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   By: Mark & Gretchen Noordsy KCBS Master Judge, SCA, EAT   bbq friends in the world of bbq, it’s the people you meet Photos Courtesy of Mark and Gretchen Noordsy and Tim Mornard Back in the Spring of 2015, I was sitting in the audience of the Minnesota Barbeque Society’s Spring Training Class learning the fundamentals of cooking great BBQ when they mentioned an upcoming KCBS BBQ judging class. Well, that piqued my interest – after all, what better way to taste the best BBQ and meet the cooks that create it? And so, my journey into the world of competitive BBQ judging began. I enlisted my neighbor and fellow BBQ enthusiast to attend the class with me. I was uncertain what to expect as I en- tered the VFW in Owatonna, MN but, I joined a room full of friendly, excited BBQ enthusiasts ready learn how to judge BBQ. Recently retired KCBS reps, Dave and Virginia Lon- deen quieted the crowd and the learning began. Dave walked us through what to expect in the boxes, what to look for in the way of illegal garnish or marking and how the scoring worked (I’m thinking, when do we eat?). Vir- ginia worked with the BBQ teams that day and prepped the boxes for presentation. Everything, from the classroom training to the preparation of the boxes, was carefully or- chestrated to create a focused learning environment to prepare us for competition judging. I quickly learned that judging BBQ is something to be taken seriously. First and foremost, we learned to judge what is in the box, not what you think should be in the box. We learned not to compare entries and not to compare them to how you might cook. Judge to the KCBS standards and be consis- tent. We also were presented with an array of garnishes to help us learn what is legal, what isn’t, and that garnish is optional and is not judged. Only then, was the first box passed for us to sample. Intentionally, the boxes weren’t perfect. Pooled sauce, less than 6 samples, illegal garnish, etc. – all to prepare us for what we might see at a competi- tion. I found doing the actual scoring to be the hardest and most interesting. After we scored each protein, Dave asked us to raise our hands based on our score. It was a visual way to see if you were consistent with the room. We then discussed our scores. There were no “right or wrong” an- swers, rather an opportunity to both defend your score and learn from the discussion. With my new KCBS judge badge in hand, I was ready to judge my first contest. Well, not so fast. I quickly learned that judges register to judge months in advance and most contests I checked in my area were already full. In August, however, I found the Med City BBQ contest in Rochester, MN had openings and I was in. I took to social media to find out what to bring and how to prepare. A wealth of helpful information came pouring in. Just another example of the great people in the world of BBQ. The night before, I made sure I had my badge, my KCBS membership card, a towel, a pen, a cooler, directions and a positive attitude. I arrived at the contest site extra early and thought how am I going to figure out where to go? Well, that’s easy ... just look for the smoke and follow your nose. I found the right building and checked in. I grabbed a coveted end seat and introduced myself to my table captain, Tim Mornard. I told him this was my first contest and he and his wife Melanie took this rookie judge under their wing and welcomed me to the world of BBQ judging. Then, the reality of it all set in ... don’t drop the box, be fair in your scoring, take ade- quate bites, don’t drip sauce on your scorecard, don’t lick your fingers, write clearly and remember you can’t change your score once you write it down. Plus, look for illegal garnish, foreign objects and marked containers. Tim sensed all this running through my mind and calmly told me to relax and ask any questions I might have. Melanie, SEPTEMBER 2019 - 39 

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