View Full Version : Judging Complaints

The Pickled Pig
08-24-2007, 11:06 PM
I see, hear, and even participate in a lot of complaining about contest judging in one form or another. Anytime those squirrely judges don't say our entry is the best thing they've seen, tasted, or eaten my natural instinct is to find fault with the judging. I'm very competitive and don't like not winning (double negative intended).

This year I've come to believe that, in a strange yet remarkable way, KCBS judging actually works and works pretty well. My experience is entirely limited to KCBS contests so my commentary is too. Believe it or not, my opinion didn't change because my team is all of a sudden doing so well. We do 6-10 contests each year and have about 50 contests under our belt. We don't win more often than we do and in our best years to date, we've been a middle of the pack team with the occasional Top 10 finish. For the most part, this year is no different.

A few pickled observations:

1) In the years I've been around competition BBQ, I've never even heard a whiff of evidence of a scandal regarding KCBS judging. I've seen and heard about plenty of cheating regarding cooking, but not judging. I've heard of incompetent judges and mistakes and gaffes, but not cheating. I've even been DQ'd once for not separating ribs when that was a physical impossibility since I lifted them individually from a cutting board into the box. I've heard a lot of cooks complaining and forming various conspiracy theories but never anything specific that is substantiated or even rumored. Of course, there probably have been some incidents over the years and some bad apples at the judges table, but I can't see how it is widespread or commonplace.

2) 7 years ago I thought our BBQ was the best ever and could not be improved upon. This year, we're turning in entries that are amazingly better in appearance, taste, and tenderness than what we used to cook and I still feel the same way. I clearly wasn't right 7 years ago and know I am equally wrong about our Q today. Friends and family who constantly give us praise about our BBQ only allow us to perpetuate the fallacy that we are great. They judge based upon what they get commercially which is not even close to contest cooking. Every contest we don't win is another opportunity to improve. We probably wasted 3 or 4 years by not realizing this sooner. I know everyone has heard it before but if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting.

3) The competition is rapidly improving. I have no doubt that if I could go back in time and turn in today's entries 7 years ago we would have cleaned up at the awards ceremonies. Some have said our sport is the fastest growing sport in NA and I tend to believe it. Within the KCBS, the number of contests and the number of participants at each contest is growing so fast from year-to-year it makes my head spin. And, as has been pointed out in this forum, the newer teams have a lot more resources at their disposal to learn and learn quickly. All of this growth means we have to rapidly improve just to stay even. Not appreciating this trend makes it hard to accept getting a lower (relative to prior performance) score even though the entry was superior to our prior entries.

4) I've completed an analysis of the 2007 YTD KCBS contest results for a power ranking system and was surprised by the results. For the Overall category, the Top 25 teams scored 1,695 points out of a total of 7,444 points given. That means 4% of the teams (694 teams were included) are getting 23% of the points awarded. The Top 100 teams (14% of those analyzed) received 3,753 points, or 50% of the point total. BTW, I'm only looking at the Top 10 teams from each contest in my results so know that it would be even more top heavy if the entire field were included. There is clearly a consistency in judging results for KCBS contests nationwide.

5) I have had the privilege to meet many of the top competitors in BBQ and I never hear them complain about the judging. Maybe it's because they consistently win or maybe it's because they're too busy competing, but I tend to think it's because they accept responsibility and spend their time practicing consistency and how to stay ahead of the rest of us. In any case, they have somehow figured out the mojo it takes to win contests on a consistent basis. Out of the 6 contests I've competed in so far this year, 5 have been won by the same team and I highly doubt that's because of some sort of judging fraud. I think it lends a great deal of credibility to the judging system in general.

6) When I first heard about the comment card system I thought it was the best idea since sliced bread. However, after a little reflection I'm not so sure it's ready for widespread implementation. Some people will avoid confrontation at any costs and if they're forced to comment on low scores, they might not give them in order to escape conflict and that would be a tragedy. If the system ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

As I get ready to step down from the soap box, let me just acknowledge that competitive BBQ has made me a better cook. If I take nothing else from my experience I know that my BBQ is wildly better than it used to be. I never would have endured the improvement process if not motivated by my desire to win.

08-24-2007, 11:48 PM
I think it is rare on this forum to find a thread that out and out complains about the judging. You may find a thread or two that makes suggestions for improving the judging or for that matter any aspect of our our chosen sport. My team, much like yours, has not found that formula for success. I don't know how long it will take, but cooking the six or seven contests a year that we cook, we realize it's not going to happen over night. We don't cook enough contests to improve rapidly. I still think the feedback cards can have an impact on helping a new team progress if impremented properly. The process for the feedback cards does not work well now but who knows what the future holds. I made some suggestions in another thread. I believe if we don't try to improve things we only have ourselves to blame when things don't work well.

I personally have never heard of a "Judging Fraud Conspiracy" being mentioned around here. I think that most of us realize that teams like Ique, I Smell Smoke, Lunchmeat and Purple Turtle win so often for a reason. It's just that neither of us have figured out that reason yet. Part of the fun for us is trying to figure it all out.

