Tag Archive: Bill Jones

  1. What’s in the Box

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    Image of Brad Pitt from the movie Se7en with the caption, "What's in the Box."By Bill Jones, MABA Board Member and KCBS Master Judge, Table Captain, & Life Member

    My wife and I have this discussion every so often and it goes like this – “Do you want Mexican or Chinese food  for supper?”

    “Sure” I say. And off to our favorite location we go. The owners greet us and will sometime make the comment “You’re back again for dinner?”

    My wife will ask “Did you come for lunch here?” Yes. “Then why did you not tell me that?”

    I am quite okay having Mexican twice in one day. She just does not get it. So now I tell her – “Italians eat Italian three times a day, Mexicans eat Mexican three times a day, Chinese eat Chinese three times a day…so why can’t I do the same?”  And the same goes for BBQ. I have eaten BBQ for lunch AND dinner many times!

    Note – she also has this very strongly followed rule. She does eat Mexican or Chinese at a place unless someone we know has eaten there before us and survived!  Seems a simple,  yet weird little rule. Wish I had followed it at a contest in Westmont, IL this year.  That was some awful Mexican food.

    As a judge we have some time to sit and talk about the foods we like. Many judges crave ice cream after judging. I am not a major fan of ice cream, it’s just not something I seek out. I do want a Mt. Dew for the ride home and usually get some Chicken Lo Mein from my local favorite Chinese place. No idea why that’s what comes to mind.

    Some cook teams also crave certain foods following a cook. I have yet to hear any wanting barbecue though. Not their own, nor anyone elses. I am in the same boat. Every fall we do what we call a Stew N’ Que at our home. About 75 – 100 people are invited and by the time I am done cooking a cast iron pot of Brunswick Stew and 80 pounds of barbecue, I seldom eat any of it. Oh I taste test along the way, so maybe I get filled up on that. But I usually find myself hungry later that evening for anything except barbecue or stew.

    Many of our trips to far away lands like North Carolina or Maryland…okay just kidding about that…but when we do travel, we seek out local establishments of the best barbecue in town and then a Mom and Pop restaurant, non chain. We have found some great restaurants in our travels, and some not-so-great ones too. Just like barbecue boxes we judge, you get some great and then some-not-so great.

    We see teams and judges doing similar, checking out local establishments. Newbie judges will sometimes ask how I pick the contests I go to. It really has little to do with the contest as much as it does with what’s nearby?  Chesapeake, VA contest – County Grill and Smoke House on the ride there the night before and Harpoon Larrys on ride home.  Note – I table captain this event because I want to eat at these two places.  Tupeolo, MS – Kermets Outlaw Kitchen.  BelAir MD – Box Hill Pizzeria crab cakes, yes crab cakes at a pizza joint.  Lanexa – Walkers Dam Grill – how can a campground have such a great Italian place?   Don’t get me wrong, the contest organizers or the reps also have a lot to do with where I pick to judge. But outside of the barbecue, the local food is what I also seek out. Something out of the way, different, unexpected.

    Hope to see you out on the circuit in 2017 trying new places.

    ‘Til next time,
    Bill Jones

  2. Operation Barbecue Relief Serves One Millionth Meal!

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    By Bill Jones, MABA Board Member and KCBS Master Judge, Table Captain, & Life Member

    We are going to take a break from the articles of What’s In The Box for this edition to announce a very important number…

    One Million!


    Recently Operation BBQ Relief reached this very lofty number by serving their one millionth meal to disaster survivors in Hammond, LA.  One million is a number never envisioned when OBR set it stakes at their first disaster in 2011 in Joplin, Missouri.  No one wants a disaster to occur. But OBR has been there to give a person a meal prepared by some of the great cooks in the BBQ world. Since those meager beginnings of, “Let’s go help these people who have lost everything”, to Hammond, LA and the devastating flooding that occured, OBR has branched out to numerous locations. From New York to Florida, West Virginia to Louisiana, Oklahoma to Illinois, Texas, and numerous stops in between,  OBR has been there to feed victims and first responders.

    screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-07-54-pmSo who or what is Operaton Barbecue Relief?   OBR is the brain child of Stan Hayes and Will Cleaver.  When the tornado hit Joplin, MO that fateful day in May of 2011, Will and Stan both realized, separately, that there was going to be a need for food. They knew each other as competitors from the BBQ circuit, and quickly found they both had the same thought.  Competition barbecue team cooks are some of the best cooks and people out there. They also own equipment that can cook large quantities of food at a time, can respond, and be self-sufficient upon arrival. Add this all together and you have the foundation of a BBQ relief team that could be nationwide and respond quickly when called.  And as we all know, barbecue teams LOVE to help and give back.

    In recent years, OBR has really taken off. As time has passed, staffing has grown and now includes state leads who will help coordinate and advise the OBR home office of the needs in their respective locations. We also have begun adapting to disaster plans on a national level with FEMA, USFA, NFA, etc.  OBR has warehouse locations and trailers to deploy with needed start-up materials like tables, chairs, pans, utensils, lights, etc.  The cook teams arrive with their cookers and food is ready to be cooked and prepped.

