Melissa Cookston

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Melissa Cookston 2017.jpg

Melissa Cookston is an American chef and author. She is the chef/owner of two restaurants, the author of two cookbooks, and a seven-time world American barbecue champion.[1] In addition, Cookston has twice won top prize at the Memphis in May American Barbecue World Championship and is the only female American barbecue world champion.[2][3][4]


Cookston was born in Ruleville, Mississippi in 1968. She grew up in Greenville, Mississippi and Pontotoc, Mississippi.


Melissa worked in food preparation for years. In 1996, she started cooking barbecue and began entering in competitions, winning many.[5] In 2007, she and her husband quit their jobs and toured barbecue contests around the country. In 2011, they were able to open their first restaurant, Memphis BBQ Company, which has locations in Mississippi and Georgia. In October 2016, she opened her second restaurant, STEAK by Melissa, in Southaven, Mississippi. It closed in 2020. She also opened a catering/plate lunch restaurant in 2019 called Green Tomato Catering in Horn Lake, MS. She still serves as pitmaster of Yazoo's Delta Q barbecue team. In 2017, Cookston revealed that she had begun breeding her own hybrid pigs.[6]

Since 2012, she has appeared on TV shows such as BBQ Pitmasters, Chopped, CBS This Morning, and The Kitchen, The American Barbecue Showdown,[7] among others.[8]

Personal life[edit]

She currently lives in Hernando, Mississippi with her husband, Pete, and her daughter, Lauren.[9]


  • Smokin in the Boy’s Room (2014)
  • Smokin’ Hot in the South (2016)


  1. ^ MELISSA COOKSTON, American Royal, 2017, retrieved August 17, 2017
  2. ^ The Dish: Memphis Barbecue Co.'s Melissa Cookston, CBS News, April 9, 2016, retrieved August 17, 2017
  3. ^ Gillespie, Patrick (February 27, 2015), The woman who broke into the BBQ 'boys club', CNN, retrieved August 17, 2017
  4. ^ 2017 Winners, MEMPHIS IN MAY INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL, INC., 2017, retrieved August 17, 2017
  5. ^ Dean, Sam (July 10, 2013), Interview with Melissa Cookston, Two-Time World Barbecue Champion, Bon Appétit, retrieved August 17, 2017
  6. ^ Biggs, Jennifer (May 15, 2017), Winningest woman in BBQ breeds perfect pig for Memphis in May, The Commercial Appeal, retrieved August 17, 2017
  7. ^ Lambe, Stacy. "'American Barbecue Showdown': Meet the Contestants of Netflix's Cooking Competition (Exclusive)". ET Online. ET. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  8. ^ Denney, Pamela (May 22, 2013), Barbecue Champ Melissa Cookston Joins "BBQ Pitmasters" as Permanent Judge, Memphis Magazine, retrieved August 17, 2017
  9. ^ A cut above the rest, Desoto Times-Tribune, November 21, 2016

External links[edit]