CEC Certification from the ACF as well as being inducted into the American Academy of Chefs. He has been Executive Chef at Restaurants, Country Clubs and prestigious Resorts throughout the country. Most recently Chef Zeman owned and operated the award winning Fuego Restaurant Bar and Grill in Tucson, Arizona. Over the years the Z Man or "Fuegodaddy" has been featured with cover stories in Bon Appetit Magazine, the PBS "Great Chefs of the West" Series and hosted live talk radio shows, "The Dinner Hour" and "The Restaurant Corner" in the Arizona market. The Z Man has been a judge at the Nugget Rib Cook-off since 1999, and took the reins as Head Judge in 2012. Several years back he was quoted on air by the legendary commentator, Paul Harvey, saying, "....for a rib to be perfectly cooked, the meat should fall off the bone when you eat it...but not...when you pick it up!"



D. Brian Burghart

D. Brian Burghart is the editor of the Reno News & Review. He's been in Reno since August 7, 1984. Desperate for attention, he tended bar in Reno casinos and bars until November 1993, when some friends who were starting a newspaper needed someone to do the calendar for $25 a week. The Nevada Weekly introduced Reno to alternative journalism.



Tad Dunbar

Tad is a fixture in Northern Nevada and at the Nugget Rib Cook-off. A multiple-time judge, he has worked for 40 years as a TV news anchor in Reno with KOLO and KRNV. Tad is now retired and resides in Northern Nevada.



Spud Hilton

Spud Hilton is the travel editor of the San Francisco Chronicle who during the past 10 years has written about (and been lost in) destinations on 6 continents, from the back alleys of Havana to the shrines of Kyoto to the floor of a hippie bus in Modesto. He also writes the Bad Latitude travel blog at



Matt Russell

Matt Russell is host of On the Menu Live, a weekly radio program that dishes out the latest buzz on Arizona's culinary and cocktail scene.

He also serves as the culinary correspondent for the Bill Buckmaster Show in Tucson, and writes the weekly food and beverage column for Inside Tucson Business, Southern Arizona's business journal.

A life-long culinary enthusiast, Matt has interviewed scores of chefs, sommeliers, and restaurateurs from across the country. He has also interviewed some of the nation's highest profile celebrity chefs, including the Food Network's Guy Fieri, Melissa D'Arabian, Marc Murphy, and Jeffrey Saad.

Matt also serves throughout the year as a judge at local and national food and cocktail competitions, including Iron Chef Tucson, Agave Fest, Tucson Taco Festival, Tucson Firefighters' Chili Cook-off, and the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off.

When he's not on the radio, writing his column, or serving as Master of Ceremonies at community events, he's running Russell Public Communications, a public relations agency he founded in 2002. He has been responsible for securing publicity for his clients through such outlets as Larry King Live, Good Morning America, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post.



Mike Peters

Every competition barbecue team's story begins with their decision to compete and builds from there. While Mike Peters' love of food and barbecue runs a lifetime, his competition roots begin in 2003 at the Rock'n Ribs BBQ Festival in Springfield, Mo., competing as "Here Piggy Piggy BBQ."

From their early success in Springfield they have built a resume that includes numerous category and event championships, including qualifying and competing in the prestigious Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational.

Since 2008, Mike and his wife, Christine, have been traveling the country teaching festival attendees and fans about the "Gospel of Q" as the charming and affable hosts of the Great American BBQ Tour. As tour hosts, they are the Kansas City Barbeque Society's ambassadors to the world. During the past five years, the Peters have journeyed tens of thousands of miles across the nation and back, acting as the voice of KCBS and promoting BBQ while teaching professional grilling tips and tricks to millions of festival attendees.



