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-   -   Rookie Year - Lessons Learned (http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=117623)

Stacks 10-05-2011 12:25 PM

Rookie Year - Lessons Learned
 
2011 was my Rookie year competing and I have to admit it was more fun than I ever could have thought. Very seldom do you get a chance to be around so many folks at once who are both as passionate about the sport as you and so willing to aid in your success.
I only competed in 2 events this first year. The first had 32 teams. I came in 4th in brisket and 10th in chicken with 15 overall. The second had 64 teams. I took 4th in pork and 25th overall. I was VERY happy with my first year and everything I learned.
I see a lot of posts from new Q'rs or wanna be teams asking the very same questions I did last year. I was hoping to add maybe a few things I learned that I never knew to ask. These are in no particular order.
1. Competing is VERY expensive. I'm a one man team so I take on all the expense (why I only did two comps). Plan the financial part out and save up for the contests. During your practice keep tabs on the financial aspects as well as the cooking. Get sponsors if you can, I haven't learned how to do that yet.
2. Plan for bad weather. Wind, rain, and cold. It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
3. At the cooks meeting, let everyone know it's your first comp. I don't like to bother people especially with my stupid questions. I found out really fast it's no bother. Folks are more than willing to answer questions and help you get your feet planted.
4. Get your timing down. While I never missed a turn in, I found more often than not I was too early. I'd have my box ready 5 minutes before the turn ins started. 10 minutes is really A LOT of time if you've planned
5. If you're a one man show, either recruit help to deliver your turn in box or take the time to find the shortest route to the judges. It gets pretty hectic and saving a few steps will help a lot.
6. Remember to eat. I was so wrapped up in getting stuff packed, loaded, set up, etc on my first comp it never occured to me to plan on bringing some food. Beer yes, food no.
7. Don't read too much into your scores. I obsessed over them. How can you get 8's and 9's from 4 judges and 6's and 7's from the other two? Were the low scores from a CBJ? Were the high ones? I got a great piece of advice. "don't change a thing until the results are consistant over 3 competitions."
8. Practice, Practice, Practice. Set up your gear in the back yard and do a full comp. I do a practice in the spring and fall. Set your practice dates at least a month in advance. Mother nature is always a factor and I have a tendancy to practice under blue sky and shining stars. Play "what if." What if the power goes out? What if the water is 600 yards away? What if I get a torrental downpour and my site floods?
9. Take detailed notes during the comp. Rubs, sauces, charcoal, temps, weather, wind, times, method, etc will give you clues to what you did right and what you did wrong when the scores come in.
10. Buy a good BIG clock. My first comp I used my cell phone clock which was a bad idea when my hands became greasy.
11. While I haven't done this yet, take a judges course and judge a couple of events. This is my plan for next season before I compete again. I need to walk a mile in their shoes and I need to know what I'm trying to achieve as a cook.
12. For many teams the competition is secondary. Getting together with friends and family to party and socialize is the goal for the weekend. For many teams the competition is business. Winning is the goal, everything else is secondary. Most fall in between. You'll quickly figure out where people are coming from. Have fun and be respectful, they'll do the same for you.
13. You can never have enough coolers.
14. Don't wait til the morning of the comp to buy parsley. Two days before my first comp I went to my local grocer to get parsley. There was a ton of beautiful bunches so I decided to wait until the night before to come back and purchase. Who knew parsley was so popular? The morning of, I had to go to 4 different stores to get what I needed.

Anyway, these are some of the things I learned this last year. I hope someone will find them helpful if they decide to jump in and compete. Feel free to add any more "lesson's learned."

BBQchef33 10-05-2011 02:00 PM

great post for the new guys startig out.. I tagged it in the roadmap.

Heres something to add regarding your practice runs. Start with all your 'stuff' outside of the site... once you use it, it stays inside the site. At the end of your practice run, all the stuff still outside is not needed.. take it out of your site suypplies and put them in the JIC box(just in case) that you leave home most of the time. When i first started out, I would take the kitchen sink.... and all that clutter is not only distracting, but makes things more difficult. Lighten the load and stay organized.

Kenny Rogers 10-05-2011 02:09 PM

Great Job Stacks! Congrats on your WONDERFUL finishes for your first year!

Just Pulin' Pork 10-05-2011 02:18 PM

Line the table you are working off of with aluminum foil or saran wrap. Makes clean up a breeze but it does add to the expense.

Jon

Kenny Rogers 10-05-2011 02:58 PM

Those disposable paper cutting boards are pretty handy too!

