Well that was a weekend to remember.
This past year I have been struggling a lot with my BBQ at competitions. Up and down and everywhere in the middle my scores landed and brisket was my nemesis. This weekend sure made up for it.
The venue was the 1st ever Blue Mountains Chili & Ribfest held in the gorgeous town of Clarksburg Ontario. Not only was it a 1st time contest it was also the very 1st time there has been a KCBS contest in Ontario. I am a huge fan of the KCBS and how they sanction contests. It removes all doubt about integrity and fairness in judging and how the contests are run. To me personally it gives me an assurance that I am going to get a fair shake at it. I may not be the best but I just want to be treated fairly and not have rules change after I arrive at an event.
The weather was perfect and so was our site at Cedar Run Horse Park . It was half in the shade and half in the sun. Perfect for setting up our kids tent and just generally enjoying the surroundings. The entire competition site was incredible. From a few miles out (lots of clearly marked signs) the organizer uber chef and BBQ lover Steve Perrin and his endless line of volunteers and crew did an outstanding job. Water and electricity and the ever important porta potty’s were already set up. Team sites were clearly marked. Each volunteer was easily recognizable for their red shirts. We were greeted shortly after arriving by Steve and some of their crew.
There were vendors and rides and an entire chili cook-off as well. Each area uber well maintained by maintenance staff and an endless supply of security personnel. There was also a HUGE sound stage that featured a variety of musical acts throughout the weekend. To say this 1st year contest was well run would do it a disservice. This was one of the very best organized competitions I have seen period.
Shortly after arriving we were advised there was a Feast for all competitors and VIPS that evening. Its really nice to not have to worry about what to do for dinner when you are competing. The Cooks meeting was first and it went off without a hitch. Bill and Debby Gage were the contest reps for this event. They spent a LOT of time with the new teams and made sure they knew what the expectations were. I was asked to show them a turn in box that I had already prepared and to talk about turn in boxes in general. I think its always important to help new teams. I am more than willing to show them my box prep and help them get the best out of their meats.
Off to dinner we went and wow they were right it was a feast for sure!! Prime Rib, pork roast, BBQ chicken, salads, corn on the cob, pasta salads and much more. Each person manning the feast was so friendly it was excellent. Our kids love the food too as there was so much variety !!
The food was delicious!
After dinner we socialized a bit with some teams we have not seen in some time. We have not competed in Ontario in 2 years since our last win in St. Thomas. It was really great to see some folks we have missed. I didn’t not however have a single cocktail. It was a 100% diet coke night for me. The meats went on without a hitch and we settled in for the night.. OK that’s really not accurate I didn’t sleep much at all. In fact I haven’t slept much since we got back from Ottawa I admit it. I have been over-analyzing this contest since I found out it was an auto to the Jack. I wanted to go back to the Jack. I want to finally go up the hill and look over the valley. I missed out on that the 1st time round and I wanted to actually experience that. So what did I do ? I went back and re-read every single BBQ note I have taken, reviewed every single class note I have written and emailed a few very good friends of mine asking for their advice. I made a plan and stuck to the time lines. I made sure I wasn’t changing things. I actually followed the advice I give out -stick to the plan you make and from a friend of mine who always advises run with what brung ya.
My husband did an excellent job setting up the site and keeping things at the right temp for the hour and a bit nap I had. I just couldn’t sleep. I drank I think about 9 or 10 coffees in a row then my hands started shaking so bad I ate a PB sammie to balance the caffeine. I took a walk around the competition site and watched the sun come up over the Blue Mountains and Georgian Bay. It was a gorgeous and beautiful day for a BBQ competition. I said a few prayers and gave a lot of thanks for my family and friends. I think its really important to be thankful. I would not be here if it wasn’t for the help support and love of my family and friends. They mean the world to me.
Then I had a not so great thing happen right before I foiled my ribs. My son (aka chaos) knocked over the potty bucket in their tent. Yes that bucket. The one my son had generously used through the night and my youngest daughter had taken a dump in. Yes the same bucket they had not put the lid on. Because nothing says being a Mom 1st and a competition BBQ chick more than having to clean up poo and pee (all the while doing everything you can to not hurl and add to the vile mess) then scrubbing the tent floor with bleach spray. I believe I could have won an award for the fastest clean up ever. So after thoroughly scrubbing the floor and then myself off it was time to finally get the ribs foiled.
Then it was game time. Chicken came off the grill and I loved the color and the flavor throughout. I was really pleased with the box styling and I was super proud how it came together. Ribs came off and I had more good racks then ok racks and that was thrilling. I turned in the best ones out of the lot and was super thankful none were over or undercooked. Pork got all sorted out and placed into the box. It was one of the best boxes we have done. Then I started to panic. I was thrilled with 3 categories already turned in. Brisket has broken me more times than any other category. Nervously I opened up my resting briskets. Slicing into the first one I could feel my heart racing and the adrenalin pumping. This is why I think competition BBQ is a real sport. It takes endurance it takes a lot out of you and it takes a whole lotta balls to go up against the big boys and girls.
