If you didn't read last weeks
article then please read it.
It looks like this has turned into something that is bigger
than I expected it would be. Some
of the things I talked about have already been started in some parts
of the country. I got a lot of email with a lot of great suggestions.
If I included all of the email this would read something like a
book. So, I will use some
quotes from some of the people who offered ideas.
I can't possibly include everyone's comments so if I miss your
suggestion this time you my see it in a future article.
I talked about several things last week but the
ones that got the most attention were as follows:
does the public view these contests
need to get some good BBQ to the public.
need a "Program or Guide" to sell or give to the public
idea of "tours for the public."
So, lets take things one at a time.
Here are some of the email comments about BBQ contests.
All comments are from people who sent email.
The comments are excerpts from the original and may be out of
context at times.
does the public view these BBQ Contest?
My wife and I are the very definition of
"the spectators" you describe. We visited several of
the larger barbecue contests in Kansas City in years past. We stopped
attending because there was actually nothing to do once we finally
made your way into the contest site. We were new to this area
then and didn't know anyone participating. It became evident
very quickly that without connections at a competition, it was
somewhat confusing and very boring.
Several years have passed. With the
hiring a new office manager who actually competes in a couple contests
a year, I have a rejuvenated interested in competitive bbq. So
much so, that I have recently completed the KCBS certified judging
course, signed up to judge a couple of upcoming events, and am
researching the purchase of a large, pricey smoker to eventually try
my hand at competition.
I couldn't agree with you more. I have been
a spectator at one of these events and was bored out of my skull.
There was no interaction with the contestants, there was no
information available to the public, and little enthusiasm from
contestants to share their love of fire and food with the spectators
(Ray Basso) There were a lot of comments like
these two. There just
isn't much there for spectators at these contests.
Last year at the Beef outing in Emporia
and this year at the Q cook off in Topeka nearly everyone said they
didn't even know it was going on until it was over! That is a
shame and an injustice to the participants!
about getting some good BBQ to the public attending these contests.
Good for you for observing and listening
to members of the general public who have come to bbq contests
expecting to eat and have fun, and not always getting what they
expected. It's a cardinal sin to attract
people to a place where the best food known to man is just a few feet
away from them, and then tell them they can't have any. Who wouldn't
be furious!!? I understand the importance of safe food handling and
the enforcement thereof, but we need to be up front with the public
about what to expect at a contest, and how to enjoy it. We also have
to come up with creative, legal ways to FEED THE PEOPLE.
I was at Laurie(this weekend).
Pursuant to your ideas about the future of contests, we discussed
several ideas Friday night over drinks. One of the things we
liked about Laurie was their complimentary chicken wings on Friday
Night. One of the grocery store in Laurie, over the last three
or more years, has donated chicken wings. Any contestant who
wants to and will cook the wings, will pass them out to the public
that evening. This was promoted and there were a lot of the
public there. No admission was charged. Just a different
angle we saw that worked.
I saw a program last night on a contest
they have in Owensboro Kentucky. The contest draws thousands of
people to eat BBQ'd mutton and a stew called Burgoo.
Why the huge attendance? The teams sell their food. Almost
all of the teams sell out of food within an hour. They submit
samples to the judges for the competition, and the public eats.
IMO, the flavor of good BBQ is its best advertisement and the best
draw for the public. It would also help the teams offset the
high costs of competing. Heck, top teams could auction off their
BBQ to the highest bidder. (I was surprised when a BBQ dinner at
my house went for $135 at a recent church auction). The fun for
the public would be to eat the 'Q of the Grand Champion and then brag
about it. The money would enable the contestants to compete more
often and upgrade their equipment. Contests would get bigger,
prize money would increase. The thing would snowball .
Before I got into BBQ I was drug down to
the American Royal and was very disappointed in the fact that you
could starve to death in a place where thousands of pounds of meat
were being cooked. A year or two later I got into BBQ and have tried
to consider my first American Royal experience when I'm out there
cooking. I try to talk to people as they walk by and look in on what
I'm doing and will often times invite them into our space to see the
smokers and talk BBQ with them, offer up a beer or soda and if I have
something done and ready to eat , Give them a taste. That type of
interaction is what will take BBQ to the next level.
