1) What does it feel like?
2) What do you think your biggest difference was to get you that GC? (from all your other attempts)
3) How long did you cook before you got your first GC.
1) Though I've been a GC three times now, (twice with the Belly Brothers and once while cooking with my wife) none of the victories have been in a KCBS sanctioned contest. For me, that has always been my first thought, why couldn't this one have been sanctioned. I think the longer you cook, the more familiar you become with "what it takes, placing wise" to get to the level of GC. I know at the contest that the wife and I just won, that only the top 5 placings were called. We didn't get a call in chicken or ribs, but got a 3rd call in pork and a 1st call in brisket. I lean over to the wife and said, "if we could get a descent placing in ribs and chicken, we might get reserve." When Team Q was called for reserve, my hopes were kind of deflated, I figured 3rd overall again. Jimmy Fitzsimmons (River City Smokehouse) was sitting about 6 feet away from us, and I remember him turning and looking smack dab at us.....I don't know if he had heard what I had said to my wife, or if he was thinking the pork and brisket scores was strong enough to bring us a win....but when our names were called as GC, it was more of a feeling of "no way" than "OMG, we did it."
2) First, you've got to hit your target temps for doneness to achieve the texture that you are looking for to put in the presentation box. This will vary per cook. I know what I'm looking for, it may not be the same as you. Second, I follow the advice I gave to another competitor recently about building the boxes.....clean cuts, look for good symmetry of the product in the box, stand back and take a look, and a quick spritz before you close the lid. Building a box is like artwork, the judge is going to eat with their eyes first, and if you make it look as appealing as possible, it sure doesn't hurt. Third, the biggest achievement is turning in 4 consistently good products....hitting top 10 in chicken, ribs, and pork and then tanking in brisket will not make you a GC.
3) The Belly Brothers team got both of their GCs in our second year of competing, the 1st being at the Tiger Shrine contest, the year before it became sanctioned, then followed up at the Hallsville Heritage days a month later. Last year was a very strong year for us in sanctioned contests, getting a RGC, 3rd and 4th....and we're working on the consistency part so we can get over the hump and get that sanctioned GC. The wife and I have cooked three contests, and have a 3rd, an 18th (a good example of lack of consistency, and a good example of don't go changing what you do to brisket at a major competition), and a GC.
So to sum it all up.......there are a ton of good cooks that come out to these contests....and a lot of them turn out quality product. But there comes a point where you have to learn to compete....being a competitor rather than just a cook is what will get you to that coveted grand championship. You've got to bring your "A" game every competition, because the ones cooking around you are.......when you've got guys like Great Grills, Lit and Loaded, Team Q, Trail Boss BBQ, Pork Pulling Plowboys, and I could go on and on and on.....these guys know how to compete.....they ain't there just for the party, they are there to take your money! And if you cook against a good level of competitors long enough, you'll be faced with one of three decisions.....1) I'm here for the party........2) I'm in it to win it.....3)it's time to stay home and play with the kids or the grandkids......
Me........I'm in it to win it.........