I'm into my fifth year of KCBS judging and it's still about the best "hobby" that a guy could have. Think about it; I get to travel around the midwest visiting with some of the nicest people in the country and eating BBQ that John Q. Public can only dream about.
I started this journey when a buddy of mine by the name of John Parks (Q'n for Fun BBQ Team), who was a Master CBJ even way back then, invited me to a comp that he was cooking in State Center, Iowa. I hung out all that day helping where I could but mainly getting in the way of John & his wife, Mary. Then came another comp & I went with John on Friday morning, setting up EZ-ups, hauling water, unloading smokers, lifting that bale, toting that barge, etc. After we got all set up we had a chance to go out & visit with the other cooking teams. We had a few beers, met a lot of new friends, tasted some of the side dishes that everyone seems to do sooo well! Then it was back to "our" spot, starting the cookers, getting dinner going, doing the final preps on the compition meats, eating, loading the big meats in the cookers, but this time I wasn't in the way so much! By the time that my third comp came around I was actually helping John & Mary a bit instead of getting in thier way.
After I had helped (?) out at 2 or 3 comps I took the CBJ class at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa that was taught by Mike & Theresa Lake. We learned what was expected of us as judges, how to tell if the box contained illegal meat or garnish, what the scoring system meant, how the KCBS defines different meats, what the Table Captains & Reps jobs are and a whole bunch of other things that a judge really needs to know. What we did NOT learn was anything about a "flavor profile" or how an entry "should" taste - that's all very subjective for each judge. We're NOT supposed to judge as to what we like, but rather to judge if this was a good example of the style that the cook was trying achieve.
And what could be the most important thing of all - at least to a cook - judging the box "as presented" by the cook. To me that means that if it's in the box it's gonna get judged! When you build that pork box you'd better make sure that the slices, chunks or pulled is "up to snuff" or leave that part out of the box. It also means that if you turn in wings, then I should ask myself if these are some dang fine wangs, not beotch that I didn't get the candied thighs that seems to be the norm. It's all about "As presented by the cook".
That's it for this episode of a newbie cook turning into a newbie judge - see ya later!
-- Dave Compton