6th Annual California Honey Harvest Festival & BBQ Championship - 6/10/2017
Today started off with an early morning drive through the misty Los Angeles rain. Being that this was my first time attending a BBQ competition, that is as a judge, I was very excited to experience another side of competitions. Please note that we do not have our phones turned on during judging and we do not take photos of what we eat. I'm 100% supportive of this rule, but you just won't get to see any photographs of what I actually got to eat. (The end of this post does have some photographs of some special gifts all the judges were given).
We began the day with a judge meeting to make sure everyone was on location and that we had enough judges; if you aren't aware, we have 1 judge per team that is competing in each competition. Today, we had 39 judges due to 39 competing in this competition, with 6 judges per table (we added extra judges who showed up to make 42 since we need full tables of judges to keep things fair for all teams). I won't share which table I was at because this is totally irrelevant, but it was truly an experience that I will never forget.
At the beginning of the competition we began judging chicken as that is the first turn in category for all KCBS sanctioned events. My table judged 6 different entries of chicken; not all were thighs as is usually the most common turn in. We were given 30 minutes to eat, score, clean up, and prepare for the next turn in. It might sound like a lot of time, but it's really not. We don't rush, but we do our very best to get the scores to the contest rep as fast as we can so that we don't delay the contest. There's a ton going on inside the judges' tent, so it's super important for us to do our job as efficiently as we can; it's not a race or a buffet. Those concepts have nothing to do with being a certified BBQ judge for KCBS.
The next category was ribs. We allow pork ribs, but no beef ribs. The type of pork ribs used is up to each team. For this category my team actually received 7 team's turn ins so it was a little more work for this round. After another 30 minutes we moved on to pork. Pork is chopped, pulled, diced, sliced, etc. I won't say specifically what we got at my table, but it was a variety of final products, including some money muscle. If you don't know what money muscle is, I'd suggest looking more into this because you're missing out. It's not something that automatically makes you score higher with judges, but it has the potential to. If we get it in the turn in box, then we eat it, because that's how judging works. So it's not like we get to ignore everything else and just fill our stomachs on money muscle. The whole thing about money muscle is that it's not the actual name for the musle; it just gets that name because many times when teams turn in that specific charred part of succulent meat, they win big money. In this case, I have no idea who turned in what because we have double blind judging. I do know that after the final category of brisket, I had 6 turn ins for that at my table and that gave me a total of 25 different teams' turn ins that I tried. We never taste the same team a second time so as you can imagine, that'a A LOT of different types of BBQ.
I want to conclude by thanking KCBS and Bennet's Honey Farm for the opportunity to participate as a judge at this wonderful event. We were given gift bags and aprons for volunteering; truly generous and unexpected as we were simply fulfilling our roles as judges in order to make sure the event was able to occur. Here's a few photographs from what we got. The oranges are amazing tasting, and the honey was really, really good quality stuff. I still have to dig into the juicy lemons and avocados. In all, this was a great day to start my journey as a BBQ judge!