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My first American BBQ competition

Written by Julie Perron

When one of the founders of House of BBQ Experts Max Lavoie, our BBQ guru, asked me to come with him to a Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) competition, I wondered what was up. I had never done any competition, and frankly, I was wondering what exactly was going through his head!

But last April as we were having a party at our Québec City shop, Max asked me to come. I agreed to go, half-enthusiastic and half-scared. Because, let’s be real, a KCBS competition is a huge adventure!

After all, the KCBS is the official sanctioning body of competitive barbecue cooking. Each year, KCBS sanctions more than 500 competitions across the country

However, I am not a competitive person. And I must admit that slow cooking is not really my style of BBQing. Basically, I thought I would be a terrible teammate for Max to bring.

But apparently I was wrong! Max chose me for my organizational skills, my big curiosity for BBQ and my determination to get better at it. It was Max’s first time being the captain of a team too, so we were hoping for a bit of beginner’s luck!

The preparation

Max and I arrived on a beautiful Friday night on June 1st with a huge trailer. In addition to being our benchmark, the trailer contained the three BBQs we would use, tables, granule bags, charcoal, spices, sauces, countless instruments and accessories and supplies. On top of that, we had to stick to our work plan that we carefully developed a few days earlier.

Despite our planning, we were delayed starting out.

We finally got settled and started at around 10PM. I prepared our spice mixes while Max treated the brisket. We continue to work, listening to Bob Marley for a long time. A really long time. We started cooking and adjusted our time according how long each piece meat needed. Then we tidied up and got our dishes ready for the next day.

But it wasn’t time to sleep just yet.

I need rest

It was 3:15 am. As I degreased the skin of the chicken thighs, I warned Max that it was very likely that I was about to feel pretty unpleasant. I was very tired and my one and only desire was to sleep ! I finished my task without much enthusiasm.

4:00 am. The birds started to sing. I don’t even understand how I didn’t fall asleep before. Some competitors were already sound asleep for quite some time. Meanwhile, I settled “comfortably” in the rear seat of the pickup truck. Max finished a couple things before joining me, taking the passenger seat of the cab. At this point comfort didn’t matter; we were so tired that we could literally sleep anywhere.

5:30 am. The alarm rings. That was fast. I wake up Max. I hear competitors moving around on the site. One very strong coffee later, we resumed! Participants got up and breakfast was served. There was a nice vibe going around between teams. People were helping each other and offering their services. Many laughs were heard despite the seriousness of the competition.

Then came the time to prepare our first presentation boxes! Max taught me how to do this delicate work. We worked away for another hour, at which point there was only a short time left before the first turn-in.

Time is ticking!

We installed a clock in the trailer and I felt like it was moving faster and faster. We kept out focus. Add sauce. Light the charcoal. Set the temperature. Wrap the meat with aluminum foil. Check the temperature again.

11:55 PM: We assembled the first box. The chicken one. Our box was beautiful!

11:59 PM Max went to the delivery table with assurance and caution. It was the middle of the day and we nailed our first successful turn-in!

12:30 We successfully turn-in the ribs! They were so good that I took the opportunity to eat some.

12:55 PM: The pork turn-in would be in a short time. Phew! There it goes. Our thermometer probe being defective, we served an overcooked pork. We tried not to think about it, rationalizing that we have less expectations for this category now.

1:20 PM: The last turn-in is coming: the beef brisket. The ultimate quest for any good pitmaster. Max spreads a thin layer of sauce right over the meat. He then carefully arranges the pieces in the box.

1:30 PM : That’s it! Max solemnly begins his last race to the table! Let’s roll the dice!

Tears of joy

During his absence, I realized what we had just accomplished. All the effort, patience and knowledge that we put on the parsley! I was so proud that I allowed myself a few tears of joy. It was joy linked with the stress that has just been released.

Even with all the emotion and fatigue, which was more and more hard to endure, we hurried to pack up. We would have to wait until 4 PM before getting the results. I took this opportunity to talk a bit with the teams I had met earlier and see how they felt about the competition.

3:55 PM: We headed to the scene where the results were announced. Max said that if we were named in the top 10 of a category, he would be happy. We ranked 8th place in the chicken category and we scored a 9th place for the ribs!

Satisfied, we celebrated with the winning teams! Handshakes and embraces were exchanged like the end of a hockey game! Win or lose, everyone was happy!

Needless to say, everyone was looking forward to the next KCBS competition!

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