    Coming from an Incident Management Team perspective for a disaster, I kind of knew what I was getting myself into by being assigned the lead role for Virginia. Disasters are nothing pretty. Ever. For those of you lucky to have never looked into the face of a person who has lost everything, short of the clothes they have on, you will never forget the joy of receiving food cooked and given to them and their reaction to someone caring enough to provide it. The destruction from a tornado, hurricane, flood, earthquake, even a man made disaster, can overwhelm a community. OBR’s arrival to provide meals is a welcome break from the disaster.

    Recently I was asked to take the lead in the floods of West Virginia. This happened to occur on the same weekend as the Covington, VA BBQ Contest. Covington teams all donated left over BBQ pork to me to take to White Sulphur Springs and get a small team up there to start with feeding Saturday evening and Sunday until additional resources could arrive. Tommy Houston of Checkered Pig heard my comments at the contest, drove all the way home to Martinsville Va, loaded his trailer back up with 80 pork butts and several cases of loins and drove all the way back past Covington Monday to begin cooking. I returned with a pick up load of butts and chicken and additional supplies.  Kenny Nadeau of Uncle Kenny’s BBQ Team drove to Nitro, WV to set up so we had two operations going at the same time. Our White Sulphur team included several other barbecue cooks along with a great team of volunteers headed up by Buchannan, WV contest organizer Jody Light.  She and her team were a tremendous help to give back to a community flat out washed out.

    In White Sulphur Springs we got to meet many people whose lives have been turned upside down. One young couple came with their two small children who had with them what could best be described as a stuffed bunny. It was hard to tell for sure as it was torn up and dirty and had seen much better days. The parents told us their story of being away from home when the storm hit, to when they finally were able to make it home the next day to find their home and parents home both gone. They have found pieces of furniture and clothes up to three miles downstream of their two homes. But at that time, three days after the storm, they still did not know where his parents were.  It was tough listening to their story and countless others. But as warm as the food Kenny and Tommy were cooking, it was warming our hearts to know in some small way we were helping.

    We are very happy with our teams and volunteers responders when a call out is made. If you have never been before and wish to go, please remember you must sign up and be assigned, so please visit Operation BBQ Relief’s web site.  You do not need to own a large volume cooker. Hands and feet are also needed to make this happen. And sometimes a shoulder to cry on.  Please consider volunteering your time to go on a disaster to help or perhaps lend your support financially. Unlike many other organizations, the money donated to OBR goes 100% for food, utensils, etc…  About every $1 donated will feed a meal to a person in need.

    I am pleased to be the VA lead for OBR and one of the committee members for planning the BBQ Gives Back Contest in March, 2017.  The committee chose to make our beneficiary, Operation BBQ Relief, and as a fund raiser to help in the future of a disaster, whether it be here locally or elsewhere. Please consider signing up for the contest or making a donation to OBR or attending a disaster in the future.

    ‘til next time,
    Bill Jones

  3. What’s in the Box

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    Image of Brad Pitt from the movie Se7en with the caption, "What's in the Box."By Bill Jones, MABA Board Member and KCBS Master Judge, Table Captain, & Life Member

    As a Master Judge, I am often looked to for advice by newbies. I define newbies as new judges with less than 10 contests judged.

    Some of their questions are related to how to apply to judge contests, why I apply for the ones I do, and help with discussing their entrée they just judged and scored.  But the one that gets asked more times than not – How do you meet a team to work on getting your Masters cook completed?

    With the divide in KCBS with judges and cooks, versus that of MBN — judges, especially new ones, have wonderment about talking with teams.  How to approach? Who to approach? When to approach?

    For both newbies and cook teams, it’s an easy process. You just have to ask. It helps though to know the person or persons to ask.

    Many teams are also judges or have members of their team that judge to keep up with the new trends of other teams entries or what’s the hot new trend in box building.  Many teams also like to have judges cook with them as part of the team to get an insight into their cooks. They may or may not get comment cards to help them fix issues, but a judge in the trailer with them can maybe point out that issue. So sometimes you can find cook team members in the judges tent. You can ask them.

    For teams, you can come to a contest and ask the reps to announce during a judges meeting you wish to have a judge cook with you for their Masters. Have them share where your site is and that judges are invited to come meet and talk about upcoming dates after the judging has taken place. You can exchange contact info then. But please do not use this as a time for asking questions of that days turn-ins. A newbie is going to be a bit out of their element in coming to ask a favor of you.

    For judges, ask a master judge who they would recommend.  I have three I can name off top of my head whenever I am asked. I am sure other master judges also have teams they can recommend. Sometime you will also find in the BullSheet a team advertising for a judge to come cook with them.  Also check Facebook and BBQ Brethren website. But the key here is quite simple – all ya gotta do is ask.

    For teams wondering if they would ever consider adding a judge for a contest, here’s a story that I can share that occurred some time ago – I have changed, or maybe not changed, some of the details to protect the innocent. Maybe this might help make up your mind if considering it.

