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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 03-29-2009, 10:18 AM   #1
Cigarbque
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Default First comp

So I jumped in feet first. I took a judging class yesterday in Highland NY and I handed in my check for the Hudson Valley Rib Fest at New Paltz NY in August. I figure it gives me time to practice, build up gear and get focused. So far the team is my 13 & 11 year old girls and myself. The kids are very excited about it. I really wanted to enter the comp in Wildwood but I think that is full.

So far I have a medium BGE, one UDS, an E-ZUP with walls and a few coolers and bus pans for washing. Need to build two more drums, grab some tables, water containers, hoses, etc.

I plan to do a full practice run early this summer and set everything up. I live in a lake community and we will set up down at the lake just so I'm not able to use the house / kitchen as a crutch.

So much to learn and experience. That's what makes this fun. This site is a great resource and it is what pushed me into doing this. Thanks for all the shared advice.

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Unread 03-29-2009, 11:16 AM   #2
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Sounds like a great plan Brian. We ran a practice in the driveway our first time out and anytime we had to run into the house to grab something, we wrote it down on our needs list. Second time we "loaded up" and moved further from the house and did not go in at all. It was a great experieince as it rained like a son of a gun, we stayed and finished our "comp".
Doing the list thing is important as it will give you a good idea of what you will need and what you really don't need. You will more than likely pack everything including the kitchen sink for your first comp, but it is a heck of a lot better than forgetting something. You will weed out what is needed and what isn't as you compete more.
Good luck and have fun, that is what is most important.
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Unread 03-29-2009, 01:27 PM   #3
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Also, don't forget, everyone in Hudson Valley will have all their stuff as well, so do NOT hesitate to ask around. I've had to score so many things at so many competitions, BBQrs are always willing to give a guy a hand... or some garnish...or some mustard... or a corkscrew... or whatever. I even scored some pork butts off a vendor one time when I opened mine and they were bad.
Get yer practices in and have as much fun with it as you can.
See you then!
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Unread 03-29-2009, 01:30 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lunchlady View Post
Also, don't forget, everyone in Hudson Valley will have all their stuff as well, so do NOT hesitate to ask around. I've had to score so many things at so many competitions, BBQrs are always willing to give a guy a hand... or some garnish...or some mustard... or a corkscrew... or whatever. I even scored some pork butts off a vendor one time when I opened mine and they were bad.
Get yer practices in and have as much fun with it as you can.
See you then!
That's the best advice, you can include Swamp Pit BBQ on the list of teams at Hudson Valley
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Unread 03-29-2009, 06:45 PM   #5
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Brian - you will have a fantastic experience.. Just make sure you keep the girls actively involved. I'd definitely work on recruiting someone else too.. You'll get plenty of help from the neighboring teams but it definitely will help to have another set of adult hands to assist.

Keep the equipment as minimal as possible as far as qty goes.. I recall my first contest showing up with a Costco size pack of paper towels (15 rolls !!) and there were lots of other things like that (box of 600 paper plates, 200 ziplock bags etc). You will thank yourself when the last turn-in box is entered, you are wiped out and you look around and realize you have to pack everything up.. hopefully before the awards. Clean up as you go, and try to work out of your storage boxes for the items you will not go back to many times.


Don't hesitate to ask as many questions as you need to leading up to this first contest. We're all here to help.
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Unread 03-29-2009, 07:33 PM   #6
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Thank you all for your support. My kids just watched the BBQ Showdown DVD's today. It gave them somewhat of an understanding of what this will be about. It will be fun no matter how it all turns out.
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Unread 03-29-2009, 07:59 PM   #7
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You will have a great time. I did hudson valley last year and it was a great comp. I am in NJ and if you need anything just give me a PM. Matt
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Unread 03-29-2009, 08:06 PM   #8
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If you can try to go to a contest and talk to the teams. This is a good way to see what you need. There is a list on the KC BBQ Society of things to take to a Comp. You will have a great time with your kids but the advice of another set of adult hands is a good one. Have fun
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Unread 03-29-2009, 10:39 PM   #9
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Ironically, I just wrote a blog post today with tips for new competitors. You're getting good advice here.

Here are my pointers from the post:

Do your homework

There is so much to learn that your first competition can be overwhelming. Research and "BBQ recon" will dramatically help flatten the learning curve. I highly recommend reading everything you can get your hands on.


Of course, you will find that there is a lot of noise mixed in with the good information on the internet. That's why it's important to get your information from a variety of sources. You will quickly notice solid trends and those are the gold nuggets.

Practice!

As I wrote in the previous post in this series, I cannot overemphasize the importance of practice. Practice cooking one category at a time in mock competition. Do everything exactly like you plan to do it at a contest, including building practice turn-in boxes.

Once you are satisfied with each category, cook all four categories and invite some friends over to act as judges.

Rinse and repeat.

Keep it simple

There are already enough variables in competition cooking. Don't complicate things by trying to do things differently for each category. If you're like I was early on, you'll try to find a different rub, sauce and wood combination for each meat. Don't. Find one good flavor profile that works for all of the meats. There will be plenty of time for experimentation as you gain experience and confidence.