Sometime before slicing into the briskets a friend texted me. She wished me good luck. I told her I had my big ass girl panties on. For those of you reading this you know who I was texting…. Well that helped the mojo for sure. So did the Divagator. Plus all the really super nice emails I got from friends encouraging me.
The brisket was delicious. It tasted like BBQ. Not freaking pot roast but BBQ. Really good brisket. Holy crap did that ever scare me. I remember getting the box done closing the lid and thinking if this doesn’t score well I think I may be done with competing. So thats where I was. Praying like every other competitor does after you turn in your boxes. Hoping that it would land on good tables and beyond exhausted. Then I did something I have never done after turn ins I had a diet coke and then crawled into my kids tent mentally and physically exhausted. I don’t remember my head even hitting their blow up mattress. I was done in.
Sometime a couple hours later…. I woke up and my beloved husband had packed up everything and I mean everything other than the tent. The grills were put away the pop ups the food the electrical cords I mean everything. He knew I didn’t have anything left in me. That’s why we made such a great team for this event. We really worked with each others strengths and weaknesses.
I packed up the tent the sleeping bags and the odds and sods and off we went to the awards ceremony. On the way we stopped to see our friends the Pork Ninjas and Jamie asked if I liked my boxes. Truthfully I told him I would have been proud to turn those boxes in anywhere. Whether it was the Royal or the Jack I was happy with the food we made.
Waiting at the awards we relaxed a tiny bit and then they started to call from 10th on up. Chicken came in at 7th and I was disappointed. Wow. I thought this is not going to be a good day. My husband said he was surprised too. Even our daughter Lexi the best taste tester we have loved the chicken and she is more critical than anyone. I prepped myself for a disappointing finish and cheered on the other teams. Congrats was given to Big Grill Catering & BBQ for their 1st place win. I hope they post their chicken recipe sometime.
Ribs was next. We tied for 2nd place but lost the tie and moved to 3rd. It was really great to hear us get called in ribs. Its been a really inconsistent category for us. Taking on some advice from friends in this category really paid off. We stuck to a recipe we know like the back of our hand and didn’t make any last minute changes. HUGE congrats to the 1st time competitors Tornado Alley Barbeque . They were really awesome people to meet. A nice family out to compete for the first time. Also I have to say I really loved the announcer that did the entire awards ceremony. HE was terrific.
Pork came and we really loved what we turned in and so did the judges. 1st place with a 179.4 one appearance mark away from perfect. Pork has always been our best category. I feel zen like when working with Pork Butts I just love working with them. I love the way they change so much in the cookers. They are my favorite meat to BBQ by far.
You need to come to this contest next year!!
Then I sat back and took a breath or two. Seeing our friends walking to the stage gives me great joy. Watching friends win (even when we don’t) is awesome. You know how hard they worked. Brisket. ….. Ugh. They called out that there was a 180. I was 100% convinced it was Can’t Stop Grilling. Truly their brisket has been taking names. They have been winning everywhere. Tim their pitmaster however turned to me and said its you. I shook my head and said no way. Not in brisket. Maybe in pork, dessert or anything butt but never ever would I have dreamed a 180 in brisket.
In the end I just about had a heart attack. I sat there and heard them call the teams up to 2nd. I still didn’t think it was going to happen. I have been in this spot before 3 calls and tanking in brisket. When they called us for the brisket -a perfect 180- I shed a few tears (pfft so flippin girly it was pitiful) I have never been so shocked at a contest anywhere ever. I knew it tasted good but I sure didn’t expect a 180. I remember repeating to myself (apparently I said it out loud too!) that it was a protein that it wasn’t a dessert 180 finally!! I really wasn’t sure if my now jello legs would walk to the stage with my kids and husband.
So we did it. Grand Champion. We finally got our Mojo back, our BBQ karma or whatever you call it. We got it back. While this is only 1 Grand Champion win this year – it feels good and we will once again will have an opportunity to represent Canada at the Jack Daniels Invitational BBQ competition in Lynchburg Tennessee. This time I will make sure to go up the hill and it will be with my beloved husband and my Sister in Smoke BFF Angie Quaale and the boy and a few other people I owe a lot of thanks to. I can’t wait. For full contest results check out the KCBS website Congratulations to the RGC Black Pig and all of the other competitors as well.
PS- You see its been a rough and extremely frustrating year. When you consistently have been challenged both in your professional and personal life you really start to doubt the fairness of life sometimes. Call it whatever you want but I sure as heck wasn’t in a good place for a while. So those friends and family that lift your spirits and continue to encourage you are worth everything in the world. This competition wasn’t just a win for my team it was a win for all of them. I am eternally grateful to some fine folks who sponsor and helped us as well: