What’s in the Box?
By Bill Jones, MABA Board Member and KCBS Master Judge, Table Captain, & Life Member
In this month’s “What’s in The Box” I will provide some info on what goes on once you drop off your boxes at turn in. Some of you may have never been inside the judging area and do not know all the steps it takes to get from drop off to the judges table. I hope this will be of interest.
So the clock is ticking down, the box needs to be turned in, and there are only seconds to spare when you arrive at turn in. Once dropped off, the box is moved behind a curtain or partition of some sort. Here, a new number is placed over the written number on the box, or YOUR team number. This now makes the box blind to judges as only the reps have the sheet to compare the team number to that of the box.
How do the boxes get to the tables as they do? With Chicken it’s very easy. The normal process is first six chicken boxes go to table 1, next six to table 2, and so on. There is no need to sort them. Next comes Ribs…this is where it’s handy to have people who know the process. Each table captain has a sheet in which they mark off the box entrees they have had for each category. The persons on the turn in tables need to review each table captain’s sheet and make sure boxes do not end up on the same table as they have before. Normally for ribs, two or three trays are held back to swap out entrees. With pork it can be four or five trays, and with brisket it might take five or six, or even more trays depending on number of teams in the contest that are held. Think back to that team who is standing waiting to turn in early. Their box could sit for over 10 minutes while this switch around takes place.
A new requirement this year is not to stack the boxes. Getting the boxes to the tables is a lot of times done by carrying them on bread trays. The trays are not made to hold six boxes, so in the past four boxes were placed with two on top of them, forming a sort of pyramid. The boxes now-a-days are getting flimsier and flimsier, so KCBS decided, no more stacking of boxes.
Now a misunderstood concept. We know the need to keep teams from hitting the same judges table twice. But some teams believe they also do not hit a table with the same teams more than once. That is not the case. It is not designed to make it happen but there is not any means to prevent it either. Team 152, 178 and 149 could conceivably end up on the same table several times and even all 4 categories possibly. Depending on when they turn in their entry, and how it gets shuffled to not hit the same table twice, it might, can, and does occur. In KCBS this should not matter as we do not judge for comparative. Can it be made not to occur? The answer is yes. But consider what has to occur. Now each team has to turn in with the other 5 teams they are assigned with for that category. If Team 152 turns in five minutes early and team 141 turns in with one second to spare, 152’s entry is sitting for 9 minutes 59 seconds. The option that has been discussed would be to reduce turn in windows to prevent the long sit time.
Another is comment cards. At the time I am writing this they are not mandatory for every turned in category. Should they be? Some say yes, some say no. I have no aversion to filling one out for every entry even if it is a 9 9 9 just to say “Great job, loved it”. What I can say is that I have tried this, it cannot be done in the time allotted without something suffering. Either less bites of meat or less information on the card. While 30 minutes sounds like a long time, in a judges tent it is not. A table is given their entrees, appearance has to be shown for all six boxes, then passed out to take samples, then eat first sample and score before moving to the next piece after a bite of a cracker and drink of water. Still sounds doable but depending on where you were in order of trays being delivered, you may have less than 30 minutes. If you were the last to get a tray in this category, you may be early in getting a tray in the next category as the sort goes.
Just recently, I was a table captain and they were calling me for my tray pick up and I still had judges judging. So no it is not as easy as it sounds to mandate comment cards without affecting something else or changing turn in time allotments. Instead of 12:00, 12:30, 1:00, and 1:30 turn in times, it may need to be 12:00, 12:40, 1:20, and 2:00. Doable? Sure. And so something else maybe gets affected – awards time. A sort of a ripple in a pond effect if you will.
Once the entree has been removed and placed on the judges placemats, judging begins. Your box is taken to what is called the grazing table. Here the extra meats are removed, the greens dumped into the trash and the boxes stacked. If anyone should ever question if their box was mislabeled, this can now be found by looking at the boxes that are saved until one hour following awards.