I see you are new here and in my short stint as a Brethren I have learned that Judge bashing threads are frowned apon and usually accomplish nothing. I do however applaud anyone who offers a suggestion that constructively helps to improve things. Maybe you have seen alot of Judge Bashing elsewhere but there are alot a great guys here and you will be hardpressed to find a bashing thread here.

08-25-2007, 09:54 AM
At least to your point about the sport growing, I'll bet this forum alone has added 100 new teams or more to the sport in the past 2 or 3 years. Every other week you here about another backyard Joe like myself who's thrown their hat into the comp ring.

And if I never win, it's still a helluva good time, crazy judges and all.

08-25-2007, 10:11 AM
As I sit here reading this thread with my CBJ shirt on... :lol: Ironically, I've probably been the most vocal about judges and still, that's for only a couple of days after I get a bad one! :wink:

The duty is simple... you keep in mind what we teams go through in work, time and money spent to do this so that you take your job seriously. You keep in mind that this is KCBS and therefore the KC style of BBQ is the standard unlike what Fitz told about the judge he met at Jefferson City last April). You judge the entries based on the standards set by KCBS. Did the cook accomplish what he was trying to do under those criteria? You eat a cracker and drink water between EVERY sample you try. You look for reasons to score UP and if you see them, you do accordingly. I don't LOOK for a reason to score down. If it presents itself, I will do it.

My cooler also will not be making the trip with me. I will toss anything I don't sample. And if another judge questions this, I'll tell them why: That I'm there to do my duty in fairly scoring a BBQ contest, NOT to take BBQ home with me.

I'm out the door to go see life from the "other side" for a few hours.

Nice post, Paul! :wink:

Chris Nickelson
08-25-2007, 10:34 AM
Here Here Jeff!!!

MY Thoughts exactly.

As a member of a team I get a little disturbed seeing judges carrying in coolers. I for one feel this needs to go away.

For 2 reasons.

1: food safety, there have been a few cases of illness after a judge held the leftovers too long, no ice.

2: Wether they mean too or not, it looks like they are there for the free meal rather than their responsibility of JUDGING!! (at least from this contestants point of view)

There have been a few reps that have already started to ban coolers for judges. I feel this is a good move.

My 2 cents!!

08-25-2007, 11:04 AM
Man I get tired of the cooler thing!!!
There are two reasons I take a cooler with me.
1. I love to share the experience with my wife. We warm up the offerings and discuss which ones were good which were not so good and really have a good time . I cook pretty damn good Q myself and yes I can afford to put dinner on the table. So hogging free food is not a factor.
2. Throwing away food is just not what my mamma taught me. The first few contests I did I kept waiting to feel a slap up side my head for pitching six fat chicken thighs with two bites out of them. Do you as cooks throw away all the leftovers that do not go into your box?
No, of course you don't.
You as cooks, and we as judges spend a great deal of time and money to enjoy this sport, hobby, affliction whatever you want to call it.
I have and will continue to give 100% seriousness and due attention to what I do, because I know it's what the same thing you do.
I believe, as I get to know more and more fellow judges there is a tiny, tiny few that are there for the wrong reasons.
So if I can ssume your there for the right reason, please do the same for us.

Chris Nickelson
08-25-2007, 11:19 AM

I appreciate your comments.

I too, know many judges that are top notch. And I agree it is a few that are in it for "leftovers".

As a competitor I am concerned with getting you the best BBQ I can, I expect the best judging we can get from the judges.

I could care less what happens to that piece of meat after the initial bite or two to score it.

And yes we do save all our leftovers.

08-25-2007, 11:57 AM
First, the simple fact is that on any given weekend the same teams over and over again, are reeling in the top awards, as they say the cream rises to the top. After judging I just don't see how one judge can have any real influence on a team walking.

Second, I really don't know what the fuss is over the coolers, if a judge wants to take home something they have eaten off, what does it hurt. Having said that I choose not to take food home most of the time but once in awhile I do grab some from the grazing table, usually when I am doing something other than judging.

Unfortunately there are a few judges out there that should not be sitting at the table, certified or not for a whole host of reasons that I wont go into. But that is probably true no matter what kind of judging event we are talking about. Its just the nature of the beast.

08-25-2007, 03:51 PM
IMHO the cooler is not the issue. The issue is whether the judge is doing a good job or not. My .02

Pig Headed
08-25-2007, 04:29 PM
IMHO the cooler is not the issue. The issue is whether the judge is doing a good job or not. My .02

I agree 100%. I'm a competitor first and an occasional cbj and I could care less if a judge takes the leftovers home. They would only get thrown away anyway, so what's it hurting? I don't feel that they've done me an injustice or didn't judge to the best of their ability just because they took some chewd over food home.

08-25-2007, 06:25 PM
Ron, because to some judges, it becomes about getting to take the BBQ home, NOT about fairly and accurately scoring the presentations. If that attitude is allowed to go unchecked, it won't be long before it spreads and the top notch judges are few and far between. I seriously wish all teams would judge once or twice per year. I wish it was required. And I wish all CBJs were required to cook with a team once per year to maintain their certification... not just those going for master judge.