    They were taking left over pork, chopping and placing in bottom of their box to lift up the pork they were presenting. They’d been doing so for many contests. They were shocked to hear from the guest judge that if it’s in the box a judge might try some not realizing it was not to be considered part of the entry. They were only using it as a platform and it was bland tasting.Once this was brought to their attention they quickly placed sauced and good meat in bottom of box…and walked that day in pork. Was it because of what the judge told them? I do not know. But they sure like to have judges come and cook with them to point out possible concerns that might cost a point here or there.

    As a team, please let them help. Maybe not unleash them with knives and say trim my brisket. Some teams let judges trim, season, inject, stoke fire, build boxes, the whole job of cooking competition BBQ. Others take a we will do the work, you just watch attitude which teaches a judge not a lot and is quite frankly boring. I myself learned so much more participating in all aspects of the cook. I highly recommend allowing a judge to be part of everything you do.

    I will end with a comment being made often these days. A judge does not have to judge 30 before cooking with a team. Some will say a judge should cook before they judge. I do not recommend this idea. I believe a judge who has never judged yet cannot offer any insight to a team they are helping to cook with. I do certainly think a judge should cook within their first 15 contests.  And again all ya gotta do is ask!

    ‘Til next time,
    Bill Jones

  4. What’s in the Box?

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    Image of Brad Pitt from the movie Se7en with the caption, "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.

    Bill Jones

  5. What’s In The Box?

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    Image of Brad Pitt from the movie Se7en with the caption, "What's in the Box."By Bill Jones, MABA Board Member and KCBS Master Judge, Table Captain, & Life Member

    Last issue we talked about the National BBQ Conference and what a panel of some of the top cooks in America tried to help teams understand. Quite simply – you hurt yourself more by putting less-than-stellar product in your box then it would be to have it in there over concern a judge may be expecting to see a certain cut offered.

    In looking back over my time as a KCBS judge, I have seen some very, very, beautiful boxes. And many of them were NOT the same ole same ole muffin tin chicken or brisket with burnt ends.  Some went way off the BBQ standard. I do not know if the team just wanted to see what it would score and maybe it be the next Myron Mixon muffin tin chicken idea or maybe they were a new team and this is what they thought would score well.

    So keep in mind, I cannot say what my other judges scored the boxes/ideas below. I can only say it does not for me, and the majority of the judges, have to be the same ole boxes.

    Chicken – Breast meat slices, flats and/or drummettes – seeing more and more legs these days,  saw a whole chicken one time – two legs, two breasts, twp thighs, and two wings. Talk about a heavy and a tight box!  All have their own concerns. Breast meat can dry out quickly. Legs can have the skin pulled up in a lollipop look or left on the bone.  A recent box was thigh and leg still connected and had grill marks on the skin.  Taste and tenderness were BOTH excellent. My favorite box I ever saw was smoked drummies and flats. Drummettes and flats lined up like little soldiers in four rows. They had a great color to them and they just popped in the box.  At the same contest, a thigh was turned in with what I could best describe as thick gooey black roofing tar ¼” thick on it. No one looked forward to tasting that entry and it scored very poorly.

    Ribs – Over sauced as mentioned in the previous article is an issue for more and more judges. Ribs don’t have to be dry, just not 3/8” thick gloppy sauce.  We as judges keep seeing teams on Facebook or The BBQ Brethren commenting on “it’s not a greens contest” or in this case ”it’s not a sauce contest.”  But teams fail to follow that same advice and cut back on the sauce to let the meat shine.  One of my worst boxes I ever judged was NOT over sauced…just overcooked! Burnt in fact, so bad the bones were popping through the crusty, petrified, burnt meat. That was bad enough but the team looked to have at the last second thrown the bones in the box and ran, and then fell on their way to turn in.  The even funnier thing was there were only 5 bones in the box. As bad as those five were we all wondered how bad bone number six was that the team chose not to include it?

    Pork – LOVED a box I had once which had three meat selections in it with three different sauces applied. The NC chopped look had a NC vinegar based sauce on it. The money muscle was a Memphis flavor and the pulled meat was Kansas City flavored.  We normally, as routine, see the same flavor on all the meat in the box and that’s fine too. I just thought that team went above and beyond and their selections fit the meat itself. I rewarded them for that choice.

    Brisket – And this is the one I hear teams comment on more than anything else. “If we don’t put burnt ends in the box the judges are going to score us down.”  Yes I am sure there are a few poor judges who may be doing so. I cannot say as I, myself, have never done so. Nor have I ever heard a judge at a table I was judging or table captaining say so.  I myself want your best. Unfortunately this is the one category I seem to fill out more comments about one of the two included entrees the team hurt themselves by including. KCBS does not tell us how to score when the slice is a 9 – 9 for taste and tenderness and the burnt end is a 3 – 3. So we are left with averaging or choosing to weigh a bit higher that the excellent outweighed the poor, or visa versa.

    Know that sometimes your cook just did not go as planned and sometimes you have to turn in what you have and hope for the best.   Just don’t over think it. KISS comes to mind.

    Good luck to each of you and I hope this will be of some help.

    Bill Jones