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Melissa Cookston Net Worth 2024

Melissa Cookston Net Worth – $8 million

What is Melissa Cookston’s net worth? Who is Melissa Cookston’s husband?


Melissa Cookston is an accomplished American Southern Delta chef, entrepreneur, and author. 

She is best known for her barbecue cooking skills and is a seven-time world barbeque champion.

Melissa is also a two-time winner of the Memphis in May World Championship, and in addition to these impressive accomplishments, she is the first female to win a barbeque championship.

Cookston’s competitive nature and persistence aided her high-ranking achievement, despite barbeque pitmaster competing being a male-dominated field.

Since 2012, Melissa has been frequently featured in popular TV shows such as BBQ Pitmasters, CBS This Morning, Chopped, and The Kitchen.

She served as a judge on season four of Destination America’s “BBQ Pitmasters.”


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She is the author of two highly regarded books, “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” about smoking meats low and slow, and “Smokin’ Hot in the South, which is about grilling and cooking hot and fast.

Finally, she is sponsored by Prairie Fresh, the largest American-owned pork producer, and regularly contributes to their communication and marketing efforts.

Melissa is a pillar for women who desire to have a career in a dominating male industry.

The Origin Story

She was born on January 1, 1968, in Ruleville, Mississippi.

Cookston was raised in Greenville and Pontotoc and attended North Pontiac High School.

Melissa became interested in cooking and barbequing from a young age.

Her first memory of barbeque is when she was a child and would visit her grandpa’s cafe in Pontotoc.

She would smell the barbeque from neighboring barbecue restaurants and enjoy it.


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She stated that her grandpa would buy her a barbeque sandwich as a treat when she was lucky.

Melissa Cookston married her boyfriend, Pete Cookston, in September 1997, and together they have one daughter, Lauren. 

Pete ultimately became her business partner.

They raised Lauren to adopt their appreciation for barbequing, and Melissa has stated that Lauren is the best cook she has ever known.


Melissa’s career as a world-renowned chef started early in life when she found employment in food preparation at 13 years old. 

She grew such a passion that a few years into her career in 1996, she began cooking barbeque, which she had a natural talent for.


During this time, Melissa Cookston met her soon-to-be husband Pete, who was an established barbeque chef.

When Melissa was asked how she got her start in barbecuing, she responded, “My husband introduced me to barbecuing competitions, which I really didn’t know there was such a thing. My personality is not to do anything by half measure, so I jumped in and went for it.”

She states she married into the barbeque industry and that her husband was already competing when they got married. She selflessly extends much credit to her husband for introducing and guiding her.

Over time, she started entering barbeque cooking challenges and competitions, many of which she would win.

Her skill did not go unnoticed, so in 2007, she and her husband decided to quit their jobs and enter nationwide barbeque contests.

By this time, Melissa and Pete had been working on a business idea for a barbeque restaurant.

By 2011, they were ready to open their first restaurant, naming it “Memphis BBQ Company.”

The restaurant was a proven success, so they started a chain and opened a few other locations expanding through Mississippi, Georgia, and North Carolina.

Due to the customers’ overwhelmingly positive response, Melissa and her husband decided to create their line of Memphis BBQ spices and rubs, which they use in all their barbeque recipes.

By 2016, Melissa decided to venture off and independently open a second restaurant.

She opened  “STEAK by Melissa” in Southaven, Mississippi, but unfortunately, it closed in 2020. “We found out a few months after we were opened that the state was planning on taking one-third of our parking lot to use as part of the construction on the exchange for the interstate exit.”

Melissa had anticipated a few years before closing down that the parking lot issue would ultimately be the demise of this restaurant. In 2019, she opened Green Tomato Catering, a catering lunch restaurant in Horn Lake, MS.

Melissa is a regular competitor in Memphis in May, a month-long festival located on the banks of the Mississippi River.

She competed in the Memphis in May Whole Hog Championship, May Rib Champions, and the World Grand Champions in 2010. 

In 2011, she competed in the Whole Hog Championship, and in 2012 in the World Champion Vinegar Sauce, Whole Hog Champions, Ribs Champions, World Champions, and Invitation Grand Champion. In 2014 and 2017, respectively, she competed in the World Hole Hog Champion.

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Barbecue Hall of Fame


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In 2017, Melissa was inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame, marking another exceptional success and accomplishment.

Not too long after, she publicly stated that she had decided to start breeding hybrid pigs.

When asked why, she responded, “In 2014, we had cooked what I thought was the best whole hog that I could possibly cook-this is the best we could do. So, either we quit competing and go out with ‘this is the best we can do,’ or we find a way to do better. The only thing that I could possibly think of to do better is to get a better-quality hog. Well, the only way to do that was to raise it ourselves.”

Melissa forges loving relationships with her hogs and believes that happy, stress-free hogs produce better quality pork.

In 2018, she founded the World Junior BBQ League. “We’re for all kids,” she said.

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American Barbeque Showdown

On September 18, 2020, Netflix’s cooking competition, American Barbeque Showdown, premiered.

Melissa was cast as one of the show’s judges, leaving the viewers impressed with her exceptional barbequing skills.  

Melissa still serves as pitmaster of Yazoo’s Delta Q barbecue team.

She has also mentioned that she is working on a third book that brings different kinds of cooking styles into it.

Melissa Cookston – Net Worth 2024

So, how much is Melissa Cookston worth? Cookston earned most of her wealth through her restaurant revenue, book sales, speaking engagements, and TV shows. Therefore, American chef Melissa Cookston has an estimated net worth of $8 million.

Melissa also has a business website, Melissa Cookston, A Grill’s Best Friend, that is up-to-date with her new projects and restaurant information. 

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