To Judge Or Not To Judge
A couple of things that I believe are of top importance in the “professional barbecue competition Cook Off world” are Judging and Scoring. I feel this is most important at both, full two-day hard-core cook offs and the lighter one-day events. If someone has elected to take a barbecue judging class they should follow through with the commitment and plan to help the professional barbecue association that needs their help so badly. When you take a judging class you should have a clear understanding that you commit and take very seriously just what an important role you play in competition barbecue. It is not fair to the organizing association and individuals that work their asses off so hard to host a top notch cook off. Most importantly it is not fair to the barbecue teams that put so much heart, soul and money into this sport to end up having a pool of judges that cannot commit to fulfilling the judges oath.
A point in hand is over the weekend of July 18th & 19th Tom Wallin spent countless hours organizing an outstanding championship barbecue cook off with top prize money. Unfortunately half the judges had to be recruited from the shopping center employees thus the pro teams were not judged by highly trained & certified judges. This also taxes the resources of the head judge and volunteers by having to put on a impromptu short version of a judging class to many people that have no clue other than a trip to McDonald’s for some McRib just what competition style BBQ truly is. I know this same concern has occurred countless times in the Northwest. Just as it occurred at Gold Dust Days BBQ Cook Off on July 25, 2009. Five of the 12 judges had to be recruited from the community at the last minute because we could not get enough certified judges to make the one hour trip from Seattle to Gold Bar to see that all barbecue teams received the best judging possible. Before the judging started in Gold Bar I had the chance to talk with a few of the community judges one of them had informed me that they have the best rib recipe in the world it started with boiling your ribs (need I say more)? One judge has a super BBQ chicken in the oven recipe that involved liquid smoke and a couple of community judges had never had Tri-Tip in their life. It’s reassuring to know that certified BBQ judges do not have to commit to events and that we can find eager replacements on the spot that understand just what barbecue should taste and look like with such confidence that they have no problem issuing 2’s 3’s & 4’s to top NW BBQ cooks. NOT!
I understand it is a volunteer position and there are many things happening in the summer months that take up much of our family time but you must have known when you made the commitment that you wanted to be a trained BBQ judge that most of the BBQ cook offs take place in the late spring and summer months in the Pacific NW. Barbecue is a family activity for many teams and can also be a family activity for judges and volunteers. Plan a weekend trip or a family vacation around a contest you and your whole family will love it. I am sure that through out the year you hold your head high and pronounce with pride at a party or family gathering “I am a certified professional barbecue judge” and your friends envy you for it. Now don’t be a judge in name only, get out there and judge with pride knowing that when teams make that walk that you are part of the reason. It is so much more then judging for 4 hours and eating some of the best bbq in the world. It is traveling to new places, meeting up with new and old friends. Do what the teams do, cook & practice barbecuing, glean what you can from the many cookbooks out there. Ask a team if you can help them at a contest, watch BBQ shows on TV and listen on the radio and internet, check out many of the 100’s of web sites dedicated to the wonderful world of barbecue and foremost judge more then just one contest a year.
You the knowledgeable, trained certified barbecue judge are truly the determining factor of just what is excellent barbecue. Your Association needs you and your barbecue teams need you.
A couple ideas I think barbecue associations can do:
Barbecue associations could sit down at one annual meeting at least a year with all certified judges go over the list of upcoming events for the year and start signing up judges then and there. Also have a head judge, judge and volunteer of the year awards and an Appreciation Banquet that is catered by the top BBQ teams of the year that is just for honoring the judges and volunteers.
That’s how I feel.