I pondered the VIP judge’s questions for a moment. Granted, KCBS contest reps offer some guidance during the judges meeting. There is also an audio CD played for the benefit of the judges reminding everyone about the basics of judging the four main categories of meat. How does one begin to impart a wealth of BBQ experience and knowledge in just a few minutes?
The VIP judge asked if judging more contests made me a more critical judge. I explained that it is likely just the opposite. The more experience one gains around BBQ contests causes one to realize the significant investment of time and money by the competitors. That’s even before you consider the capital expenditures for equipment. The old VISA commercial comes to mind…entry fee $200, meat $350, rubs, marinades and supplies $150 and fuel and smoking wood $50….TRUE PASSION FOR BBQ $$$PRICELESS.
That’s not to say that more experience makes one a more lenient judge. That is absolutely not the case. Words like discerning and perceptive come to mind. A good judge understands the intent of the judging process…to judge each entry on its own merits for what it was intended to be. Just because you don’t like Asian flavor doesn’t mean an Asian marinated or Asian spice rubbed chicken entry should receive a lower score. If it is poor attempt at such a flavor, then by all means, judge accordingly. If your favorite foods don’t have Asian flair, don’t take it out on the cook!
I thought of the most basic guidance I could offer this virgin judge. I explained that this was a meat contest, not a garnish contest. Garnish is optional. Scoring for appearance can be described as asking yourself “how bad do I want to dig in and eat that?” We eat with our eyes first and obviously food more pleasing to look at is perceived to be “better” than food that doesn’t look as good.
I offered a few tips regarding tenderness. The standard information about ribs cooked to KCBS perfection and what overcooked pork might be like. I offered the standard pull test for brisket. I encouraged the VIP judge to consider a Certified BBQ Judge class.
The VIP judge seemed to have a very positive experience judging BBQ for the first time. She expressed genuine interest in BBQ, KCBS and upcoming Certified BBQ Judge classes in the area. I sincerely hope she had a wonderful time and that she’ll get involved in the activity we all have great passion for. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday!