We, the judges…
FRISCO – “We are all carnivores here?” John Ross queried our sea of nodding heads. “Good.”
And we love it.
We – the newest class of Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) judges – swore faithfully Thursday night to execute our duty to uphold truth, justice, excellence in barbecue and the American way of life this Saturday as the flavorful smoke wafts down Frisco’s Main Street and we are charged with naming competition winners.
Mixed up with the pork butt, brisket, ribs and chicken bulging under our brown-stained shirts this weekend will be the fate of the 81 teams competing in Frisco Coors Light Colorado Barbecue Challenge.
“Even the first-timers here are as serious as a heart attack,” warned Ross, vice president of the the KCBS and a master certified judge.
Ross holds a Ph.B, or doctorate in the philosophy of barbeque. He suffered a written exam and oral dissertation to attain it.
He’s not joking either.
He carried a bat during judges’ class to prove it.
“Oh, because it gets your attention,” he said to a student inquiring as to its purpose. He then landed a few solid thumps on a nearby table to underscore his point.
To contestants who travel up to a few hundred miles, place down the $200 entry fee and spend up to $600 on the meat they will serve, the barbecue challenge this weekend is no laughing matter.
Ross said that, all told, contestants plop down nearly $1,000 apiece to spend a few days cooking for a discerning panel of judges.
Granted, they have a little fun along the way, but up for grabs are $1,500, a championship buckle and an $1,800 Kingfisher Kountry Kooker, not to mention the prestige of having the trophy to prove you put your neighbors to shame on the Fourth of July.
“It’s going to be a bigger contest than ever,” exhorted organizer Brenda Cameron of the Summit County Rotary Club, who holds the official title head hog.
The 81 teams will fill Main Street between Frisco’s First and Third Avenues, and are expected to produce a financial draw that will top the $55,000 raised last year for the Rotary Club’s charities.
The categories range from chicken to ribs to salsa. Pork butt, for the neophytes, actually comes from the pig’s shoulder.
However, for those of us facing the prospect of packing up to four of five pounds of meat into our guts, that wasn’t the first thing on our minds as we sat through three and a half hours of class to gain our new, honorable distinctions.
“You’re going to eat more than you ever wanted to in one sitting,” Cameron warned.
We then tested our skills on four rounds of offerings designed to try our palates and challenge our skills of observation.
“I don’t eat rabbit food,” said one prospective judge as he listened to the rules surrounding various categories of forbidden and confusing garnishes that could disqualify a contestant.
Parsley is permitted. So is green lettuce and cilantro.
Cabbage, red-topped lettuce and virtually everything else are not.
“This vegetable thing is going to piss me off,” he said. “I don’t eat this crap. I don’t know what it is.”
“That’s why I came here – to eat meat,” he concluded.
Most of us nodded in agreement.
But patiently, we listened. We studied and we pledged.
Now we’re ready to pack it in, as one contestant succinctly observed.
“(Let’s) just all stand up, recite the oath, and it’s on,” he said.
Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or email@example.com.
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