Anthony and Allison Fonseca are used to being up early.
Not only are the firefighter and former schoolteacher new parents, but rising early comes with the territory of cooking barbecue.
So when the Temple Terrace couple and owners of Station House BBQ, at 16319 N. Florida Ave., in Lutz, were asked to compete in the Ultimate Pitmaster Contest on “Good Morning, America (GMA),” they had no problem being up before sunrise.
“Making barbecue definitely comes with seeing the sun rise, so it’s something we’re used to, even if it meant being on national television,” Allison said. “What a huge blessing from God to be asked to be on ‘Good Morning, America.’”
On May 13, GMA, along with host Sam Champion, came down to Old McMickey’s Farm in Odessa and set up the competition. The Fonsecas were pitted against another husband-and-wife barbecue duo: Johnny Ray and Pamela Smith.
Johnny Ray is a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back, and his wife Pamela, is a former Bucs cheerleader. They own Jazzy’s BBQ, at 5703 W. Waters Ave., in Town N’ Country.
“We had never met them before, but we’d heard good things about their barbecue,” Anthony said. “I think it never really sunk in — being on national television — and still really hasn’t. It was a fun experience that I’m so glad we got to be a part of.”
The competition had each couple prepare a popular dish and side. Jazzy’s prepared its ribs with a spicy barbecue sauce and signature baked beans, while Station House prepared its 14-hour smoked brisket and apple slaw.
It was then down to the judges: former Buccaneers and Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks; chef Joe Isidori, who owns JoToro restaurant at Sparkman Wharf in Tampa; and WWE star and local philanthropist Titus O’Neil.
The first vote was from Brooks, who selected Jazzy’s. Then it was Isidori, the chef, who chose Station House. On the final vote from O’Neil, he chose Jazzy’s.
Anthony and Allison said they were disappointed not to win, but were extremely encouraged and grateful that the chef judge chose Station House over Jazzy’s.
“We really liked that!” Allison said. “We were swayed to make the slaw for the side, but, in retrospect, maybe we should have gone with the mac and cheese!”
The show gave backgrounds on both couples, too. The Smiths have been running Jazzy’s for 26 years, while Anthony and Allison started out as a catering and food truck company, using modified fire trucks. They opened the restaurant right at the start of the pandemic, but have thrived, even as Anthony juggles his time with the restaurant and working at Station No. 40 in Lutz.
In the end though, the Fonsecas still felt like winners.
“There are no real losers in this competition,” Anthony said. “Yeah, we would’ve been overjoyed to win, but being on (the show) shines a light on both businesses, on the community and on great barbecue. Everyone won, really.”
Published May 25, 2022.
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