The Great TITAN Meat Up: Team Nissan shines in the Great Smoky Mountains

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. – Perched atop the Smoky Mountains, with Smokin’ TITAN nearby as the kitchen and Traeger Grills were assigned, five media teams and one employee team from Nissan’s Canton Miss Assembly Plant challenged a team of Nissan executives in a one-of-a-kind meat smoking competition – The Great TITAN Meat Up. Celebrity chefs and judges, Cory Bahr and David Rose, evaluated each of the six protein categories (chicken, pork, brisket, lamb, turkey and ribs) and named Team Nissan the winner in five of the individual categories and best overall dish, with the lamb from Team category winner and only successful challenger.


Hours before the sun rose over the Smoky Mountains, the Team Nissan and Team Truck Trend were getting their ingredients in place for The Great TITAN Meat Up at 4:30 a.m., eager to get cooking. Others were not far behind, with each team ready to smoke their respective meats before most had even a thought of rising out of bed.


After 12-plus hours of chopping, marinating, grilling, smoking meat and enjoying the Tennessee sunshine, Team Nissan – led by Billy Hayes, division vice president, Nissan Regional Operations and three other employees, Tiago Castro, Kevin Yeoh and Ari Schiftan – earned six of the seven possible awards. In the judging portion of the event, Team Nissan received high praise from celebrity chefs/event judges Cory Bahr and David Rose, who kicked off the event Friday night with the first-ever meal cooked on Smokin’ TITAN*.


“I really can’t believe it,” Hayes said as he and his teammates tried on their new ‘TITAN Meat Up champion’ cooking hats. “What was amazing is this team had never cooked together before. There’s a lot of logistics that goes into this – we met briefly on Friday night and everybody just came together and executed. It was unbelievable.”


Of all the meats smoked on Saturday – categories included Chicken, Lamb, Brisket, Ribs, Turkey and Pork – Team Nissan’s “Chupacabra Chicken with Sanguinista’s Revenge” earned 179/190 points, earning Team Nissan the prestigious title of The Great TITAN Meat Up Champions.


Team, comprised of Aaron Bragman and Christian Lantry, was the lone challenger able to out-cook the home team, prevailing in the Lamb category with their “Cherry Smoke Leg of Lamb with Alabama White BBQ sauce.”


The key to winning? Research and preparation, according to Bragman, the Detroit Bureau Chief for


“I started preparing as soon as I found out I was doing this – we ate a whole lot of lamb for the last two months,” he said. “We found a couple options, researched what would be the best possibilities, made four different iterations and decided to go with the fourth one.


“It was the technique and the sauce that really set this version apart from the others.”


Clearly, getting to 5 p.m. Saturday was no walk in the park – for any team. Aside from all the preparation in the weeks and months leading up to the event, teams stayed up late Friday night prepping and marinating. By 5 a.m. Saturday, the Traeger grills were fired up and The Great TITAN Meat Up had officially begun.


If it was unclear before, it certainly is now – The Great TITAN Meat Up, though an enjoyable event by all means, is taken very seriously.


“We got an hour of sleep last night (Friday),” said Sean Holman, network content director at Truck Trend. “Today, these guys (teammates Jason Gonderman and Brett Evans) rallied. This brisket means a lot to me, and I’m glad to share it with these guys.”


And share they did. With the spring Tennessee sun fading into the mountains Saturday evening, participants gathered a final time to enjoy an epic meal of meat, sides and camaraderie. In that regard, everyone was a winner.


Nissan and barbecuing fans alike can re-live The Great TITAN Meat Up by re-watching the Facebook Live on the @NissanUSATrucks Facebook page. Visit for press releases, photos and video, and search on Instagram utilizing the hashtags #SmokinTITAN and #TITANMeatUp.


For more information on the complete 2018 Nissan vehicle lineup, visit




*Smokin’ TITAN is a project vehicle not available for purchase.