I remember doing the Royal one year and
saw a couple get totally irate that they spent money to get in and
couldn't eat anything. I don't blame them, I would be mad too. I'm
sure they weren't the only people that got mad. What they should do is
put up huge signs saying PRIVATE PARTIES -DON'T COME IN UNLESS YOU
I totally agree that some way must be found
to let the public sample the BBQ. I am not interested in attending
cook-offs because I don't get a taste of what the other guys are doing
and how much better mine is than theirs. That's a joke, son! I don't
see any way BBQ cookoffs are ever going to be serious events with the
public without this. If the competitors want it to remain an esoteric
event ( and that may not be a bad thing) then the present practice can
about having a "Program" to give or sell at these events.
I totally agree with you. BBQ just
needs some marketing and education of the public. NASCAR started
out very small. Contest organizers could use a little education
as well. I just had a contest organizer e-mail me and say I
could not use my Traeger as KCBS does not allow electric cookers.
The program is an excellent idea. If
nothing else it will stop the public from asking "I've never been
to one of these, am I suppose to buy food from you?" I
always feel like a jerk when I tell them that I have no food for them.
Additionally, with a name like Smokin' Salmons they can see in the
program that I do not cook salmon but it is my name.
Teams could send in a short bio with their
registration form. Organizers could allow a few teams in without
paying or paying a reduced fee if they cooked samples for the public
as well as the contest. Allowing BBQ venders (products and
demonstrations) in at a reasonable cost would aid in the education of
the public on products that the contestants use.
Selling a printed program with team bio
info is a great idea. To keep the cost down, the promoter could
I am in charge of the Alabama State Championship in
Decatur, Al. and we might try some of the additional ideas you have
come up with. We already put together a program that explains the
rules, etc., to the public and profiles several of the teams. It is a
sponsor driven program, very shiny and professionally done. I say it
is sponsor driven because we give it away to all who enter (one
sponsor is always a printer). We do need to add the list of events
around the country to show how big this is becoming.
I like your comments. I forwarded a copy
to the organizers of Riverfest-in Decatur Al...
I hope that they can do a flyer/hand-out...and also maybe some tours.
I remember my first few BBQ contests and all I could do was
watch, slowly people began to recognize my familiar face and I was
able to get the fine people on the teams to open up.
for the public and other ideas.
I attended the NRA convention in KC
this year and saw something that may be of interest.
There are different kinds of shooting
sports such as hunting, target shooting with pistols, high power
rifles, smallbore rifles, shotgun sports of several kinds, single
action shooters, black powder, and on and on.
There were several rooms with a
hundred chairs or so in each of them and all during the day there were
different educational programs going on in them. Each area was
there promoting and informing about their interests, usually sponsored
by a manufacturer. There was no charge to attend any session for
NRA members. You had to be an NRA member to attend the
convention. What they were doing was educating and informing
people of all the other things going on in shooting sports.
At the big contests, it seems to me
their needs to be a special effort to draw new people into
barbecue. It should be the vested interest of manufacturers, not
only to be there and support those already using their products,
but also to appeal and educate and sell those visitors who could
become their customers. Buying a ticket would permit folk to sit
in any of these sessions.
Seems to me this would have to come
from a national organization that could derive funds from a large
membership. A large membership will only happen if
potential members see and receive worthwhile benefits from joining.
The teams need to spend some time
before/after the judging and have seminars on how to smoke for the
common grillers. To charge for it or not to charge is the
I think there is one very bold move that would
get things on the right track to good relations with the public.
Judging on Sunday. You cite many people
disappointed about us not talking to them but I'd bet a lot of this
occurred on Saturday close to or during the judging. If these folks
had been strolling around Friday evening they might have found a
different situation. Of course if I didn't know better I'd think
Noon on Saturday was a good time to show up too. If teams were setup
or in the process of setting up on Saturday you'd find a lot more
interaction. Many of us would be there Friday anyway.
Of course my proposal would also solve the
problem of the public showing up at 4:00 Saturday to find us all
packed up. That's clearly not good PR. If NASCAR ran their races on
Saturday morning they wouldn't be where they are today........
These vendors would surely prefer an event that didn't end Saturday
afternoon. John Underwood in Decatur uses some of these vendors
and they do a good job of making top quality BBQ available
to the public while not obligating the teams that just want to
1. Set up a free "learn to be a BBQ judge" class that only
lasts 30 minutes to an hour. Get somebody who's not competition
cooking and who's very entertaining to run through chicken, ribs, pork
and brisket with samples for the participants. Get a local company or
BBQ company to sponsor the class and give away coupons for the
company's products. This would NOT be to certify judges, just to show
the public what judges do (with tasty tidbits to make it more fun). If
you set it up between the judges' meeting and the first turn-in, or
after last turn-in and before awards, you could get actual judges to
do the class. I'd volunteer - it would be fun.
