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View Full Version : Competition Classes-Is it the way to go?


txschutte
05-08-2012, 07:54 PM
After our first KCBS comp, and our first "real" walk, we are thirsting for more. We are determined to climb the heap and actually get some top five calls. Our team has discussed what to change, what to watch out for, and the things we will stick with.

We also discussed classes. Rod Gray's class to be exact. But, with us really only planning to participate in one more KCBS comp this year, andf maybe up to five next, plus the hefty price of admission into the class, is it really worth it?

I would really like to hear from those that have taken Rod's class, and from those that have been successful without a class of any kind.
Thanks!

BC Squared
05-08-2012, 08:47 PM
Quit worrying about the destination and enjoy the journey....just saying.

Muzzlebrake
05-08-2012, 08:49 PM
Absolutley, undeniablely, 100% worth it to take a class.

A good class will drastically shorten the time it takes to learn the craft. It will also in most cases prove to be cost effective in terms of lessening the number of contests needed to hone those skills. I would estimate that a good class may knock as much as a year off the learning curve. YMMV, but if it even teaches you 2 things that may have taken 2-3 contests to learn, you have saved hundreds of dollars.

I haven't been to Rod's class but its the short version of my "To Do List"

txschutte
05-08-2012, 08:50 PM
Quit worrying about the destination and enjoy the journey....just saying.

Yeah, but a journey lined with mediocre finishes sure makes for a long ride.

Wampus
05-08-2012, 08:57 PM
I'm really REALLY new to the comp scene, so take this for what it's worth.
I joined a team this year (Big JT's Smokin BBQ). I cooked with Jimmy (Big JT) a couple times last year, but finally officially went all in this year. Jimmy took a class last year. This past winter, I took a class and he took another class.

2 comps in and our scores are worse than his were last year. I'm not saying that the classes aren't worth the money. I'm also not saying that we didn't learn anything from the classes, because that's certainly not true. All I know is that our food is good. Things are not under or overdone. Flavors are good. Boxes look great. All subjective, yes, and we're not judging, but we're pretty frustrated right now. It's not just me who can cook well at home and is fooling himself on the comp scene. This is Jimmy's 3rd year and he's equally frustrated.

I know that when we took our classes 2 weeks apart, when we compared notes and talked about things we were both pretty amazed at what we'd learned and were super excited to get rolling this year.

Now we're not sure whether to go back to what we were doing last year or stick with it.


THIS (I'm sure) is the frustration that all team go through. I just know that together we've dropped thousands of dollars on classes, entry fees, meats, rubs, sauces, equipment, etc. and to end up in the middle of the pack farkin sucks.

Seriously.....not dogging competition BBQ classes at all and not saying that they're not worth it. That's just what we're feeling right now.

LoneStar Smoke Rangers
05-08-2012, 09:00 PM
Get out there and get a few competitions under your belt. Then definately take a class!!!

Having done a few competitions you will be able to better utilize the information given to you in a class.

The classes I personally would consider would be:

Joe(Tippycanoe) and Ryan(BigT'z BBQ) class is great

Mike Davis(LottaBull BBQ) very good

Scottie(CancerSucks) and Mike(Quau) very good as well

Piggy_Tummy
05-08-2012, 09:20 PM
I took a class just for fun and absolutely loved it. I knew alot about what was being taught but there were a few little tidbits I learned. Definitely worth it. Good food, meeting other people interested in bbq, loved it.

BurninTree BBQ
05-08-2012, 09:47 PM
A class is the only way to go

White Dog BBQ
05-08-2012, 10:57 PM
I agree with the advise about holding off until you have cooked a few contests. I don't think there is all that much variety between the recipes these teams are using (and if you search hard enough on the internet, you'll probably find them). The real value in these classes is learning how these guys approach a contest, what they look for, what they do, how they set things up, etc. Unless you have spent some time competing, I think a lot of that stuff will go over your head.

Erik

CivilWarBBQ
05-08-2012, 10:59 PM
I agree with LoneStar. You'll get more out of a class if you cook a couple events on your own first. That way when you get to the class, you'll understand the context of what is being shown, and you'll also have a scoring yardstick to measure yourself by.

I've taught classes, and I find that the complete virgins waste a lot of valuable time asking basic questions about the logistics of a contest. Since they've never cooked in one this is natural, but the basics of how an event works can be learned more economically by attending a contest, even as a spectator. If you have a grasp on the nuts and bolts of competition BBQ you can focus your time with your instructor on the important stuff: delving into the details of technique and recipes.

plethoraofpinatas
05-08-2012, 11:16 PM
I'm a cook who has cooked backyard for several years and will be cooking my first KCBS next weekend in Chesapeake, VA. A few weeks ago I took Todd Johns' class and it did wonders for my confidence! It was encouraging to see that I am using many of the same techniques and applying the same level of detail to my Q, but I learned lots of new techniques that I have tested and incorporated (or rejected) into my process. I definitely recommend taking a comp class!

