Dear BBQ Friend:
I'm going to evaluate FBA Judging and in particular the score sheets for the 2012 Thomaston, GA FBA BBQ contest. First, let me congratulate the teams that did well. You have to cook great BBQ to win a contest these days and they always deserve their wins. What comes below is more of a critique of the BBQ judging system than criticizing a judge or two that write down low
The awards ceremony started out with a group of teams including myself all sitting on the Lang trailer enjoying a beer or two. There were about 5 of us there all of which could easily win any given competition. Out of the 5 of us,
there were about 3 calls up to the stage all day long. I knew something went seriously wrong with the judging...
One thing I like about FBA contests is they show what tables and judge numbers you get. I'm on table "9" - that's the table that begins with judge #9. The scores above are for presentation, tenderness, and taste. The judge # is at
the top. I quickly notice judge #14 gave me a 6.5 for taste in chicken! What the hell!? I cook some of the best chicken in the USA and some jack wagon gives me a 6.5? That's got to be some kind of mistake! Somebody's got fat fingers
on the keyboard or something - after all the 6 is right below the 9 isn't it? A 6.5 is almost inedible. This same judge gave me a 10 in presentation and 9 in tenderness. I checked everybody else's chicken taste scores and they
are almost all 8 and above with a few 7's and 7.5's thrown in and one other 6.5 by the same judge. So... if this is right, my chicken was the worst chicken in the contest according to this judge.
Inconsistent is all I can say about table 16 and their ribs judging. Bub-Ba-Q was on the same table and judge 20 gave me 10's and him 8's and then, judging the same ribs, judge 21 gave him 10's and me 8.5's. Go figure!
My scores range from 10/10/10 to 8/9/8. Ummm... somebody's either blind in one eye and can't see out the other or doesn't have any taste buds or both. Everybody else who was lucky enough to get on this pork table did worse than me,
so I guess I should consider that a good thing?
After all, I cooked one of the best briskets in the last year and I just knew it was easily going to get first place! Nope - not even close - 24th is all I could muster from this bunch of tasteless judges. Pit Bulls Up in Smoke got
on this brisket table too and I know they almost always cook a great brisket. He scored a 180 in brisket in Tupelo, MS when he got that Reserve Grand. Looks like judge 24 and 28 were scoring everybody low on this table.
...that there was a new judging class in Thomaston this weekend and all the new judges got to judge their first FBA contest. We knew this going in and everybody said the judging was going to be crazy. And they were right. I spent
somewhere between $600 and $800 bucks, put in about a week's worth of hard work, all so I could be used as a guinea pig for a bunch of new, blind judges with no taste buds!
Just some observations...
Here's the complete score sheet in PDF format...
Let's say you have 69 teams as in this contest. You'll need at least 12 tables and you may have more if you have extra judges. This weekend it looks like there were 12 tables of 6 judges each. Let's say there are just two tables
that are scoring unusually low. That means any given team had about a 17% chance of getting knocked out of a contest just because they happened to get on a low scoring table in one category.
I know it seems like I am bashing judges, but the truth is I am bashing the judging system. I believe judges should be able to write down any score they please. After all, who am I to tell them what they like or don't like? Judges
have different tastes and there's no amount of training that is going to change that.
The problem arises when my box is judged by 6 judges and the next guy is judged by 6 totally different judges with totally different tastes. How can that possibly be fair? The answer is - it can never be fair. And
it's about time that we all realized this and stop masquerading around like it is fair.