2. Many festivals (non-BBQ) do a
"taste of" row of restaurant booths where festival-goers can
taste the best stuff the restaurants have - at a price, of course. We
could do the same thing at a BBQ contest using volunteers to vend
products produced by the teams (cooked the day or night before) on a
separate site. Even if the product wasn't quite up to judging
standards, it would be better than anything they'd ever eaten in a
restaurant and would give them the chance to say, "I ate the
grand champion's ribs". Those teams who sell sauces or rubs could
also sell them at the off-site "taste of" sites. A lot of
people would buy them if they knew they'd just eaten championship 'que.
Arizona BBQ Society
do not come to BBQ Contests because they are interested in who is
cooking or who wins. They are there to eat good BBQ, and I am not
talking about the vendors selling boiled meat slathered in BBQ Sauce.
I am talking about the product produced at BBQ contests.
about setting up an area displaying the different styles/kinds of
cookers? Show the public how the cookers work and the various price
ranges. You can bet that many of the commercial endeavors would send
some results of their efforts.
think conducting a 30 minute seminar on how, why and what the judges
are looking for would be of interests.
slow pit bbq cooking school would go over as well. After all, these
people love very good pit BBQ, so show them how it is done. Run the
judging school about 45 minutes long and repeat and run the cooking
school at an hour long and repeat.
You need some outgoing and witty people
(or judges) to lead tours, give talks, cook and explain,
etc. etc. etc.
I love the idea of the tours. I think
they would be a great idea and well received as well.
I intend on using, with your permission, some of the ideas
you have presented in our contest. We are 30 days away from our event
and I still have a hundred things to do for or event but I'm going to
peruse this. I liked the event tour idea and the completion guidebook
with histories etc...
However, your description paints a mental
picture of a carnival type atmosphere with fire-eaters and men on 16'
stilts walking around with the sound of a strained voice offer to
guess your weight off in the distance.
Even though people love a carnival, I think a more controlled
chaos type setting would generate more of a buzz amongst spectators.
Maybe rather than guided tours, there are a dozen or so BBQ
Ambassadors strolling about the grounds, available to answer anyone's
question. Of course, they would know most of the teams because
of their history in the "sport" and they were involved in
the check-in process. They would have a good general knowledge
of equipment, techniques, processes, and good barbecue in general.
They would be easy to pick out of the crowds because of the
contest marked hat and vests they wear. These people would be
similar to the Kansas City Chiefs Red Coats, the Kansas City Royals
Lancers, and heck, maybe even the Wal-Mart Greeters! It would be
the Ambassador's business to speak to most everyone, even if it were
just a simple greeting.
The contest participants would make their booths more people oriented
with things like required banners with team names and their hometowns.
Each team would designate someone to greet passers-by and chat
with interested onlookers. The BBQ Ambassadors would call on
this person to answer questions specific to their team. The
teams would also offer up more of the great barbecue left over after
the entry is submitted as good will to those who chose to pay
admission to tour the grounds.
As you suggested, at a specific location, a sampling of good barbecue
would be offered to those interested (who could resist?). How
many people say that firing up the smoker brings out neighbors they
haven't seen in weeks? As a spectator, I suffer bbq envy ten
fold after walking the grounds. A taste of melt-in-your-mouth
smoked brisket or pulled pork fresh out of the smoker would be enough
to convince me to get excited about barbecue. And if I were a
smart retailer, I would set up my well-stocked booth of various
sauces, a wide variety of barbecue books, and the latest videos right
at the exit where those delirious observers can gobble them up on
their way home.
Speaking of vendors, touring the grounds would obviously get the
spectators' bbq juices flowing. For that reason, equipment
manufacturers, suppliers and retailers of barbecue related items would
be encouraged to staff a booth displaying their products. Vendors
from related areas like lawn & garden, kitchen gadgets, and
automotive items could display their products as well.
Similar to display booths at other events, these displays would
obviously generate interest in their products.
................. There are so many ideas
to make barbecue more spectator friendly. Here are
just a few other ideas:
· The event organizer could hire a promoter to represent the event.
