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Competition BBQ *On Topic Only* Discussion regarding all aspects of Competition BBQ. Experiences competing or visiting, questions, getting started, Equipment, announcements of events, Results, Reviews, Planning, etc. Questions here will be responded to with competition BBQ in mind.


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Unread 04-16-2011, 10:44 PM   #1
Arlin_MacRae
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Default First Comp Judged: My Experience - Long, No Pron

This post is mostly for those of you who are judges but haven't been to your first gig, or you're thinking of becoming judges. The rest of you - no laughing. Feel free to ask or constructively criticise me after reading. Learning is good.

Today Jeannie and I crossed over from mere badge owners to real KCBS CBJ's by judging at Smokin' Red Dirt in Enid, OK. Perhaps not so coincidently, it was held in the same building we took our CBJ class in. Worked for us, anyway.

We arrived 30 minutes early (we did NOT want to be late!) and we found out someone had organized the judging tent to a 'T'. There were sign-in sheets and we found all the judges were already assigned to tables. The tables had sheets of paper taped on them showing the table number and the judges' names, ranked by experience (we were the bottom of our table lists, yes!). My table captain (Rhoda) was the only one sitting there and, as it turns out, her husband was table captain at Jean's table. Fun. I feel sorry for Rhoda a little as I look back on my machinegun-like questioning of her, but she was awesome and I learned a ton before another judge even sat down. They say the table captains will take care of you, and if that husband and wife team is typical, it's true beyond belief. Thanks, Rhoda, wherever you are. You're a gem and you started another judge out right!

So other judges started sitting down and we introduced ourselves and yeah, I'm a newbie and I'm all squishy and excited. I sat next to Susan (can't remember her last name) and I recognized her from somewhere. When I saw her CBJ badge I almost did the "I'm not worthy" genuflection bit. She was CBJ #234. Two. Three. Four. Mine is 24,308. Wow. Anyway, that flaming orange hair was recognizable as I found out - she and her hubby had just judged up at Pleasant Hill, Jeff Stith's awesome annual Big Creek competition. Small world. Anyway, she helped me throughout the entire competition with funny stories and kind guidance and she was a hoot to boot. GREAT gal. Thank you!!!

Going in, both Jean and I were nervous. We were afraid that we'd hurt a team by judging them too low or by judging another team too high. Personally, I didn't worry a LOT about going too low, because the lowest score is tossed out. I was more worried about awarding a 9, then finding the next entry should have been a ten, but couldn't be. Know what I mean? Now I've ranked both of them the same when clearly the sample I had second should have been the only 9. I was also worried about taking too long. I found out at CBJ class that I seemed to need more time than the average bear to really look at a box to nail the appearance score in my mind. I also had no practical experience at all when it came to judging six entries within the set time limit.

I reigned myself in when it came to awarding nines on appearance, taste, and tenderness, and it worked. I think I gave two perfect 999's (but several were close), and the table captain let me know my numbers were right in line with the other five judges. Did I go further down the scale? Oh you bet. Like I said earlier, I wasn't afraid of being the lowest, 'cause mine would get tossed. I gave out plenty of 8's, some 7's, and one or two 6's. Even one 5. Kiss of death, that 5? Maybe. I agonized over it and still marked it that way. The entry was pretty ugh. Nothing was inedible during the session, although I heard stories of 2's being given. Thankfully I didn't have to even think of going that low!

One thing that helped me was my knowledge of what championship entries looked and tasted like. Thanks to Dammitandy and Kim of Smoke-on-Wheels for that. I know what can be done to those four meats when you know what you're doing. A lot of entries hit that mental mark today and, sorry guys, one rib was the best I'd EVER had.

