View Full Version : To teams: What are the things you consider when deciding to participate in a contest?

Lake Dogs
07-23-2010, 12:33 PM
When considering participating in a BBQ contest and considering whether to participate in a sanctioned or an
unsanctioned contest, what are those things that you consider/weigh outside of the normal location, cost,
timing (date), etc.? Iím really asking the question.

Below are most of the things WE consider and our personal ranking because a) weíre a fairly small team and b) weíre
located in Georgia and c) we donít have the time nor money to travel all over; we compete for enjoyment. As a result,
you wont see the Texas and west coast associations in my list below. I mean this as absolutely, in no uncertain terms,
a slight on any organization. These are merely our preferences and why.

Judging System: GBA, MBN, (some unsanctioned), FBA, KCBS, ICBS, other unsanctioned

I really prefer the 7-10 scoring/judging systems over the 1-9 systems because of
point variance issues and how it comes forward from lesser trained judges.

Judges Training: MBN, GBA, (one particular unsanctioned because all the judges are MBN),
FBA, KCBS, ICBS, unsanctioned

My personal take on it is that MBN does a fantastic job and the others are ok but
not nearly as good, and ICBS might as well be unsanctionedÖ

Rules Enforcement: pretty much even for all sanctioned IMHO, then unsanctioned

I think most all the sanctioned comps do a pretty good job of this

Amount of meat to cook: pretty much even for all, except MBN is dead last (have to cook massive amounts)

All good for us (smaller team), except MBN. We canít even compete in whole hogÖ

The actual meats to cook: GBA, MBN, unsanctioned, FBA, KCBS, ICBS

Personal preference here, but I donít think chicken has any business being in a BBQ
contest, even if/when our chicken places well. If we want to have a friend chicken
contest, or a grilled chicken contest, fine, but not in a BBQ contestÖ Weíre still
working on our brisket quite a bit, so our preferences are the all pork contests.

Number of turn-ins: GBA, MBN, (some unsanctioned), FBA, KCBS, ICBS, other unsanctioned

Strangely, I like the two turn-in system. Too much crap can happen from one table to
another. Have a 2nd turn-in to see which of them truly is best. I donít really care for
MBNís on-site though, although it can be fun.

Turn-in box nonsense: MBN, GBA, FBA, (some unsanctioned), ICBS, KCBS, other unsanctioned

Iím a little bit of a purist, so please donít hold it against me if I think the only thing that
should be allowed in a turn-in box is the meat itself. For what itís worth, this comes
someone who gets all 7ís Ė 9ís in appearance scores in KCBSÖ

Compete against big-time: MBN, KCBS, FBA, GBA, ICBS (around here), and unsanctioned

MBN and KCBS pretty much even here. The teams are larger (number of people)
with MBN, but KCBS has no shortage of fantastic competitors.

Big Kahuna Qualifier: MBN, GBA, FBA, the remaining because frankly Iím not driving to The Royal or
The Jack and probably not even Memphis In May, even IF we were to qualify.
We qualified many times to participate in the national championship in chili; Iíve
will not drive to Terlingua. Wont happen. Perhaps when I completely retire and IF
weíre still doing BBQ comps at that time this will change.

So, as a result, we pretty much prefer either MBN or GBA. FBA would be 3rd. The others, being KCBS and ICBS around here and most any unsanctioned comp about even. Frankly, in my PERSONAL OPINION, KCBSís allowing greenery in the turn-in boxes and that they cannot get well trained judges that judge consistently (not around here anyway) puts them way below my other first 3 preferences; theyíre a DISTANT 4th.

These are the things we consider outside of the normal a) can we afford it, b) is it scheduled in a time when we can all be there, c) is it close enough to be reasonable, and d) is it a generally enjoyable venue.

07-23-2010, 01:24 PM
All I care about are: KCBS, good reps, good organizers, good money, close to home.

(I don't have a problem with KCBS rules.)

Lake Dogs
07-23-2010, 01:47 PM
All I care about are: KCBS, good reps, good organizers, good money, close to home.

(I don't have a problem with KCBS rules.)

I'm definitely not trying to rag on any one sanctioning body, not
even KCBS.

If I were to read your post correctly, when looking for comps you
pretty much look only to KCBS sanctioned ones, and then those closest
to home, yes? Why only the KCBS ones? Do you even consider/look
at unsanctioned comps? Why/Why not?

Yep, I didn't mention organizers in ours, and that was a mistake (on my
part). One of the best organizers we have around here locally does a
KCBS cookoff. Because if this, and that the venue itself is so much fun,
that's our one KCBS cookoff we compete in. 99% of the reason is that
the organizer himself is so great to work with and such a wonderful
guy. The rest all being the same...