HarleyGirl14226 10-05-2011 03:59 PM

WTG Stacks! :clap2:

This was our Rookie year as well and I can't believe all of the lessons we learned the hard way. We did 6 KCBS contests - 4 of which had the added NEBS contest added to the weekend. It's hard to believe it's over already!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Stacks (Post 1808117)
6. Remember to eat. I was so wrapped up in getting stuff packed, loaded, set up, etc on my first comp it never occured to me to plan on bringing some food. Beer yes, food no."

Don't forget to drink - and I don't mean beer and Gentleman's Jack (although that does seem to help). In our first comp. this year I found myself getting dehydrated because we were just to busy to bother with drinking water. Now we make sure to bring a case of water to every comp. and remind each other to drink it.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Stacks (Post 1808117)
13. You can never have enough coolers."

Ditto. We bought a second one after our 1st comp. - so now we have two of the GIANT coolers, plus two smaller ones we use for parsley and Misc.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Stacks (Post 1808117)
14. Don't wait til the morning of the comp to buy parsley. Two days before my first comp I went to my local grocer to get parsley. There was a ton of beautiful bunches so I decided to wait until the night before to come back and purchase. Who knew parsley was so popular? The morning of, I had to go to 4 different stores to get what I needed.

We found Restaurant Depot to have nicer parsley than our local grocery store - and way cheaper - by about half the cost.


We also found that having a standard packing list for everything that didn't stay on the trailer was helpful when packing... We also put together a detailed time schedule that we reviewed before we packed to make sure we never forgot to prep something, and that everything was prepped and put on the cookers on time. This saved us a few times...

Stoke&Smoke 10-05-2011 04:14 PM

That is a great write up right there, and your calls for only 2 comps are impressive!

fnbish 10-05-2011 05:14 PM

Very cool and great post. We have 2 competitions left in our first year and after all is said and done for 2011 I'm hopefully going to put something similar together. I totally agree with everything you have up there.

TEAM PIG IRON 10-05-2011 05:38 PM

Great post way to go! We are a rookie team too... we took an 8thhr place for pork and 1sta place chicken it is a great feeling taking that walk! Im hooked!

CivilWarBBQ 10-05-2011 08:17 PM

Very nice info for newbies.

One thing I would add to your comment about coolers - especially for one man bands like yourself: Don't buy coolers larger than about 75 quart, as you'll find them too heavy for one person to pick up when filled up with ice and food. Even though it is more expensive, better to purchase multiple smaller capacity coolers that you will be able to handle comfortably without assistance.

GreenDrake 10-05-2011 08:23 PM

Yep, I am a habitual overpacker. Only bring what you need, nothing more. You won't use what you think you need after a dry run doing the "outside the pit" run. Prevents you from tweaking your formula last minute too. Other than honey/karo or sauce. Get the methods nailed down, beat them into your brain. I have worked my chicken for the last year and a half...finally getting there with it. Ribs need work next.

Pack-A-Smokes 10-05-2011 08:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Just Pulin' Pork (Post 1808310)
Line the table you are working off of with aluminum foil or saran wrap. Makes clean up a breeze but it does add to the expense.

Jon

BIG roles of butcher paper from Sam's. Tends to be cheaper and works just as well.

I was lucky enough to talk to a guy that had been in the circuit for years, but he was an overpacker. Took us a few comps to learn we did not need two or three of everything.

CBQ 10-06-2011 08:53 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HarleyGirl14226 (Post 1808410)
WTG Stacks! :clap2:

This was our Rookie year as well and I can't believe all of the lessons we learned the hard way.

Like the best way to walk up for calls, and how to pack and store all those trophies? :becky:

The 5th Artery had a rocking rookie year.

bigsapper 10-06-2011 09:03 AM

Great post. I'm fixin to start doing a few comps here & there. This thread has some great info.

I especially like the idea of doing a practice comp.

Stacks 10-06-2011 09:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kenny Rogers (Post 1808365)
Those disposable paper cutting boards are pretty handy too!

I don't know if this is a lesson learned but it sure made things easier for my team of one.
While I'm at a comp I have my water, soap, and pan, but I don't do dishes. It's mainly for hand washing and knife cleaning.
My table is hard plastic, so I use a clorox spray and paper towels after each use. All my trimming is done at home the night before. My sauces and injections are in plastic water containers (back packing type) and marked for each meat and I have a seperate injector or brush for each, and I use the disposable paper cutting boards.
After using each I put them in a plastic bag and wash them when I get home after the competition. May not be for everyone, but it really helps me to have one less thing to worry about.
Thanks everyone for their input! :clap2:


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