Two weekends ago, the wife and I had the opportunity to judge our first KCBS competition at the Beltway BBQ Battle in Oxen Hill, Maryland. As a new cook team, we decided that we should put ourselves in the positions of the judges, to gain insight into how they think and to see what other teams were turning in. It was like going behind the curtain in Oz.
We make the drive out to MD from Virginia and arrive at the Fairgrounds at around 10 a.m. The judges have their own parking lot on the backside of the area, where we are picked up by a golf cart and driven to the judges tent. There were 25 teams and around 30 judges. We would be judging in this four walled tent that was dark and hot.
Needless to say, this wasnt going to work. Several of us more industrious folk got some sides pulled up on the tent and got a nice breeze rolling through. Had that none been done, everyone’s scores would have suffered.
I guess I was expecting more organization, although it by far wasnt disorganized. We all took a seat at tables around the tent. The reps then asked who the first timers were, who the master judges were, and made sure both groups were divided equally around the room. Table captains were assigned/drafted and then we waited.
The biggest thing that I can take away from this experience is the diversity of the people in the room. Some people were cooks as well. Some people had never cooked with a team. When you talk about cooking to a variety of palates, that sincerely is the truth. More on this later…
As we wait, we’re sitting there chatting. Some people have judged close to 100 contests. Some only a few. Some none. Everyone is excited. I decide to spring my plan into action.
Me: “I don’t know about you guys, but if I have to score something with a 6 or a lower, I’m leaving a comment card.”
Other Judge: “Why would you do that?”
(The trap is sprung)
Me: “As a cook, getting a 6 is a death sentence. You arent going to do well in that category, and are probably screwed in th GC. If I give a 6, there better damn well be a good reason, and the cook is owed to know why.”
(Nods of agreement.)
Side note: It is worth telling you that throughout all of the judging and rep procedures, everyone really stresses how much we cooks put into the process in work, time and money. This was reiterated constantly, so that all judges would take the event very seriously. I hope all contests are like this.
Its getting close to chicken turn in time, and I have a monster grin on my face. My wife keeps looking at me and shaking her head, as she thinks Im ridiculous. Im excited. Then table captains are called to come and get the boxes.