07-23-2010, 02:00 PM
We compete in KCBS and unsanctioned events.
I am not aware of othe sanctioning bodies around the chicago area.
We look at cost and travel time.
I look for events that are kid friendly because I have a 8 and 4 year old that loves to go to contest and play.
If the family can go then it is much eaiser to get the wife to agree to let me go. If you know what I mean.

Lake Dogs
07-23-2010, 02:22 PM
> If the family can go then it is much easier to get the wife to agree to let me go.

I know EXACTLY what you mean!!! My kids are older now, so for us it's got to be
close (easy to get to) and a fun place/venue, otherwise Mama ain't happy, and if
Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

07-24-2010, 07:26 AM
We mostly only cook KCBS events.
1. They are the best organized and well ran events. You know with some degree of certainty what you are going to get.
2. The rules are known and fairly easy to abide by.
3. There are really no other contests near us that use any of the other sanctioning bodies. There was an MBN event last year in Michigan but I did not attend, I had a prior commitment...
4. We will cook unsanctioned events but those are usually 1 day Rib burns and those are fun. We (the Team) will usually split up and cook separately for these.

I would like to try a MBN event one day.

07-24-2010, 09:17 AM
Date, Venue, distance to travel.

All the other stuff is secondary to me. We try to do 1-2 contest(or bbq events) a month from May-Sept. I like a comfortable venue( i would choose a venue like troy which is riverside, and has other things going on, over a blacktop parking lot regardless of sanctioning, prizepool, etc..).

Lake Dogs
07-24-2010, 10:35 AM
Mike, give MBN a try. I love it, but frankly it's a love/hate thing. We have the most fun
on these, BUUUUUTTTT it's also the most work, and cook the most eat, and the
on-site is a pain but a fun pain...

PooooBah, funny you mentioned the blacktop parking lot. I'm sitting here typing this
right now because I'm not participating in a GBA cookoff in Macon where I've been asked three or four times to compete. We RGC'd there a few years ago, but it was hotter than blue hades. We fought dehydration all day, and was just NASTY sweaty... It's today, and the temperature will be right at 100 feeling like 115 with the humidity. I wish them all the best on that gigantic black asphalt parking lot!!!

07-24-2010, 11:13 AM
From the San Antonio area there are 50 sanctioned cooks a year in a 100 mile radius. If I move that radius to 200 miles there are over 200 sanctioned cooks per yer. Distance has become the first factor I look at.

I choose which comp I'll do based on a combination of the following in no particular order.

Sanctioning body - In order of preference based on the number of cook offs in my area IBCA , LSBS, TGCBCA, CTBA, WTBA

Entry Fee - $150.00 limit and that on contests with a good payout.

Payout - I have to have to be able to get my entry back plus a few hundred dollars.

Distance - Less than 100 miles first choice then I move out from there.

Location/Facilities - Depending on the season and possibility of inclement weather, grass or blacktop? Shade or full sun? Restrooms, power and water?

Reputation - Some cookoffs enjoy a great reputation as being fun and well run events with quality people cooking and spectating others have reputations of unsavory folks, theft, fights, unruly behaviour and such.

Friends - Are any of my friends cooking that particular cook?

Coast or inland - I do not like the Gulf Coast much and will not cook on the water.

Number of teams - I like events with 30+ teams. I will do smaller events if they are new and need support.

Competition - I like events that attract good cooks. I'm a believer that cooking against the best makes you a better cook.

Number of days - I do not like a multi-day cookoff. I probably won't cook it if it is a F-S-S cook, unless it's a good payout and we can rent a cabin at the location.

Bar cookoffs - Taking prize money from the locals who cook once a year at a bar cookoff can make for an interesting evening. I steer clear of these.

Candy Sue
07-24-2010, 12:50 PM
My list is pretty close to Zillas, but sanctioning isn't number 1. Here in Arkansas, it's about 45-45-10, KCBS, IBCA and MBN. I don't cook MBN because I'm a team of me, myself and I.

I prefer KCBS, but many times I think IBCA is more fun and much less stressful.

For me its, Entry Fee/Payout, Distance, Location, Contest Officials and Friends.

My distance preference is 200 miles, but Fort Smith last weekend was beyond that.


07-24-2010, 01:37 PM
Distance we consider 4 hours one way reasonable
entry fee less than $300
team space 20 front x40 deep at least
Chance to sell PC Meats if we want is nice
We like KCBS or IBCA

07-24-2010, 02:19 PM
We are holding our first KCBS sanctioned event Here @ French Lick Resort in French Lick Indiana.
Our first thought was to contact people who know the competition world and tap into their knowledge. We then began the planning process with the teams in mind the whole time. The teams are what make the competition everything else comes later.

