Last weekend, Vince and I pushed our physical abilities to the limit.
We did what few can - or want - to do.
We experienced something life changing.
We changed the lives of others.
We made new friends, and we are bound forever by the shared trials and tribulations we survived.
How did we do this?
We trained daily, scheduling 3-5 practices per day.
We wrote spirited entry applications.
We donated to the cause.
What did we do?
We judged the American Royal World Series of Barbecue.
How did we win this golden ticket? To be honest, I don't really know.
This summer I received an email calling for "applications" to judge both Open Sides/Desserts and Open Meat. Vince and I decided to sign up for both!
The American Royal Association was founded in 1899 in Kansas City. It is a non-profit organization that "celebrates our region's rich agricultural heritage through competition, education and entertainment". The association's main annual events include the rodeo (so fun!), school tours (where kids from local elementary schools get to learn about agriculture and meet farm animals for the first time!), livestock competitions, and - of course - the barbecue!
The organization's World Series of Barbecue began in 1980 in the parking lot of the Golden Ox in the West Bottoms neighborhood of Kansas City. Fast forward 36 successful years to the largest and most prestigious barbecue competition on the globe! This year, over 50,000 patrons and competitors from all over the country - and world! - flocked to the competition for a weekend of cooking, partying, and - most importantly - EATING.
This year was the first year that the competition moved out of its West Bottoms home at the American Royal Complex to Arrowhead Stadium. While many Kansas Citians (ourselves included) balked at the idea of upsetting this tradition, the move really did help the Royal. They were able to accommodate 10% more competition entries (618 teams total) and parking was much better for patrons. I'm still nostalgic for all of those smokey fall memories in the West Bottoms, but on to bigger and better things for the Royal!
Most people that get to judge this the World Series of BBQ, especially the invitational entries, are Kansas City Barbecue Society- (KCBS) certified judges. This is the BBQ society that started it all - literally! Every BBQ society in the world is based on this one, the first one. How cool is it that this all started in KC? If this doesn't prove that Kansas City is the BBQ capital of the world, I don't know what is. You can become a certified judge by taking their class and passing it. I think Vince and I will take the class in 2016!
[space_20] We couldn't take any photos inside the judging area, so sadly I don't have any photos of the AMAZING sides, desserts, and meats we enjoyed all weekend. You'll have to console yourselves with this photo of our wristbands: [space_20]
This morning we are upholding the American way of life. Here's to the World Series of BBQ #kcbs #americanroyal #bbq #kcpride A photo posted by www.weekendsandwanders.com (@weekends.and.wanders) on
We received all of our instructions for judging, parking, conduct, etc. via email a week or so before the competition.
On Saturday we judged sides and desserts. This is such a fun event to judge! We had about 450 other judges with us all inside Arrowhead Stadium. Each table had six judges (a mixture of KCBS-certified judges and rookies like us) and a table captain. The table captain's job is to bring all of the food entries to their table, present them to the judges, help serve, and collect judging scoresheets. My table on Sides day consisted of 3 KC natives, two (KCBS) Chicago judges, and a Minnesota judge.
We tasted four categories:
Each category served us 4-6 entries, and the servings were generous! I felt really bad wasting so much of my servings since there's no way I could have eaten all of each item we judged, but a lot of judges took home the leftovers of their favorites so that's good.
I think the potato course was probably my favorite. We had some delicious cheesy corn-potato concoctions that were wonderful. I think this category is what did me in before desserts, our final category. When our table's servings came out they got a lot of buzz from the room for their complexity. Dessert competitors really go all out! One of our entries was a three-tier tray with apple pie jars, pie "cookies", and custard-filled chocolate covered strawberries. And that was ONE entry! We also judged huge portions of two cheesecakes and a bread pudding.
By the time we finished desserts I was uncomfortable. I spent the entire drive home whining and then took a 1.5-hour nap :)
On Sunday, we judged the World Series of BBQ meats! I was even more nervous about this day after how full I got from the sides the day before. We were going to be judging more entries and more filling food this day!
We were seated in a room with 750 judges this time. This was the big leagues! We judged:
I think the porks were my absolute favorites. MAN they were good. And the chicken entries were fantastic too. Vince's table (spouses aren't allowed to sit together for judging) got really bad chicken entries, so I saved him some of our table's. We forgot to bring any baggies or a cooler to bring home our samples, but my table was incredibly friendly and they shared their baggies with me! We got to bring home samples of pretty much everything.
The meat judging went really smoothly and I was more thoughtful about how much I sampled of each entry, no matter how much I liked it. This really payed off because by the end I was still feeling fine. So fine, in fact, that I ran 10 miles later that day. I guess BBQ is my running fuel?
Vince and I can't wait to take the KCBS certification course in 2016 so we can come back as even more knowledgable World Series of BBQ judges next year!