This past weekend I attended the KCBS judging class at the Maynard Rod and Gun Club in Maynard, Massachusetts. I had wanted to attend a judging class for a long time, but this was the first time I was able to make it to one.
While I am planning to judge once in a while, I wanted to attend mostly as a cook. As a competition cook, we live and die by the scores given to us by judges. The ones that give us high scores are cheered, the ones who give low scores are cursed. I have to say, that I didn't learn a tremendous amount that will help me in competitions. But I did learn a lot overall.
When I arrived, it was good to see that Brendan Burek of Transformer BBQ and Steve Farrin of I Smell Smoke!!! were going to be cooking for the class. At least I knew that we would be eating some good Q.
I was impressed to see that Mike Lake, President of the Kansas City Barbeque Society, had flown in from Illinois for the class. Since there were more than 80 new judges being trained, apparently the organization felt it was important for him to be there. I thought this was a great bonus for the people who attended the class.
Mike Lake and ubiquitous New England KCBS rep Ken Dakai instructed the class. They did a really good job of explaining the important role of the judges. I believe this was Ken's first judging class as an instructor, and he did a great job. I probably haven't said it before in this space, but Ken and his wife Kathy make a tremendous contribution to competition BBQ in the Northeast. They deserve a lot of credit for what they do, and it is appreciated.
While there were some experienced cooks there, clearly many of the attendees knew very little about competition BBQ. This was clear by many of the questions and the wide differential of scores early on in the class. The instructors did a good job of explaining how important it is to be consistent as a judge, and you could see the difference as the class went on.
However, there are a few people in the class that I hope my food never ends up at their table. One guy didn't want to give a score higher than a 5 for anything. Another guy was a bottomless pit of inane questions. But overall, I feel a lot of good judges have just entered the pool. As the class wrapped up, we took the oath of being a KCBS judge, which reads....
"I do solemnly swear to objectively and subjectively evaluate each Barbeque meat that is presented to my eyes, my nose, my hands and my palate. I accept my duty to be an Official KCBS Certified Judge, so that truth, justice, excellence in Barbeque and the American Way of Life may be strengthened and preserved forever."
And at that point, I became a certified KCBS judge! My name tag will be arriving soon in the mail, and I already have a hat with pins to wear when I judge. I expect to make my judging debut at the Peter's Pond contest in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in June.