We sought out the best location on our poperty (big and lots of space) with easy in and easy out for the cookers /RV's/ Trailers.

We also made sure that every team is treated like a guest on our property.
We have made special parking arrangments for teams that want to show up very early for the competition (some are parking their rigs here the week before due to other competitions in the area)

We have an early check-in on Thursday.

All teams and judges have been given a 50% discount on hotel rooms.

We are presenting each team and judge with a very nice welcome bag chock full of goodies/discounts and products they can use on their stay here or as a snack for the ride home.

We have boosted the Internet signal in the competition area so all teams can log on to the BBQ Brethren quickly and post all night long.

We have sought out the best reps in the buisness.
When the teams arrive they will be welcomed by the reps, contest organizers and managment from the resort. This will give them a sense of pride.
The teams will have a pitch-in dinner on Friday night.
Me and my catering team will bring Coffee out in the early morning for those who need a pick-me-up.
On Satruday morning the resort will host breakfast for the teams (FREE of charge).
As the event rolls on we are always on a constant mission to check with the teams to replinish their ice supply and remove any garbage they may have.

This next item is one that I have never seen or heard of in any competition.
I am having my dish stewarding staff drive around to each team in shifts to collect any dirty pots and pans they want cleaned. We will tag each pan, bring them to our dish room , wash and sanitize them , then return them to the proper team.

This one thing will allow all of the teams the chance to travel with clean items when they make their way to their next comp or back home.

We feel that we have thought of everything we can do to help the teams out while they are here. Having competeted I understand the needs of the team and will work hard to make them very comfortable.

If I was competing in this competition I feel that I would be very comfortable.

If any team out there wants some good Southern Indiana Hospility come see us @

Lake Dogs
07-24-2010, 03:01 PM
Robbie, E X C E L L E N T. I work with organizers & sponsors and always talk about
what makes a competition great. I posted this because I want to see what other
teams consider so that I can represent them (locally anyway) with organizers, outside
of my own personal thoughts.

Good stuff! Yes, that drive-by pick-up of pots n pans is a very cool idea!

07-24-2010, 03:58 PM
Thanks man. We aim to please. My in-laws are from your neck of the woods. Very good BBQ down in GA!!!!!!!!!!

07-24-2010, 05:03 PM
I love it when a promoter goes all out to take care of the cook! Good for you! I wish it wasn't such a long ride to your C/O I'd love to give it a whirl...even if it is a KCBS C/O! :becky: :wink:

07-24-2010, 06:37 PM
We do have one team coming from Arkansas. I think they will get the "Farthest Team" award. I have something pork related to give them when they get here.

07-25-2010, 05:55 PM
I have competed in only MBN contest and it is alot of money and work but we have fun every time. The reason we got into MBN is because we had a local competition here in our hometown so we entered the rib category not know anything about competitions. We thought this was going to be abunch of locals pulling thier pits out to cook against each other, well we were wrong. We placed 7th out of 30 teams on a borrowed 250 gallon smoker not knowing what the judges were looking for and that really got us excited so we got more serious.

We are going to try out some KCBS and IBCA in the future because we have a few that are somewhat closer to us. We have to travel to MS for almost all of our MBN comps and those are anywhere from 3 hours to 6 1/2 hours away from us.

We like the judging system to MBN because alot of the onsite judges come back after judging and talk with you about your products and where they can improve are what was just right in thier opinions.

As far as the meats to cook I have went to Jacks Old South cooking school so he taught us all of the categories in KCBS and MBN. I have not practiced any thing but the Brisket. We cook babybacks when we compete in MBN and I have heard they prefer Spares so I would need to practice St. Louis Spares, Chicken and Pork butts before I go compete in KCBS.

All that being said we prefer the MBN comps right now. All of the teams are great and visit all night long while the whole hogs and shoulders are cooking. I heard from one of the good teams that only enter MBN comps that he tried a KCBS comp and it was not like this and that they had thier little clicks and they didn't really welcome him in like The MBN teams do to new teams just starting out. That could of just been his experience I wouldn't think it would be like that.

07-25-2010, 06:48 PM
I'm definitely not trying to rag on any one sanctioning body, not
even KCBS.

If I were to read your post correctly, when looking for comps you
pretty much look only to KCBS sanctioned ones, and then those closest
to home, yes? Why only the KCBS ones? Do you even consider/look
at unsanctioned comps? Why/Why not?

Yep, I didn't mention organizers in ours, and that was a mistake (on my
part). One of the best organizers we have around here locally does a
KCBS cookoff. Because if this, and that the venue itself is so much fun,
that's our one KCBS cookoff we compete in. 99% of the reason is that
the organizer himself is so great to work with and such a wonderful
guy. The rest all being the same...