I discovered the way to get maximum appearance judging time was to sit near the middle of the table. I watched the boxes as they came towards me, when they were in front of me, and when they were heading to the other end of the table. A simple solution, yes, but if you don't think about it and sit on an end you'd better have quick eyes! As far as taking all the time I needed to judge taste and tenderness, I just DID. I was the last to turn in my card every time but once - but I never came close to the time limit and my fellow judges & the table captain never even sighed loudly - bless their hearts. I'll get faster, I'm sure, but I wasn't going to rush it this time. I probably won't try to do that for the next few. Why risk hurting a team because you missed something while trying to be as fast as your neighbor?

Another thing that was kinda tough to do without constantly thinking about it was to completely forget the sample I had just tasted as I bit into something new. NO COMPARING SAMPLES! I got through that pretty well, actually. It's probably like working a muscle over time: it'll get stronger and easier.

Food management (stomach management). Holy farking hell... Rookie Dave, I don't know how you judged seven categories wherever the heck you were that one time. THIS boy was stuffed like a tick at the end, today! Our table judged 23 meat samples and two desserts and that was pushing it for me. And I can eat!! I was worrying about Jean somewhere behind me. I pictured her being sent to the juicing room like that girl on Willy Wonka. I tried to nail taste & tenderness in no more than two bites. A few times it just wasn't possible, and a couple of times I HAD to have a third bite of whatever it was, because it was so good! No more of that chit. URP Strangely enough, the ones I needed three bites of were all bland and I was looking for flavor. I hope I'll learn to decide quickly that yes, there's very little flavor here. Either that or I'll be stuffed again and again...

What else...paper towels. Grab a bunch! Keep one wet at all times - or take your own damp towel/wash cloth. Chicken was phenomenally messy. "I'm supposed to pick up a pen and write after each of these? SURE!" LOL

Let me close this rambling beast with this: I only know a couple of guys who judge a lot, and they're great guys, but I wasn't sure about judges in general. They're just like the cooks, it turns out, trying to put out the best product they can - them by being fair, accurate, consistent, and fast. It was a blast today. And I'm VERY glad you Brethren taught me first about the blood, sweat, tears, and frustration you go through to put meat before a judge. I salute you all. Now where are those farking Tums?!!!

Arlin
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Unread 04-16-2011, 11:04 PM   #2
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Congrats to Arlin & his Darlin' .
It sounds like you two did some good judging, learned a lot & had a lot of fun. On the food management thing, now you see what we were talking about - one or two bites only or you'll never make it through the day! About the seven or eight catagories; that happens at the Royal on Saturday. Four meats in the Invite, plus potatos, sausage, veggies and dessert (or whatever the extras are) will make you call for a forklift to carry your arse out of the judging "tent". That's why I'm only judging the meats this year, that & the fact that last year when we got done judging dessert they had already started doing the Awards for the Invitational.
Congrats again & I'm sure that we'll see each other down the trail!
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Unread 04-16-2011, 11:13 PM   #3
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Enjoyed your thoughtful account. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.
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Unread 04-16-2011, 11:15 PM   #4
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Thanks, Jim. To be honest, Rookie Dave suggested it. Great idea. I might even have done it on my own.
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Unread 04-17-2011, 07:34 AM   #5
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Glad you had a good experience. We enjoyed the day and alway enjoy talking with judges.
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Unread 04-17-2011, 11:44 AM   #6
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Welcome to the world of jeez I'm full!
My first was the Iowa State championship in Marshalltown back in '06. You walk in not knowing anybody or anything. It was one to remember, I kept thinking when am I gonna see a bad sample of bbq.
In my mind it has kinda turned into a 8 or 9 excessive score time for judges. A score of 9 should be reserved for the very best and only experience will allow for that .
Remember a 7 is ABOVE avg. not a punishment.
Your fellow judges will be a great source of information, use their resources and advice. It won't take long to find the ones you will want to avoid, trust me.
As for being the last judge judging I am almost always him. Don't care it's not a race. I get a little peterbed at the ones that speed through it, I think it makes them feel superior or something.
Anyway welcome, enjoy it for what it is. No more no less.
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Unread 04-17-2011, 12:56 PM   #7
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Thanks, Ed!!

