Tag Archive: masters

  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. 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