Good promoters generate big interest in events that sometimes
otherwise go unnoticed.
· Find a spokesperson for barbecue. Look what Emeril Lagasse
has done for
· At a central location schedule three or four 30 minute
presentations Saturday morning on specific topics like barbecue
basics, rubs & marinades, judging, etc. (Maybe get someone like
Chef Paul to speak passionately about the topic)
· Create a mascot similar to the San Diego Chicken or the Philly
· Organize a rib eating contest or other contests for spectators.
· Combine BBQ competitions with other events (i.e. Nascar, Motorcross,
Monster Trucks, RV & Boat shows)
· Provide entertainment for children. This could come in the
form of an area similar to the Fun Zone at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas
City or a simple petting zoo off in the corner of the event.
Baby steps may be what's necessary to move competition barbecue to the
next level. A professional wrestling atmosphere would not
adequately promote these contest. Efforts from several areas are
necessary to generate more interest in these events. Most of
my suggestions stay to the conservative
side as my wife feels I could easily create that carnival atmosphere I
discourage. These ideas attempt to bring more people, which will
in turn bring more interest. More interest brings more sponsors.
More sponsorship translates to more money. The additional
dollars brings added interest by teams, and before you know it, the
whole thing snowballs into something beyond our wildest dreams. Build
it and they will come.
If we had a Buck a Bone option at every
contest you would see the sport get huge. Just like Frisco's contest.
Plus it is a great way to make some extra money for the contestants
and for the City. ( or maybe a charity).
I remember talking to the people running
Frisco a couple of years ago. With in 2 hours they sold 10,000
tickets. They then got another roll and sold 3000 more tickets in
another hour. Buck a ticket. Back then the BBQ'rs got 50cents and the
city took 50. In 3 hours the city made $6500 and the BBQ'rs met a lot
of people made friends and made some money also. I have even had
people come back a year later and ask if we were going to be serving
our BBQ salsa like we did last year. It was great to hear that from
Also, I like
your idea about a program for education, the tours would be nice but a
nightmare to organize. The Buck a Bone is an easy fun quick solution
to get the public interested.
Although I doubt that your suggested tour
idea would actually be very practical, there needs to be some group of
activities which will draw people and maintain their interest.
There does need to be a mechanism for people to actually obtain some
barbeque; that seems terribly logical, but it is also uncommon, at
least for smaller contests.
I suppose that what I envision, again in terms of attracting and
holding public interest, is something along the lines of the
traditional "county fair" event. And of course, one of
the first problems will be thatpromoters of smaller contests, or of
new contests, will be hard-pressed to arrange and coordinate all these
auxillary activities. But "Rome wasn't built in a
day", and if the concept is to attract a large public
interest, it will be necessary to develop a program which appeals to,
and entertains, the general public.
A question I would have, is on the issue of how the public perceives a
cookoff which is tied to a separate event, such as a local rodeo or
already existing county fair. If the cookoff is largely
invisible to the public, then the problem is a matter of promoting the
barbeque as an event along the same lines as, say, calf roping or
bronco riding. And it may well be that the awards ceremony may
have to be both streamlined and jazzed up, in order to hold the
interest of the general public.
Having said all that, let me submit for consideration that there is
nothing wrong with having a contest which does nothing except.....have
that contest. However, that choice of a program will do nothing
promote public interest; it will serve only to provide a venue for
competing and judging. That's not necessarily bad; but it
doesn't address the issue of attracting people to the activity of
and final comments from Ray and others.
As you can clearly see a lot of valuable ideas
have been opened up for the future of BBQ Contests.
In my estimation, this has started something that I think will
be good for BBQ. Out of
all the email that I received I only had one person kinda get after
me. I think he felt that I was meddling in an area I had no
business being in. At
least that was the impression I got from him.
As it turns out some people have reached the same
conclusions I had reached. Some
people are already implementing some of the ideas I proposed.
I understand that Joe O'Connel
and the SCBBQA is already planning on a visitor's handout, a
visitor's booth and public tours with tasting events.
I'm not surprised. It's clear from the email that many people had reached the
same conclusions I had and just hadn’t voiced them.
After all, at one time in history there were two
people trying to develop the light bulb at the same time. One was trying to make it work with AC and the other with DC.
The same sort of thing is going on in BBQ.
We all have the same goals and ideas maybe one idea is working
on AC and the other DC but we all want to get to the same point.