Mark S. Allen

Mark is a three time Emmy award winner and can be seen in 68 million homes every Saturday morning on Reelz Channel netwokr's Mark at the Movies! Each week he talks to a -listers and Oscar winners like George Clooney, Sandra Bullock anf Jamie Fox - about movies and more often about food! Mark also is the anchor-host of CBS owned "Good Day" where he has interviewed some of Califonia's most decorated chefs and even got his pohoto in the Guinness Book of Records for eating - Jalapenos


Ken Wayne

Ken Wayne has anchored the weekend news at KTVU since 2002.  He started his career at KTVU in 1992 and has covered some of the biggest stories in the Bay Area and California since then. He's been on the scene of floods, fires, earthquakes, and almost every major Bay Area story over the past 16 years. He's been honored by the regional Emmy's, Associated Press, and national Telly awards. Wayne's passion for TV is equal to his passion for delicious BBQ, and he says he's excited to be part of this elite group of Nugget Rib Cook-Off judges!



Evan Rosenblum

Evan Rosenblum is an Executive Producer at TMZ and TMZ Sports ... and a die-hard BBQ enthusiast!

In between covering celebrities and athletes, Evan loves to attend BBQ festivals all over the country from Louisiana to Los Angeles and, of course, Reno.

During his career at TMZ, Evan has played an integral role in breaking huge stories, from the death of Michael Jackson to the Donald Sterling audio recordings.

Evan graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and currently lives in L.A. with his wife Samantha.



Allen Pierleoni

Allen Pierleoni is a senior writer for the Sacramento Bee, specializing in food and restaurants, travel, books and authors. His weekly restaurant review column, "Counter Culture," has informed readers for 15 years.


Rick Browne

Rick Browne has been dedicated to BBQ his whole life while being a renowned cooking show host, photojournalist, and author. Growing up in Ontario, Canada he spent 15 years researching the best barbecue food around the world. He travelled to over 38 countries to visit fesitvals, kitchens, restaurants, food stands, markets and farms, and interviewed dozens of chefs, pitmasters, and BBQ enthusiasts. Rick is Editor-In-Chief of “Barbecue America Magazine”, creator and host of tv’s Barbecue America, and has hosted multiple seasons of Ready…Aim…Grill. Being the author of 15 cookbooks, the most noteworthy including The Best Barbecue on Earth, The Barbecue America Cookbook, and The Ultimate Guide to Grilling allows Rick to share this knowledge with the rest of the world. He is also an honorary Ph.B. or Doctor of Barbecue Philosophy degree bestowed upon him by the prestigious Kansas City Barbecue Society for his expertise and commitment to barbecue. He has been invited as a celebrity chef by major food and wine festivals across the country including: Charlotte Shout Culinary Arts Experience, New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, Charleston Food & Wine Festival, Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, and many more.


Danielle Dimovski

Danielle Dimovski aka Diva Q is the host of the hit TV show BBQ Crawl on the Travel Channel US, Travel & Escape Channel & The Cottage Life Network Canada. BBQ Crawl is a lip-smacking mouth-watering adventure of a show that features BBQ joints from all over the US, the Pitmasters their stories and of course fun competitions.

Diva Q has a passion for BBQ that knows no boundaries. She lives breaths and eats BBQ. She travels all over North America competing in a variety of sanctioned BBQ Competitions, writing about BBQ, and eating anywhere BBQ is served. Diva Q has won over 400 BBQ Awards, multiples of Grand Championships and is a former World Champion of Pork and World Bacon Champion.

Danielle has been a contestant and Judge on TLC BBQ Pitmasters, is a Certified BBQ judge for the KCBS, PNWBA, and has appeared on the Today Show, Canada AM, and multiples of daytime TV programs. She writes for Barbecue America, the Travel Channel and on her blog

She lives by the motto Life is too short for Bad BBQ!


Kelly Ann Scott

Kelly Ann Scott is the Executive Editor for the Reno Gazette Journal. She is also a former instructor at the University of Nevada, Reno who taught multimedia reporting. Kelly has been a big part of the Reno community where she is involved in multiple organizations and mentoring programs. Kelly serves on the Board of Directors for the Reno Pops Orchestra and the Nevada Women’s Fund as well.