February 2006

Hickory Wind BBQ
6072 K, Hwy 53
Braselton, GA 30517
Ph# 706-654-9463

On my way to Greenville, SC traveling on I-85 North I spotted one of those highway “Food” signs listing several local area restaurants. Happened to catch the name “Hickory Wind BBQ” and thought I would give it a try.

Hickory Wind is located in a fairly new looking strip shopping area just west of I-85. As I looked over the menu the waitress came over and asked for my drink order. I was pretty hungry this day and chose a Pork Plate. The plate comes with Hush Puppies and a slice of white bread along with your choice of 2 sides. I chose Onion Rings and Baked Beans as my 2 sides. When the order arrived I dug into the pork and was pleasantly surprised. The meat was very moist and had a great hickory smoke flavor. This was pulled pork but there was an ample amount of bark and outside meat. The beans were not the best I have had. Onion Rings were average. The Hush Puppies were very good. There were several types of barbecue sauce on the table to choose from. The first one I tried was a “Sweet Sauce”. This sauce had a very distinct apple flavor to it similar to applesauce. Not too bad but a little too sweet for my taste. There was also a “Red Sauce” that had a nice kick of heat to it.

About this time the manager/owner came over to see how everything was. I introduced myself and advised him that I was writing a review for the BBQ Forum. That got his interest and we started talking about Hickory Wind. Come to find out that Gary and his sister operates Hickory Wind. The sister is Kelly Eder and the brother is Gary Lee they are co-owners of Hickory Wind. As Gary and I were talking he asked if I would like to try some of their Brunswick stew. You do not find Brunswick stew too often outside of the South and it is especially popular in Georgia and Alabama. I love it, especially when it is good. Hickory Wind has a very good Brunswick stew. It is a smoother stew, not chunky, but goes well with your meal. Gary also brought out a “Brown Sauce” that he was making that day. I really liked the Brown sauce. Then he mentioned that he also had a Mustard Sauce and brought that out. This was very similar to the South Carolina mustard sauces, but this had a really good amount of spice and heat. Gary mentioned that he uses an Ole Hickory Pit Smoker and uses Hickory wood for smoking. He cooks the pork and beef brisket 12-14 hours and ribs about 7 hours. By the way that Sweet Sauce I mentioned earlier; Gary said he adds Apple Butter to the sauce. Now there’s something original. He’s gonna “tweak” that sauce a little and cut down on the sweetness.

Gary mentioned a dessert that really sounded good, Pineapple Cobbler. I wish I had room to try the cobbler but I was stuffed. I would highly recommend Hickory Wind if you are in the area. It is certainly worth the trip from Atlanta and a short distance from I-85.

Now go eat some Barbecue!

Last article introduced the topic of judging. This is the final installment about judging. I’d like to thank those who helped me out pulling this one together.

Q. Suppose a judge likes an entry and gives it the highest score only to find the next entry is even better. Can the judge change the first entry’s score?
A. NO, NO, NO. The only allowable score change is one which is directed by the Representative. The judges are responsible for giving careful thought to the scores they hand out. Since there are 30 minutes between each turn-in, judges have plenty of time to carefully evaluate each of the entries that he/she samples. This would be an example of comparing entries, something that is not part of the KCBS judging process. Judges are instructed to evaluate each entry on its own individual qualities. Once an entry has been scored, the judge should try to forget that entry and move on to the next.

Q. How can a judge avoid comparing entries?
A. The easiest way is to simply cover the top of the score card with a napkin. “Out of sight, out of mind,” applies when it comes to judging. With the previous scores covered, the judge will not be tempted to look at the scores already given to other entries and see how those compare against the current entry. This may sound odd but once the cards are turned in, most of the entries blur into indistinct memories in the judges’ minds. Only the great or truly bad entries stand out and the memories of them quickly fade. One of the table captains’ tasks is to keep an eye on the judges as they complete their score cards. If a captain spots a judge filling out the card incorrectly or referring back to previous scores, the captain will give the judge a gentle reminder to not compare scores.

Q. What is done to prevent a dishonest team and a few corrupt judges from being able to identify that team’s entries and increasing its chances of placing well?
A. Keeping the identities of the teams’ entries secret is of primary importance and the KCBS employs two primary means of protecting that secrecy and the integrity of the results.

