To garnish or not to garnish, that is the question
There was barbequing going on.
Barbeque enthusiasts crowded into Crossroads Auto Repair Saturday (March 17) to learn how to become certified Kansas City Barbeque Society judges.
They hope to be chosen to judge Fluvanna’s first KCBS sanctioned barbeque competition June 23 at Pleasant Grove – BB, Bands and Brews - sponsored by the Fluvanna County Chamber of Commerce.
The wannabe judges came from all over: Virginia, Maryland – even Georgia –for the opportunity to eat smoked, grilled chicken, pork butt, ribs and beef brisket.
Don Hartwell, from North Carolina, taught the 37 students the finer points of judging. He covered things like:
- Appearance, taste and tenderness;
- Scoring on a two to nine-point scale (two stands for inedible);
- Judges may not cut, slice or shake (the meat) to separate pieces;
- Sauce is optional but it must be on the meat only, no cups or pooling in the container;
- Chunks in the sauce must be no larger than an 1/8 inch cube;
- Garnishing is allowed, but only fresh, green lettuce, flat or curly parsley and cilantro are legal garnishes – kale, red leaf lettuce, endive, cabbage and lettuce hearts are prohibited.
“We’re not telling you to change your tastes, your preferred flavors,” Hartwell said. “Judge based on your taste. Just be consistent. I tell people that if they cook eastern North Carolina barbeque, they’re probably not going to win because most people don’t like that style. Not a lot of people like mustard or mayonnaise based sauces. They’re looking for tomato-based sauces. It has taken the regional element out of cooking, but that’s just the way it is.”
While the students were inside learning, John Atkins, owner of The BBQ Connection, was outside barbequing. Just like in a regular competition, the students would receive a white Styrofoam box filled with each of the four cuts of falling off the bone, smoked and seasoned meat.
Timothy Williamson of Reston was one of those paying $90 to learn how to judge competitions. He wants to become certified to judge the annual Safeway BBQ competition in Northern Virginia.
“I was born and raised in the South – barbeque is my life,” Williamson said. “I smoke (meat) at home. I love the culture of it. Friends and family. Good times and good eats. I’m also an engineer so I enjoy the science of it. Taking a tough cut of meat – something most cooks wouldn’t bother with and turning it into something everyone wants to get their hands on.”
Closer to home were Bob McDermott, Roger Koltz, Dennis Kidd and Dan Nunziato, all from Fluvanna.
Nunziato took the class because he likes to eat and he’s curious, he said.
Ditto for McDermott.
“I’ve traveled the country and everywhere I’ve gone to I seek out barbeque,” he said. “I want to be more educated about what I’m eating.”
Kidd said he started cooking at 12 “on the dairy farm.” He wants to enter a few contests and is taking the judging class to get clued in on preferences and patterns.
“I want to see what they (judges) are looking for,” Kidd said.
Koltz is another competitive cook.
“I’m a competition chili cook,” he said. “I’ve done some barbeque contests in Kansas City, D.C. and Memphis. I want to get back into it. I’m originally from Texas so I know a lot about brisket.”
While going over the sanctioned garnishes, Hartwell waxed eloquent about the pros and cons of a new trend: parsley boxes.
A few years ago competitors started cutting up fresh parsley and covering the bottom of the box with the garnish, then layering the meats to be judged on top.
“It looks real pretty,” Hartwell said. “But when you pick up the meat it has all these little bits of parsley stuck to it that you have to peel off. It’s kind of a hassle.”
Brenda Rigsby, of the Chamber of Commerce, sat in the back of the room soaking it all in, excited about the upcoming event.
There will be 31 KCBS certified teams taking part in BBQ, Blues and Brews, including 15 from the area, she said.
Blue Mountain Brewery will bring in 20 craft brews. There will be seven food vendors and as many as 70 craft vendors, she said. Two bands, including the Rondelles from Virginia Beach will play from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rigsby said she hopes it will bring people from far and wide into Fluvanna.
“The governor has recognized this as a state event,” Rigsby said. “He’s promoting it. He’s put his stamp of approval on it.”