Bentley
05-09-2012, 12:23 AM
I would really like to hear from those that have taken Rod's class, and from those that have been successful without a class of any kind.
Thanks!


Nither apply to me, but that has never stopped me from commenting.

To Prideful I guess.

I so often see the people that put on the class turn around and say...see Bubba just took my class and got XYZ Championship...as if Bubba had nothing to do with it. Not saying that is wrong, I would probably do the same thing.

I dont want to be beholding or have someone have that over me...Have not had a lot of success, but what I have I can at least say was all mine. Self taught and learned on my own and I dont have to say I learned it from anyone else!

Midnight Smoke
05-09-2012, 12:45 AM
Never competed as of yet, so take this with a grain of salt. My thoughts are, there are many classes that can be attended so I have have read.

I am sure you could gain some knowledge from taking one, but is this the way to win? Maybe, but for me being a little stubborn, I would like to do it on my own. Like you said, "Yeah, but a journey lined with mediocre finishes sure makes for a long ride."

Nothing comes easy but winning something from your own trial and error could be the key to your success!

I would rather lose a few than use another persons method to win, in BBQ or anything else. For me that makes the win so much better.

To each their own, but I do not like to spend money for information I have locked in my mind already. Relax and let go, it is just good food.

swamprb
05-09-2012, 03:20 AM
If I were only planning on cooking one more event this year, I would suggest you and your teammates invest the time to take a CBJ class. At least get an idea of what your turn ins will be scored as. You might think you know how to cook BBQ, but do you know how to cook for what the Judges are trained to critique? It will give you a whole new perspective.

Then shop around for a class, better yet a couple if your teammates can swing one as well.


I've taken in a few BBQ 101 classes put on by an experienced KCBS/PNWBA team as well as Paul Kirks class and helped wash dishes at others to gain some extra knowledge I missed out being a total noob, when I first got into this hobby.
From there I got serious and took a class from Ray Lampe and Jim Minion and started competing. It definitely helped me. Knowledge is power, so while some of the techniques I've picked up from Butcher BBQ, Smoke on Wheels or Rhythm 'n Que were not exactly groundbreaking BBQ secrets, I came away with what Vince calls "nuggets of information" that have helped me to fine tune my game and learn from some very good instructors at the top of their games.

TRS
05-09-2012, 05:43 AM
I agree on competing in a few more comps to see if you really want to invest the time and money. A class does not insure a call at a comp so don't set yourself up for a letdown. I took Rod's class 2 years ago. If you are serious about competing, its well worth it. Rod and Sheri were great teachers. It cut down the "learning curve" time for me. Meaning it probably would have taken me a couple years to get where I was when I finished his class. Its not a sure ticket to win, but it gets you in the ballpark. Rod shared everything at his class and answered all questions. He cooked on 2 different pits (Jambo and FEC), all 4 meat categories, in real time. All the meat came out awesome.
What Rod was using/doing 2 years ago may not be what he is doing now, but thats where you have to tweak out your process and recipes to keep up with what the judges are looking for today. Its a work in progress to a point. Learn the basics from a class and put your spin on it.
I know the class helped me and at each comp costing me approx $500-600, the quicker we could move up the field, the better! I will say the first year we competed after the class we got calls in the 2-3 comps we entered and the winnings more than paid for the class.
Good Luck!

Curly Tails
05-09-2012, 06:08 AM
I think cooking classes are a great way to shorten your learning curve. Don't be stubborn , or you will be like us and spend a lot more money trying to figure it out. It will help if the class you take uses the same cooker that your team uses. I don't believe you can duplicate another teams success by using their exact recipe and method. Take bits and pieces and modify it to your style and you will have no doubt that a good class is worth taking. I personally think that you if you learn something that gets you a call in just one category that you struggle in, then the class is worth it. Hope this helps, and good luck.

Brew-B-Q
05-09-2012, 07:09 AM
Nither apply to me, but that has never stopped me from commenting.

To Prideful I guess.

I so often see the people that put on the class turn around and say...see Bubba just took my class and got XYZ Championship...as if Bubba had nothing to do with it. Not saying that is wrong, I would probably do the same thing.

