Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Auctions and BBQ Judging

          I really enjoy auctions. The thrill of trying to outbid someone for something you really want, but not going overboard is just fun for me. I go to Hesse's http://www.hessegalleries.com/ Thursday night auctions as often as I can. We have only been once this year so far --last Thursday. I didn't get some of the things I wanted -- cut glass bowls, display unit, or jewelry, but I did manage to get a roll top desk.
          I wanted to replace the big desk in my office/craft room because it took up so much room. The roll top desk is a bit taller, but is definitely not as wide or as deep as the old desk. Makes me happy. We just moved it in today. Lynn did all the heavy lifting while I helped as much as I could. I can't seem to lift things like I used to. Must be the carpal tunnel loss of strength in my hands. Can't be the getting older thing.
          Anyway, the desk is in now and all I have to finish doing is putting away all the stuff that was in and on the old desk. Nothing to it, right? And then, of course, trying to remember where everything is after it's in a new place.
          We have been having so much fun doing our new hobby of BBQ judging. We are CBJs (Certified BBQ Judge)s through KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) http://kcbs.us/. We took our judging class last July and have judged 14 contests since October 2012. We are aiming to become Master Judges which entails judging 30 contests and cooking with a BBQ Competition team. Luckily, Lynn's son, Mike, has a team and we look forward to cooking with him sometime soon.
          So, just what is it that we do when judging? First we go to the KCBS website and find contests listed under "Events" and decide which ones we would like to do. We then submit a judging application. Some events have online applications, others you need to snail mail. Then you wait to hear if you are accepted as a judge. I have found it very effective to follow up with an email. As it closer to the event and we have not heard back, I send an email to the organizer asking for an update. We have gotten in three or four contests that way when other judges that had been accepted had to cancel for some reason.
         Once we are accepted, then Lynn does some research (he's very good at that -- I don't have the patience, surprise, surprise!) and finds us lodging in the area. Then we pack our bags and go. And, no, we do not get paid to do this; just like people who golf don't get paid to do that (unless they are pros, of course).
         The KCBS competitions are always for the same four categories: chicken, ribs, pork, brisket. They try to make sure there are as many judges as there are competition teams. Each table consists of six judges and a table captain, and each table is assigned a number. There is always a judges meeting where the KCBS judging rules are reviewed.
          The turn ins from the cooking teams (who also have a meeting to review the KCBS rules for cooking) begin usually at noon. Each cooking team has been given a numbered take-out container box for each category. When they turn those boxes in, the number is changed, so there is no possibility of any of the judges knowing which team's box they are judging. So chicken is turned in at noon, ribs at 12:30, pork at 1, and brisket at 1:30.
          Each table generally gets six boxes to judge in each category. Each judge has a "plate" in front of them which is actually a thick paper placemat type of thing, with 6 large boxes where you place each sample. Each large box has a smaller box in the upper right hand corner to write the box number in for each sample. Each judge also has a score card where they record the category, the table number, CBJ number, and name. There are small boxes down the left hand side of the card where the entry box numbers are written down. Each box is followed by three columns: appearance, taste, tenderness, which are the three criteria we are judging each sample for.
          When the six boxes are brought to the judging table, the table captain reads off the box numbers which each judge records on their score cards and plates. Then the table captain opens the first box and shows the entry to each judge who then writes down their score for appearance. Each subsequent box is then shown to each judge and they score each one for appearance. The judges are not allowed to touch the box or the entry in any way when judging for appearance. The scoring system is 9 - excellent; 8 - very good; 7 - above average; 6 - average; 5 - below average; 4 - poor; 3 - bad; 2 - inedible. There is also 1 which is a disqualification, but that can only be used under the direction of the Contest Reps who are the ones who oversee the contests for KCBS (they don't organize the contests, but they organize the judging aspects of the contests). A disqualification can be given for things like illegal garnish, or not enough samples for each judge.
          Once each box has been scored for appearance, the table captain then opens the first box and passes it to the first judge who takes a sample and puts it on the appropriate square on their plate. They then pass it to the next judge, and so on until every judge at the table has a sample. Every box is done the same way. Once all the samples are on their plate, the judge can then taste each sample and score it for taste and tenderness. Between each sample they cleanse their palates by eating saltines and drinking water.
           When the judge is done with their scoring they pass their score card to the table captain who verifies that everything is filled out properly. Once all the score cards are in, the table captain brings them to the Contest Reps who enter the scores into the computer where all the scores are tabulated. And the judges are then free to discuss among themselves what they thought of the entries. They are not allowed to talk while doing the judging, nor are they allowed to make faces indicating how they feel about any particular sample, so as not to influence any other judges' scores.
          Comment cards are available for judges to complete if they scored any of the samples low for any reason. The purpose is to give constructive feedback to the cook teams as to why you scored them low. This helps them to improve their product in the future, if they so choose to take the comments to heart.
           The process repeats for each category. Once all the categories are finished and all the scoring is tabulated, that's when the cook teams find out who won in each category and who came out as the top two: Grand Champion (GC) -and Reserve Grand Champion (RGC).
           People often ask us if the ones we liked win, but we have no way of knowing because of the blind judging. Even if a team told us what their box number was to begin with (which would not happen because you are not allowed to fraternize with the teams before turn ins), that number gets changed once they turn in their boxes. And if a team "marked" a container to be identifiable, that entry would get disqualified.
          It really is a lot of fun to do for several reasons: you get to taste fantastic BBQ, you get to meet a lot of other people who are interested in BBQ and judging, and you get to meet some great people on the cook teams. And it's something that Lynn and I can do together...it feels like little mini-vacations all year long.
          I know some of our friends may get a little upset that they don't see us as often, since we have been gone most weekend since we got back home, but I just say "we don't travel any more in the winter, so now we travel in the summer!" But, honestly, life is too short not to enjoy doing something you love to do. And if anyone misses us too much, they can take the CBJ class and come judge, too!!!

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