Well, maybe everyone doesn't want to get to
exactly the same place I would like to see things.
Their view- point is just as valid.
Sometimes I think it's already gotten too
big. If things were like you fantasized just imagine how
restaurant owners, Pit manufactures, anyone with anything to gain,
would go for the win at any cost frame of mind..
Which is fine, if they had divisions at the contests. Professionals
(people in the bbq business, whatever that maybe) and Non-professional
(people competing, not with anything to gain other than pride)
Ray I have recently heard a story of someone buying a Kobe beef
brisket, $225.oo a pound. They
didn’t place, because they didn't cook it right, but that is
So what I'm saying is, it would be cool to have all the things you
stated but there is also something to keeping it small, keeping it
I think separate divisions would be a good idea for the future.
Like, Next Year.
And then there's the comment from:
Part of me can get as carried away as you
were with the vision of big time BBQ and big time money associated
with it. Another huge part of me resists the idea that we should go in
that direction. Seems to me that the more money we put on the stump
for contest winners, the more we feed the insatiable human appetite
for greed. Greed brings out the worst in us. Therefore I favor
generating the big money at contests for charity, educational and
community development purposes, instead of multi million dollar
competitions aimed at lining the pockets of a select few. I'd venture
to suggest that if it became such, most of the individuals competing
today would have no stomach for it, and the field would be dominated
by people in pursuit of money instead of perfect barbecue.
Ray, the barbecuers I know, including you, are 100% committed
to building better communities and a better quality of life for all.
By using the primal power of barbecue and the generous, friendly
qualities of today's competition barbecuers, we can literally change
the world for the better. As for "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire
Barbecuer?", I say let's please not go there. We can't take the
money with us when we die, but we can sure as heck leave behind a
better world than what we were born into.
I would like to make the sport big I still think about:
The Future (from last week)
knows what could happen next, but lets think big for a moment.
Lets take a look into the future.
It’s now the year 2003 and BBQ is big business.
There are over 1,000 contests being held all over the country.
There are 20 major professional money events being held this
year. The average prize
money is $500,000 per event. There
are a couple hundred professional BBQ teams competing in the contests
of year 2003. All the pro
teams have logos of the corporate sponsors on their equipment and
clothes. The big professional contests draw an average of 50,000
spectators to each event. To
top it all off Food TV has a weekly program called the “Iron Chefs
of BBQ. It’s a smash
hit and is being broadcast all over the world.
The movie “BBQ Crazy” is a big box office hit.
It’s the story of the adventures of two men and a woman who
all compete separately in contests.
The movie is centered on the “Big National Contest” and
what they will do to win.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
really enjoyed your ideas and visions. Last year we held our
inaugural Fry's Barbeque Pigskin Classic Cook-Off and we are very
interested in growing the event. Here at the Tostitos Fiesta
Bowl, we are accustomed to hosting large well attended events, but the
Barbeque culture here in Arizona is almost non-existent. We've
received tremendous support from the Arizona BBQ Society and the KCBS,
but it's tough to convince people how much fun this can be if they've
never experienced it before. For our first year, our
attendance was much lower than we had hoped. Your views on
educating the public are right on! The more they understand, the
more they will want to get involved. I agree that these events
can bring in huge numbers if done properly. Our goal is to
create a fun family event with plenty to see and do (and of course
eat!) Thanks again for your vision, it's great to know we're not
you would like to comment to this please email
I will forward all future emails to KCBS and any other BBQ
association that wants them. If
you want your comment to be anonymous then please say so in them email
the last word comes from a long time BBQ
You're going the wrong way. The public
shouldn't be allowed into a contest.
Prize money is getting too big.
Ribbons and trophies are good enough.
When I cook at a contest, I don't want a bunch of strangers
around. I try to avoid eye contact with the general public at all
times. If you don't,
you'll end up answering a bunch of dumb questions.
"Where's the bathrooms"..."where's a guy named
Mike that I work with, I don't know his team name but he's about this
tall and has big gut"... "Are you selling sandwiches?"
In fact there's too many teams too. It ought
to be me and two or three other teams that I know I can beat (all
Have a nice day.
week I'll talk about a little Barbeque book “Whatcha Need to Know to
BARBEQUE Like a Pro”)
Past Comments from Ray:
Review on the Grand Barbecue book and companion video
My Grandfather and his watch
Top Secret Rib Rub Review
The 100,000 message to the BBQ Forum
Some things I like
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