I dont want to be beholding or have someone have that over me...Have not had a lot of success, but what I have I can at least say was all mine. Self taught and learned on my own and I dont have to say I learned it from anyone else!

I felt this way for a while too. I took Scottie's class a few years ago and it really helped me. Not so much in recipes, but just a few lightbulbs that went off....a couple of "now why didn't I realize that sooner" moments. Scottie is the first to tell me at a comp that I'm doing this or that wrong (in fun) because I do things the way they work for me.

I definitely recommend taking a class and, like others have said, do it after you have a basic understanding of how comps works.

Look at golf - PGA players have several coaches, a caddy, sports psychologist, etc....that doesn't make them beholden to those that help them, they are just fine tuning their game. They already know how to play and are just looking for tips to take them to the next level.

Stoke&Smoke
05-09-2012, 08:09 AM
I don't see anything wrong with it, just haven't gotten around to it myself. I do remember one team that took the "old school/new school class" that used to be offered by Johnny Trig and Rod Gray. Thier first comp after the class, they got no calls, and quit competing shortly after that.

I think the thing to bear in mind is that no class, however good, is going to be a "silver bullet. But I have to think that when consistent winners like Johnny, Rod, Scottie, Mike Q, etc. share info like this, it's worth the cost of admission. I know Pat (Brew-B-Q) got his first GC after one, and pulled off a 1st place brisket at the Jack last year. And you only need to look around a little here to find what folks said about the recent class Rythym and Que's (sorry if I didn't show or spell it right) put on.

Ford
05-09-2012, 08:12 AM
Classes pay for themselves quickly. Don't expect to do exactly what is taught. Take process and flavor ideas and apply them to your cooking method. I kept hearing about flavor intensity but until I took a class and saw first hand what it meant I just didn't get it. After taking the class plan on 8 - 10 practice cooks to get the changes you make work for you.

Of course you can really shorten the learning curve by buying a Jambo before taking Rod's class and just doing what he does.

Bourbon Barrel BBQ
05-09-2012, 08:34 AM
Nither apply to me, but that has never stopped me from commenting.

To Prideful I guess.

I so often see the people that put on the class turn around and say...see Bubba just took my class and got XYZ Championship...as if Bubba had nothing to do with it. Not saying that is wrong, I would probably do the same thing.

I dont want to be beholding or have someone have that over me...Have not had a lot of success, but what I have I can at least say was all mine. Self taught and learned on my own and I dont have to say I learned it from anyone else!

Is it really that much different in pouring over brethren reading and learning tips and tricks off of here? You are still learning what to do and what not to do you just didn't pay for it.

Podge
05-09-2012, 08:35 AM
I took a class in 2004, Dr. BBQ's, and it was great.. Took Rod and Johnny's in 2007 and it was also great. Ever since then, I've been trying to figure out how to try to be a step ahead of all the 100's of people who've taken all the newer classes. Ain't easy. Remember, if you take a class, and you go to a contest, I'd say an easy third there have taken classes too. Therefore, you're kind of back to square one. Whatever you learn in a class, you have to first make it work for you, at least parts of it, then you have to try to figure out what it takes to beat it. It ain't a cure-all to just take a class and expect to get calls.. Oh, then there's luck too.

Fatback Joe
05-09-2012, 09:01 AM
Based on my own experience, I'd say to do a few more comps prior to taking a class unless you already have very specific questions/concerns about something. You might not get as much as you would like out of it if you just go in there looking for general knowledge.

I am one of those people who took xyz class and got a grand the next comp that I cooked. I do think, however, that if I did not have a good base of comp cooking and specific things that I wanted to learn, that I probably would have just wound up confused and frustrated. I could have seen myself trying to revamp what I was doing instead of just tweaking a couple of things to find tune what I was already doing.

I had come close to pulling a GC a couple of times prior, but never seemed to quite put it all together. I think the class gave me the couple of little things I was looking for to push me over the line.

Good luck with the decision. As others have already mentioned, just don't look at the class as any guarantee of success.

hamiltont
05-09-2012, 09:40 AM
Hey Shane, The advice and ideas above are all good. I'll share what I'd do if I were in your shoes. Phat Jack's walked in every category and took GC at the Honky Tonk. I'd shoot him an email or give him a call and ask if he'd be willing to visit about how he got to this point at his young age. I suppose a lot of it has to do with his BBQ restaurant and the fact that he's Que'ing every day. That right there is a good hint.. Practice, practice, practice.... Competing in a few more comps and practicing whenever you can sounds like a good start. Then, if needed, consider a class or two to refine your skills. YMMV... Cheers, and good luck at your next comp!!!