Focus on the basics

This dovetails with keeping things simple. Work on perfecting the basics such as:

  • Meat selection
  • Meat preparation
  • Fire/temperature control
  • Timing
  • Repeatable flavor profile
  • Garnish and presentation

Keep detailed notes

All the practice in the world won't help if you can't remember what you did from one cook to the next. A good set of notes and a cook log will help you find opportunities to improve. It's also important to take pictures. You know how many words a picture is worth.

Travel light

I touched on this in the post about the gear. Develop an equipment checklist (here's mine) and take only what you need. Of course, weather plays a huge role in that, so also plan for what you might need in a worst case scenario. Bottom line: don't take everything but the kitchen sink.

Have a plan

In the last post I also mentioned the importance of developing your own cooking timeline for each category. Start at the turn-in time and work backward in 15-30 minute intervals. This will really help minimize the "What should I be doing now?" chaos. The plan will boost your confidence because you'll know what to do when. If you've kept things simple and have practiced, you will be well on your way to a repeatable process. I wish I had done this early on.

Ask questions

The old "The only dumb question is the one that you don't ask" adage is infinitely applicable here. Find credible and experienced sources of information and ask a lot of questions. I think you will find that most cooks are more than willing to help, but they can't help if they don't know what help you need.

When you get to your first competition introduce yourself to other nearby competitors and flat out ask if they are willing to help with questions. Just be honest and I think you'll be surprised at the openness of many cooks.

Check your ego

You may be an outstanding backyard barbeque cook and your friends, family and neighbors may rave about your food, but that is a far cry from competition cooking. Keep in mind that those close to you are not usually brutally honest about your food. They will usually be nice because they have good social graces.

Judges, however, don't know which turn-in belongs to whom because the system is designed that way. Judges are also very clinical in their evaluation, which is as it should be. You will find very quickly that judges are indeed brutally honest.

Given all this, check your ego in the parking lot and do your best. I think you'll find that the system works fairly well, but it also it very efficient at dispensing humility.

About partying

Competitions are fun. That's a large part of the allure of competition cooking. I encourage you to invite your family and a few friends and have a good time. At the same time, I also discourage you from partaking of too many adult beverages and taking your eye off the ball.

It's not a family reunion, it's a competition with money on the line. You've (hopefully) worked too hard and invested too much time and money to let this turn into a bad episode of MTV's spring break marathon.

Buck trends at your peril

This goes hand-in-hand with doing your homework and checking your ego. If you do diligent research you will quickly note some distinctive trends in flavors and processes. Don't try to swim upstream. Keep in mind that much of what you will read are lessons learned as the result of the trial and error of others. You will also notice that the cream of the competitor crop are very consistent. They find something that works and they continually polish it.

I am not at all discouraging experimentation and creativity. I'm simply saying that bucking major trends is not generally advisable.

Have fun!

Much like any other avocation, if you stop having fun, it's time to look for another way to spend your time. Competition barbecue is hard work, but it's also a lot of fun (or should be).

John
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Unread 03-30-2009, 09:21 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MilitantSquatter View Post
Brian - you will have a fantastic experience.. Just make sure you keep the girls actively involved. I'd definitely work on recruiting someone else too.. You'll get plenty of help from the neighboring teams but it definitely will help to have another set of adult hands to assist.

I couldn’t agree more… Even if they watch the cookers so you can get a couple of minutes of sleep… and helping you load up…

Quote:
Originally Posted by MilitantSquatter View Post
Keep the equipment as minimal as possible as far as qty goes..

I was the same way but mine was coffee cups and plastic silverware… I also recommend the day after the comp, review your list… Don’t just scratch it off cause you didn’t need it that time, but maybe you really didn’t need all of the 250 coffee cups…

Quote:
Originally Posted by MilitantSquatter View Post
Clean up as you go,

Very true! You don’t want to be loading up the dirty stuff and trust me (but don’t ask how I know) you don’t want to be cleaning the next day![/quote]

Quote:
Originally Posted by MilitantSquatter View Post
Don't hesitate to ask as many questions as you need to leading up to this first contest. We're all here to help.

Trust me, we’ve all been there and remember it well and most of us are more than willing to help…

I also agree with PatioDaddio on a number of points…

Research helps a lot but is not required… The most important is the rules… There is nothing worse than being DQ’d for something stupid…

Keep good notes and plan your cook… Start this with the practice sessions… Also a checklist of what needs to be done during the cook comes in real handy… Nothing like ‘discovering’ that it takes more than 5 minutes a box for garnish…

Do Check your ego at the door… Again trust me on this (but don’t ask me how I know it), your weekend goes a lot smoother if you play your game and not try to keep up with others… No one is there trying to make you fail… If some one comes over and says “I just noticed xyz” take note, it could save you in the end…

Have fun! You are going to have a great time with your two daughters, trust me…

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Unread 03-30-2009, 02:28 PM   #11
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Good luck you'll have lots of fun. I think the best way to practice are to enter some small local contest. Always remeber have fun
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Unread 03-30-2009, 07:19 PM   #12
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To all, thank you.

John, that is some great detailed info. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to meeting many of you this summer.
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Unread 03-30-2009, 07:33 PM   #13
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Lots of good info here. If you can attend one, take the girls and walk around (not at turn in). The vast majority of teams are more than willing to help...one of the reasons contests are so much fun!
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