A couple of weeks ago thewife and I attended our first BBQ Competition together at Smoke on the Falls at Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, AL, not too far from our home. It was a well organized event, we paid $10 each and got passes for a free BBQ sammich, a free round of mini-golf, access to live music and free samples from some of the competitors. It was a great way to spend a beautiful day, but for me the highlight of the day came when we were standing in line for our free sammich. One of the competition volunteers approached the couple behind us in line and asked if they had an hour or so to help them out…my ears immediately perked up…then she went on to explain that they needed some additional judges…I think I swooned a little….I gave my best puppy dog eyes to thewife and all but tackled the poor volunteer when she turned away from the couple that had just rejected her offer…crazy people. Turns out she needed about 10 people, so I had nothing to worry about, but my giddy little brain wasn’t registering anything but, “I get to judge a BBQ competition!!!”.
Thewife and I lead the charge of volunteer judges up the hill to the “judges house”, where we were asked to wait for a bit and someone would come give us a crash course in how to judge and what to expect. As I stood there still fidgety with nervous excitement, I watched the other volunteers loose interest and cast about for “a way out”…ungrateful fools. We lost one volunteer on the way up the hill, two more after the quick judging class and then there were eight. We would be judging chicken and ribs from the backyard competitors. Thewife and I were assigned to separate tables, she made friends instantly as usual…I sat and grinned like a Cheshire Cat and greeted everyone at the table with me, most of which were KCBS Certified Judges or Table Captains who had just finished tasting for the Professional Competition, so they were no where near as excited as I was about what was about to happen.
As we passed around six boxes of chicken thighs, it became obvious I was the novice at the table. I didn’t know to “prepare my area” by gathering paper towels, water, and saltines for a palate cleanser. I managed to get sauce all over my hands, my face, and a little on my clothes, however I did manage to keep my score card relatively clear of the sticky substance as requested in the brief orientation session. When we were done with the chicken results to-go boxes were offered, I didn’t imagine I’d get to take it home, so in my excitement, I politely declined a box…..what was I thinking!!!!!
When the ribs came around, I did a better job of maintaining my area, but having declined the first to-go box, I stuck to my guns and let my leftovers go in the trash with the others…stupid need to be consistent. Thewife however happily packed all her goodies up in a box and promptly ate them when we got back home a little later, thankfully she shared a few delicious bites with me too.
Overall it was a great experience, for the last year thewife and I have talked about taking a judging class, after I got a very practical piece of advice from a fellow attendee of Competition BBQ cooking class, “What better way to know what the judges are looking for, than to be one for a bit?” We toyed with the idea a couple of times last year, but things always got in the way, but I’m happy to announce we’ll be attending a class next month and then I’ll officially be on the prowl for competitions to judge. Also it’s encouraged me to finally start competing, so watch out backyarders I’m jumping in with both feet.