Rich Parker
05-09-2012, 11:55 AM
I took Scottie's class before my first competition and don't think there was anything wrong with doing it prior to competing. He cooks on FE's, and I cook on drums so I didn't try to reproduce what he does but take his pointers and apply them to my techniques. It took me 3 comps to get a return on that investment.

At the end of my first season, I took Todd and Dave's Plowboy/Butcher class and did the same thing applied there pointers to my techniques.

From the people I talk to that regret taking a class it is usually because they are trying to reproduce everything exactly as the instructor did. With all of the different variables you can't do it exactly and have it taste the same.

If you can get to Chicago this Winter, Scottie's class is well worth the expense by helping fight cancer, the best goody bags, and top notch catered food. If he fires up the Jambo this Winter, I might be going for a refresher. :wink:

kihrer
05-09-2012, 11:56 AM
I am very new to competition BBQ and I am going to share my line of thinking and let those who truly know correct me if I am off base. To me it all comes down to what you want out of competition BBQ. What are "you" wanting to get out of it? If you are serious about being good, then you have to evaluate all options. For me, while I absolutely love the camaraderie, I want to win.

I know I make awesome BBQ for friends and family that have them singing my praises after they taste it. However, competition BBQ is "beautiful one bite BBQ" and through that presentation and single bite I know I must wow the judges. Eating a half rack of competition ribs isn't my cup of tea. I guess my point here is that competition BBQ isn't backyard BBQ and just because you may not be a winner on the circuit doesn't mean you don't cook great BBQ.

If your goal is to cook winning BBQ, which mine is, then you must do whatever it takes to (within your means) to get there. Many professional athletes hire private coaches on their own to help them with a weakness in order to get better. If I determine I am not progressing at the level I want and not seeing the results I want, I plan on doing what it takes to get there. When you think about it, a $500 class is about the same investment as a single contest and maybe even less. If I don't make the progress I am looking for after a few more comps, I will be looking for the right class to get me on track. I have faith in my ability to cook good BBQ but I can't say I know what will wow the judges with that "beautiful one bite BBQ". Obviously, some of the guys have that figured out as their results show it week after week. Since they have the knowledge that I want, I can either spend thousands of dollars week after week trying to discover the secret or I can spend $500 to $750 and get it much more quickly and cheaper.

As I said earlier, I do love the camaraderie but I can spend a lot less money drinking and having fun with my friends than doing it at a BBQ competition. I'm there to win and if I need help getting a jump, I will gladly do it with no guilt or shame.

Scottie
05-09-2012, 12:09 PM
I felt this way for a while too. I took Scottie's class a few years ago and it really helped me. Not so much in recipes, but just a few lightbulbs that went off....a couple of "now why didn't I realize that sooner" moments. Scottie is the first to tell me at a comp that I'm doing this or that wrong (in fun) because I do things the way they work for me.


I'm the first to give you grief and then you beat my ass the next day. No more Jack Silver for you at 2:00 am at a contest!!! ;)

I am also the first to help out as well. Many a student trailer or camp I have gone in and helped. Heck I do it for folks that don't take the class. Obviously for my foundation is better to have folks come to the class.

And nothing better than helping folks with a recipe or tricks and they go out and win. I'm not in to bragging about students and their success. Unless they have told folks they came to the class. Not for me to divulge .. But it does make me smile when they do good. I personally feel that a class is worth it. It shortens the learning curve and it opens your eyes to new flavors or techniques.

Bentley
05-09-2012, 12:11 PM
Is it really that much different in pouring over brethren reading and learning tips and tricks off of here? You are still learning what to do and what not to do you just didn't pay for it.


For some maybe, but not me.

I did not come here for competition advice. When I was invited to the site in 2007 by BigMista, I had already been comepeting for 4 years and had two Grand Championships under my belt.

I am sure many have gathered much info from the site for competitions, I have not and it is not the reason I joined...

PorkQPine
05-09-2012, 12:33 PM
Check out what kind of class is being given, basic, advanced or competition. The thing that I believe helps the most in competition is to check to see if you have any 'backyard' competitions in your area where you present your turn-ins to a table of CBJ's who judge them in an open forum. In our area we have two or three of these early in the competition year for newer teams or experienced teams who want to see how their new rubs, sauces etc. are received by the judges. It also gives judges a chance to see how their scores match up with the other judges on the table.

gooose53
05-09-2012, 12:35 PM
Nothing wrong with taking a class! One thing I didn't see mentioned (or maybe I missed it) is being a judge. One of the best bang for money spent is judging in my opinion! You get to see alot of what others are doing, taste profiles, etc. Want to get better at bbq - be a judge!

