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                who was working the grazing table, also stopped by with a reassuring pat on the back. The other judges filed in and warmly greeted each other and rekindled friendships. We listened to the KCBS CD and took the oath. I was ready. I still remember Tim holding that first box of chicken and saying, “box number 132, for the appearance of the meat only”. And me thinking, “holy crap”, is that a 7, 8 or 9! While some of the judging criteria is objective, most of it is subjective. I tried very hard that day and every contest since, to be as fair, consistent and objective as I can be. The cooks expect that and most judges I know do exactly that. I made it through my first contest with Tim’s calming presence, Melanie’s reassurance and Dave Londeen’s re- view of the table’s cards after each protein yielding a, “pretty consistent” comment. After judging, I packed up my samples and placed them in my cooler for the trip home. I have since stopped taking food home and enjoy it during judging when it is fresh and at its peak. It took me five BBQ seasons to complete the thirty contests necessary to become a KCBS Master Judge. During that time, we (as Gretchen is now a table captain) have traveled nearly 10,000 miles, met nine different sets of contest reps, travelled to Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Iowa and Oklahoma and racked up expenses of just over $11,000 when mileage, lodging and other expenses are included. That works out to about $350 per contest on average. While that isn’t anywhere near what a cook team spends to compete each weekend, it does show that being a judge isn’t free either and it is a serious commitment to the sport. We didn’t have to spend that much, it was our choice to travel to Shawnee, Oklahoma or Green Bay, Wis- consin or stay overnight when we could have driven home. Doing so allowed us to expand our BBQ palettes, our circle of friends, have more time to talk with the cook teams and it was absolutely worth every penny. Tim and Melanie were friendly, patient and helpful. When I called Tim about this article, I found out why. They have been foster parents to 48 kids over the years in addition to their own 3 children and currently have 7 grandchildren. Their advice to me that day was to relax and have fun, take time to learn, ask questions and, most importantly, “don’t stress yourself out – life is too short to get upset about BBQ”. I found myself re- membering those words when I was look- ing at my scores as a cook at a Steak Cookoff Association contest. Easy to say, but hard to live by. Tim commented on how strong the BBQ community is, how friendly it is and someone always knows where to get ice cream after the contest. Many thanks to Tim and Melanie who helped me get started on the right foot that day. Melanie and Tim Mornard Future KCBS Master Judges I have many great memories and stories about this journey. Meeting people is certainly one of them. There is Lyle Cole- man who, when we first met, was the or- ganizer of Smokin’ in Steele in Owatonna, MN. Lyle agreed to let me judge only if I helped with the Kid’s Que. He opened my eyes to such an important program to the BBQ sport. Then there is John Burns. I met John at a contest in LaCrosse, WI and he encouraged a number of us to go to the Firelake BBQ contest in Shawnee, OK. Missy Fisher and Aaron Bourdage of the Lucky 19 Sauce Company, who I cooked with, pulled back the curtain on the cook’s side. They gave me a whole new appreciation for what the cook teams do. And, Ed Nichiporick from Manitoba who is connecting BBQ across borders. Of course, there is Kell and Janet Phelps of National Barbecue News, without them I wouldn’t have the opportunity to write  about the people in the world of BBQ each month. A huge thank you to everyone Gretchen and I have met, shared a laugh with and who helped open a whole new world of ex- periences for us. The culmination of the journey was my 30th contest at Cookin’ on Kampeska in Watertown, SD. It was truly a spe- cial day. Many of my judging friends took the time to come to Watertown to be part of the celebration. The day was extra special as I was able to celebrate my 30th along with good friend, Laurie Tweten, who was celebrating her 50th contest. Laurie is tireless in her passion for the sport of BBQ. Not only is she a very active judge and volunteer, but also organizes the Bringin’ Home the Bacon BBQ contest in West Salem, WI along with other BBQ events as well. The contest reps, Ron and Dena Milhous, routed a KCBS place-   THE MOST ADVANCED CHARCOAL GRILL ON THE PLANET Free Shipping and Free Accessories 800.288.GURU - 40 SEPTEMBER 2019 

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