I choose KCBS because where I live, that's the only sanctioning body around doing contests, within the distance I'm willing to drive. And as far as unsanctioned, they are poorly advertised (around here anyway) and I don't really want to go hunt them down to do them. I'm very limited on what contests I can do, and quite content with the contests I've done and what I can look forward to in the future.

07-25-2010, 07:25 PM
The only sanctioned competitions around here are KCBS, so I can comment on the others. We choose by distance (within 5-6 hours of home), prize pool (if there is more than one on a weekend within our range), past history if available (good organization, nice venue, etc.) and sometimes the teams who are attending. We always have fun and meet new teams, but we have friends that we enjoy seeing regularly, and if all things are equal, we'd probably choose a competition with those friends in attendance.

We haven't cooked any unsanctioned comps for a couple of reasons... Most are geared towards teams who set up with an EZ-Up (not that there is anything wrong with that) and our comp rig is a trailer. I don't have any other way to get my stuff to a comp site. We also cook with pellet cookers and need power. Most unsanctioned events around here don't provide power and don't allow generators. Also, if it is a choice between sanctioned an unsanctioned on the same weekend we would choose the sanctioned since one of our goals is to get an invite to the Royal and a bung in the Jack draw. Finally, and I don't want this to sound snobby, between meat and gas the potential payoff in most unsanctioned events just isn't high enough to make the trip worthwhile.

07-25-2010, 08:35 PM
Ability to vend.

Cost vs. payout and cost is everything I spend including diesel so distance plays a part in the decision.

Sanctioned is a big plus but I will do non sanctioned if it's a good vending opportunity.

After that, past experience with the contest, comments from other cooks that did a contest in previous years. That covers a lot of the small things others have posted already.

Qualifier is always a big plus.

Lake Dogs
07-25-2010, 08:46 PM
Thanks guys, and really thanks Ford. I'm also working with my favorite competition
trying to get them to allow us to vend... This (above) helps. Plus, with 16,000
attendees, I can't tell you how many times we've talked with VERY frustrated attendees
in that they cant taste real competition Q.

07-26-2010, 01:36 PM
I organized my first contest this May & had it sanctioned by the GBA. We did many of the thing robchef is doing & have heard nothing but positive comments from the teams that participated. I like his idea of boosting the Wi-Fi signal & will look into that for next year. I had an ice vendor give me all the ice I wanted, so we provided ice to the teams & would make the rounds every couple of hours with a couple coolers filled with bags of ice. I even put about 20 bags out when I left at midnight in case anyone needed ice during the night. We have a hotel right next to our contest site & I got the hotel owner to give teams & judges a nice discount in return for being listed as a sponsor. I made a couple rounds per day checking on the garbage cans & emptying those that were full. Those 2 little things (ice & trash pickup) got more positive comments that almost anything else.

My wife, a couple of volunteers & I cooked a Sat morning breakfast for the teams & any judges that came in early. That was very well received.

I had a room set up as a judges lounge separate from the room where the judging took place. I had coffee & juice in there in the morning and a fruit & veggie trays later. The judges really like the fruit trays. I gave them something beside BBQ to eat, but was not filling. It also help cleanse their palate between rounds.

We had a band that played Friday evening to draw a crowd & help those that chose to vend.

I spent a lot of money on electrical setup, but had it done so all we have to do next year is dig a couple post holes & wire it into the meter. We provided a separate 20 amp outlet to each team & had no problems with breakers tripping, etc.

My wife didn't have to rock me to sleep on Saturday nite after the contest. I was dead tired, but come Sunday I was already making notes on things to change or improve for the next one.

07-26-2010, 02:58 PM
Our criteria goes something like this:

1) Travel distance. Prefer a 3 hour max drive, the shorter the better.

2) Is it a Georgia Barbecue Championship event? We cook every one we can for the yearly points chase.

3) Is it a qualifier for The Jack?

4) Sanctioning & Scoring - Do we have faith the contest will be well run and fairly judged? KCBS preferred.

5) Cost vs Payout - Is the total cost (entry fee, fuel, meat, lodging, etc) in proportion to the money we could win? We want to be able to potentially double our investment.

6) Intangibles - If after sorting through the above filters we still have more contests in the list than we have the time and money to enter, we make a decision on which to cut by the following: Do we like the Reps? Will we see many of our friends there? Is it a a "cook friendly" show? What amenities are offered? What are the cook sites like - grass or pavement, size, shade? What sort of weather can we expect?

When we began cooking comps years ago we didn't have many choices. Now days there are more events within striking distance than we have the resources to attend, so we have the luxury of being able to be more selective.