Scottie
05-09-2012, 12:45 PM
If you can get to Chicago this Winter, Scottie's class is well worth the expense by helping fight cancer, the best goody bags, and top notch catered food. If he fires up the Jambo this Winter, I might be going for a refresher. :wink:


Had the Jambo cranked up this year, along with the FE. Just so happens... ;)

The 4 classes that we have done the last few years have cleared over $70,000 for cancer research. They are an all volunteer class for the instructors and assistants. While I love seeing students excel at contests, I am really proud that we have taught that many students and more importantly have raised a **** load of money to help fight cancer.

I'll save you a seat Rich. Returning students get to sit in the front row... ;)

NRA4Life
05-09-2012, 01:31 PM
It shortens the learning curve and it opens your eyes to new flavors or techniques.

I took Scottie's class in 2011. I have to say, it is the best money I ever spent. I didn't know what I didn't know until I took that class. I might be back for a tune up next winter too.

CivilWarBBQ
05-10-2012, 01:49 AM
Nothing wrong with taking a class! One thing I didn't see mentioned (or maybe I missed it) is being a judge. One of the best bang for money spent is judging in my opinion! You get to see alot of what others are doing, taste profiles, etc. Want to get better at bbq - be a judge!

Very true, but let me add a refinement:

To get the benefit of becoming a CBJ you have to actually go out and judge a bunch of contests, not just take the class. We've prepped food for judging classes, and I always make a point of letting the students know the samples they receive are far from competition grade.

In the CBJ class, the stuff you are given is prepared to match the standards and cost specified by KCBS. No way will you see Wagyu brisket there for example. You will see lots of purposeful defects though, since the class is designed to show you what they look like.

I know a lot of cooks take the CBJ class and then stop, or only judge one or two events and think they know what is going on in the judging tent. Not so! You have to judge quite a few contests to get a solid handle on both what other teams are turning in as well as the reaction of your fellow judges.

route66
05-10-2012, 04:40 AM
No matter what business or hobby you have, education, seminars and classes are an asset. In BBQ some of the classes offered are pricy where others are reasonable but each offers some knowledge which will be an asset in the future. I have friends who have taken the Myron Mixon class at $750 a pop and tell me it was the best money they have spent yet others have taken the same class and feel they wasted their time. I tend to think any knowledge is better than none and if you can afford it go for it.

I took a Todd Johns Plowboys class and found many ideas which I overlooked and made me a better cook and have taken others from some highly rated competitors which might be considered a waste of time if it weren’t for meeting some other newbies enjoying BBQ. Some times the simplest thought learned can be what kept you out of the winners circle, there are no bad classes if you can afford it but your fellow competitors are a wealth of knowledge.

EarlyBird
05-10-2012, 09:27 AM
I had been competing for a couple years,(about 10 contests a year) getting some calls and decent finishes. In 2007 I took Rod and Johnny class. The very next week I cooked in a contest and got our first of three GC's that season. :clap2: The class helped alot. I had a good understanding of contest cooking going into the class. It was the little things that I learned that helped.

My advice is to cook a few more contests and get some experiance under your belt. Then take the class and apply what you learned to YOUR cooking style. You don't have to cook the exact recipes and style you learned in the class.

Good luck.

swamprb
05-10-2012, 10:25 AM
For what its worth, I recently took the Rhythm 'n Que BBQ class, and the next weekend took 1st Place Brisket and GC out of 37 teams without practicing anything I learned, but still fresh in my mind, used some techniques I picked up on.

And one team in attendance at the class went directly to a charity 4 meat cook and won GC as well.

Your mileage may vary

gooose53
05-10-2012, 02:10 PM
Very true, but let me add a refinement:

To get the benefit of becoming a CBJ you have to actually go out and judge a bunch of contests, not just take the class. We've prepped food for judging classes, and I always make a point of letting the students know the samples they receive are far from competition grade.

In the CBJ class, the stuff you are given is prepared to match the standards and cost specified by KCBS. No way will you see Wagyu brisket there for example. You will see lots of purposeful defects though, since the class is designed to show you what they look like.

I know a lot of cooks take the CBJ class and then stop, or only judge one or two events and think they know what is going on in the judging tent. Not so! You have to judge quite a few contests to get a solid handle on both what other teams are turning in as well as the reaction of your fellow judges.


You make a great point however, I did say be a judge. That to me means judging not just taking the class. But your point is well taken.

Dr_KY
05-11-2012, 02:38 PM
I all for classes just do it with people that actually have a proven track record and realistic first hand experience. I have seen a few dubious instructional guides out there.