Some of you have asked what happened to my competition barbecue stories. Well, I'll tell you. This past summer, money had not been my friend. We've passed each other in the hall without so much as a nod. And to those of you who are in the know, it's expensive to enter a barbecue contest. No money = No contests. No contests = No stories.
The only contest I attended this year was the Sayville Fall Festival back in October. Jerry Mullane, contest rep extraordinaire, roped me into judging the barbecue contest. But instead of judging, I got the chance to perform as a Table Captain for the first time at a Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event.
Table Captains are the folks who bring the food to the judge's table for judging. Actually it's a little more involved. Table captains are also responsible for making sure that the entries are in compliance with the rules, make sure that the judges judge and behave properly. Table Captains also keep the table clean and supplied. Sounds real exciting doesn't it? You'd be surprised.
A quick explanation of what happens when judging barbecue in a KCBS sanctioned event. The judges are seated at tables of six. When judging begins, the Table Captain opens the first box of food, announces the team number and the judges all take a look at the box and score it for appearance. Once the first box is scored by all the judges, the Table Captain opens the next and the process is repeated until all the entries are scored for appearance.
The Table Captain then opens up the first box and gives it to the first judge whom takes a sample and places it on his judging plate. The judge then passes the box to the next who does the same. This happens until every entry is given out to sample. Only then will the judges begin to score the meat on taste and tenderness.
During the appearance portion of the judging, the Table Captain is usually the first to notice if there is a violation on the rules. These are usually the glaring errors, like not enough samples, improper garnish, foreign objects in the box, etc. At Sayville, The Hot Dawg Truck submitted a rubber chicken as their entry. Of course it had to be disqualified, but it was funny. Apart from that one aberration, the rest of my table's entries contained no surprises.
For an explanation of the scoring system, check out this previous post.
One thing that did surprise me however was how much I learned about my own judging at barbecue contests. Watching the judges and seeing how each entry was scored and comparing the judge's scores with my own, it really brought home that I am a tough judge. I always knew that I was tough, never buying into the belief that the teams deserve high scores simply for showing up, but maybe I am perhaps too tough. (Just for clarification, the Table Captain doesn't score at a contest. I was only scoring the entries in my head.)
Would it hurt to give a little higher number? Probably not. I'm not saying that I need to be any less tough on an entry, but maybe I need to rethink what my definition of what 4,5,6,7,8 are to me. Maybe I need to be a bit more generous in my scoring next year. Time will tell.
Photograph of the barbecue being judged comes from the great website Amazing Ribs. Check it out, you'll love it.