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Unread 11-09-2005, 10:18 AM   #1
BBQchef33
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Default Judging: Among The Brethren.

Did my first KCBS judging event this weekend at Key largo.

2 things happened.....

I got to see first hand what goes on under the tent. As a competitor/cook I have a slightly better understanding of what to do and not to do. I think anyone who competes NEEDS to judge at least 5-6 times. It’s very enlightening to be on the other side of the spectrum. Our table only got a couple of entries worth writing home about. Allot of mediocre stuff and one of the absolute worse briskets I have ever seen or tasted. But the other stuff... top of the line, a couple ribs that got 99 (taste/texture)at our table from several judges. It seems that a majority can produce good BBQ, but few produce outstanding BBQ.

The second thing, and more important.. I was "A brethren" judging an event where 2 teams were flying our colors. This was an enlightening perspective.

When I left, I flew 1500 miles to hang out with Southern Brethren, to meet Jimmy for Smoking Cracker, and say Hi to DrBBQ and to give the old rah-rah for our teams. I wear the brethren hat.. Bring tee shirts to give to everyone, and of course, the signature prime rib to feed the guys.. Then Saturday, from 10-2, I put on my judges pin and go sit under the double blind judging guidelines. There is no way possible that I would know what turnins belongs to who, I have my integrity, and I will judge everyone on a level playing field and on their individual merit. Cool, I can do that.

When judging is over, I'll have a beer with the guys, and sit with them during the awards.. Take pictures when they walk, or offer shoulder if they don’t. Cool, I can do that too.

And I KNOW how pooped they will be when they day is done.. I will help knock down and put away there stuff and get them out of there right? Cool.. I will definitely do that. All of us would..

Guess what .

WRONG! Bad MOVE.. Bad assumptions. From the second I stepped on the airplane.

JUDGING:

judge
v. judged, judg·ing, judg·es
v. tr.


To form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration, To act as one appointed to decide the winners of: , To determine or declare after consideration or deliberation. Informal. To have as an opinion or assumption; suppose: v. intr. To form an opinion or evaluation. To act or decide as a judge.
  • One who judges, especially: One who makes estimates as to worth, quality, or fitness: One appointed to decide the winners of a contest or competition.
Before I went down there, I bounced off of Dave the thought of me hanging out Friday night with them. Is it ok for a judge to do that? The word was, before the event, we can do what we want on our own time. So, I went down a couple days earlier to visit mom in Boca Raton who of course insisted I bring her back some BBQ. Before leaving for Key Largo, I confirmed with Dave that Friday night, the pit would be available for some recreational cooking. Of course!! .. So I got us the 18lb Prime rib, fatties, peppers, biscuits, fresh bread, cheese and produce to make bruscietta(the cheese bread version). and some chicken and ribs to make for mom to bring home… even a funky pork roast to experiment on along with all necessary supplies to make everything. Sounds good. Grabbed a bottle of watermelon vodka for the “non cooks” to enjoy. I figured I’m gonna get these guys fed in brethren style before they hit the sack for the next day. As long as they are not cooking, prepping and they say the pit is free, no problem. My biggest concern was getting in their way, which was not happening. We are The Brethren, all friends, we hang together, eat, cook, and drink together. Early on, we made the fatties, cheese bread, prime rib, fed us and several other teams when we were all fed we made some ribs and thighs. All was good, except when I drove over the water pipes that fed our entire side of the road(another story).

This all sounds good right??

But: We are competitors, AND judges.

Ray(DrBBQ) comes over and enlightens us to what can be perceived by others. He was not challenging us himself.. He was warning us…. He knew the entire story, he ate with us, saw the food I brought, knew I was going to make some stuff for mom, blah blah blah…. He knows us.. BUT… he pointed out what others who don’t know us sees… it was a perspective that was not even considered.

Not to go into long winded gory details.. here is what was visible.

Me hangin with Smokin Cracker and Southern Brethren. 2 Teams that fly The Pig. I’m drinking, cooking laughing.. all around hanging with the brothers. Walking around meeting other teams…The same stuff I do at all the competitions I attend..but as a competitor.. not a Judge..

A judge, hanging out with the brethren Teams, all day(and also cooking) the day before turn-in…. may not look good… I am not wearing a tee shirt that says I am a judge, but I am wearing our colors. This may seem like a long shot, but keep reading.

This is something we need to look at… we need to think about it and implement a protocol that will not breed the perception of impropriety. More and more of us are becoming judges. In this little world we have here, its part of the vision I have for the entity known as “The BBQ Brethren”. We will range from new capable teams, to seasoned veterans, to Grand Champions, and mixed in there, judges, table captains, and master judges This says that we will be judging our brothers. Blindly, fairly and professionally. But we must be cognizant of what other competitors see. It’s early, there are only a dozen or 2 active judges among us. Most of which may just stop by and say hello, have a beer or 2, this is not an issue.. It is for those of us who are flying the colors and deeply entrenched in “The Brethren”, we must become aware.

I am not trying to set a protocol at this stage of the game, but open up the dialogue. How do we do this? How do we attend competitions as judges and maintain the “spirit of the brethren”…. camaraderie, friendships, etc. We WANT to visit with our brothers, and I mean beyond hello and a handshake. It would suck not to. When I am competing, and a stranger comes to me and says he is “A Brethren”, he is no longer a stranger, and he is welcome into my tent. Open the cooler and pull up a chair… It’s who we are…

But as a judge arriving under a tent, we must be aware that we cannot risk or influence the teams chances one bit, and stuff that we would do without that blue shirt or judges pin may have to be held off. Not because of them, but because of those around them. This is not a question of what is allowed, it is a question of what is perceived.. I have seen judges sitting under tents for hours on end, and have never given it a second thought, we are protected by the double blind judging. WELL.. IMO, that don't matter. My experience dealing with this forum tells me that someone will always find something to complain about. We need input from the pros, hopefully, Ray, Rod, Jim, etc..to help us out here. For Ray to point this out, he knows better than most of us.. there is something to it. Granted I was cooking... That may be the tiebreaker and may be the answer to this specific instance.. what about the image overall.

Let the debate begin.
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