Arlin
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Unread 04-17-2011, 04:06 PM   #8
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Arlin your article you typed has reinvigorated me about competing.....it is so swesome to see a judge take her time and do things the right way...i was really starting to question if those types of judges were out there it was really great to see that they are....great job and thank you for doing it the right way and taking your time and having attention to detail
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Unread 04-17-2011, 05:09 PM   #9
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Thanks Arlin for jumping in first since we took the class together. Sounds like you took it all in. My wife and I's first comp judging will be in Tecumseh for the Smokin good Thang in June. We cant wait!
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Unread 04-17-2011, 07:28 PM   #10
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Thanks for the great write up. I was thinking of taking the judge's course in may. Now there is no way I will miss it!

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Unread 04-17-2011, 10:49 PM   #11
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Great info! Thanks for the article Arlin! Just got certified this past weekend and cant wait to get started.
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Unread 04-17-2011, 10:52 PM   #12
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Go for it, guys! It was very rewarding and we can't wait for #2.
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Unread 04-18-2011, 12:13 PM   #13
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Arlin - Thanks so much for using your badge and judging.

Even bigger thanks for sharing all of this with everyone.

The thought process, concern for the team being judged, and serious minded approach to the task that you describe are spot on. This is the way it is supposed to be.

Even better is for everyone to know that your concern level is not unique. This serious minded approach is what I frequently encounter with judges.

Cooks and judges need to read and understand what you are saying.

This thread takes a step in demystifying what goes on in the judging area after the box is turned in.

Stomach management is always a big issue. Love how you describe this -- LOL
My best advice in addition to what you have already figured out is to take a small
sprig of parsley between each sample so you do not fill up on water or crackers
but still have a clear palate for the next entry. Parsley is always in plentiful supply from turnin boxes after appearance score.

Bless you Keep on judging.
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Unread 04-18-2011, 12:24 PM   #14
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Carlyle, THANK YOU for the parsley suggestion. DUH - that's brilliant. I was eating crackers & drinking water to clear my pallet - and probably bloating myself up more! LOL

And thank you for your kind words.

Arlin
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Unread 04-18-2011, 01:01 PM   #15
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Great write-up Arlin! Welcome to the ranks of judging scum (this IS the pot welcoming in another black kettle)!

You'd said:
> one rib was the best I'd EVER had.

This is what ticks me off more than anything when I see folks write about competition
not being REAL barbecue. Until you've had the delight of judging, lets not cast that
stone. I do a darned fine rib and every once in a while really hit it outa the park. However, even as good as mine have been now & again, the absolute best barbecue I've ever had, EVER, was judging one time, judging Gwatney's ribs that day. WOW.

I'm really glad you were the good/concerned judge. Unfortunately there are those who just judge a little willy-nilly without real concern as to the consequences, and either give away 9's or score 6's for anything not just perfect in their eye. Either one isn't fair. I've always preferred the critical but consistent and fair one (judge).


<--- 80+ comps judged myself (mostly MIM/MBN) and will do another 4 comps this year.

To the stomach management thing: It's tough to explain to new/rookie teams that they have to hit it right in 1 or 2 bites. Consistently they think you're going to be eating a whole chicken piece. Any judge with more than 2 competitions knows to try to hit it on that initial bite. I spend a good bit of time testing tenderness with my fangerz and smelling it to get that flavor profile thoroughly in before actually taking the bite. With any luck that 2nd bite will be the "is it a 7 or 8" bite. Most 9's stand out (IMHO). Most 6's and below stand out too. 3rd bite, for me, is rare, and usually is only because it's SOOOO darned good I'll just have to hit that again. :-) And so goes the TUMS. To me, the toughest table (It'll happen if you judge enough) is the one where you get 5 entries who could all be in the top 5 in the competition. It can be very tough to tell the 8 from the 9.... In MBN that table will be the difference in one of them making it to finals and the others not, OR WORSE none of them making it to finals because the judges split on which one was best. Judging, if you're really concerned, can be a real ***** sometimes...
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