First, the KCBS uses a “double blind” system for protecting the identities of the teams from the judges. As discussed in the introduction, each container a team receives is marked with a number unique to that team. How a team was assigned their particular number is determined by the contest reps. The number might simply be based alphabetically by team name or the captain’s last name. It could also be selected by site number, the team’s registration date, the captain’s ZIP Code, or by any number of other criteria. Reps have their own methods of assigning team numbers and many alternate them between contests. As the boxes are turned in for judging, labels with new numbers are placed over the number on the boxes. The correlation between the original number and the new or ‘blind’ number is known only to the contest reps. Most reps change their blind numbers between contests. With this safeguard in place, even if a judge knew a team he was pulling for was team #11, for example, no box with the # 11 on it will be shown to the judges. Instead, after the blind number is applied, that team’s boxes might be presented to the judges as #71, #132, #151, #226, or some other seemingly random number, depending on the blind number being used at that contest. The teams have no way of knowing the reps’ blind numbers until after the contest. The judges should also not know the various teams’ numbers. Without knowing both of these vital pieces of information, trying to identify a particular team’s entries with any degree of accuracy is essentially guesswork.

Second, another step is taken to further reduce the possibility of an “agreement” between a cook and a judge affecting the outcome of a contest. In this step, a table of judges will receive an entry from any particular team no more than once over the four main meat categories. After the boxes have been turned in, they are renumbered with the blind number and are staged on a large tray or bread flat for the captains. The first table captain in line compares the box numbers on that tray against the log of boxes already judged by his or her table in previous categories. If that table has already judged one or more of the numbers in any of the previous categories, the captain will remove those boxes from the tray and exchange them for numbers that table has not yet seen.

As a final word on the subject, while the possibility of cheating the system must be recognized, the likelihood of any team or judges attempting to influence a contest’s outcome by cheating is extremely remote. The competition barbecue community is extremely close-knit and no responsible competitors and judges would be willing to sacrifice their standing within that community by circumventing the rules for a relatively small and briefly enjoyed gain.

Q. After the score cards have been turned in and reviewed, can a table captain or a contest rep tell a judge to change any of the scores because they were not in line with the rest of the judges at the table?
A. No. Neither the captains nor the reps have the authority to tell judges what their scores should have been after the fact. The captain and the reps will not have tasted any of the entries in question and, in all likelihood, the reps would not have seen the entries.
If a judge’s scores are significantly different (usually much lower) from the others on a couple of entries in a category, a rep will ask the judge why the scores in question were given. By doing this, the rep is not implying or suggesting the judge should be giving higher scores. The rep is simply looking for an explanation of why the judge felt that score was appropriate for that particular entry. In the vast majority of cases, the reason was justified (for example, that particular sample was fatty, burnt, had an off-flavor, etc.) and no additional consultations will be required. However, if a judge’s score is consistently well above or below that of the rest of the table, the rep can take the judge aside and first ask whether they completely understand the scoring system and offer a quick explanation of the system. Many times, this mini-consultation will bring the wayward judge’s next scores back into line with the remainder of the table. These conversations are always performed in private since the object is not to single out and embarrass a judge in front of their peers.

Q. Are certified judges required to compete from time to time to keep their certification status active?
A. Although many judges could benefit from the experience of competing, the KCBS has no requirement mandating a judge to compete at all, except in the case of judges seeking to achieve a Master Judge badge. While the intent of such a proposal to create more well-rounded and experienced judges is desirable, implementing such a requirement for all certified judges would decimate the pool of available judges. Judging is a voluntary position and many judges rationalize spending a few hours of travel and a tank of gas in order to serve as a judge a number of times throughout the season. However, if judges were required to compete in order to keep their certifications active, only a very small fraction would be in a position to justify the expense of acquiring the equipment to compete. Assuming a judge has none of the competition equipment, he or she would have to spend around $1,000 for low-priced (and unreliable) smokers, canopies, coolers, work tables, and the various other equipment needed to compete at the most basic level. While having more judges with first-hand competition experience is a desirable goal, it should be easy to conclude that any requirement stipulating judges must bear such a level of expense simply to continue to volunteer their time and travel expenses in the future would have a disastrous effect on the number of available certified judges.

Q. Barbecue cooks tend to be hardware junkies. Why can’t some teams donate their old, unused equipment and spare the judges who need to compete at least a significant part of the costs to compete?
A. On the surface, this sounds like a reasonable suggestion. However, once considerations such as short- and long-term storage, maintenance, transportation, responsibility and liability for damages, the assignment and availability of the hardware, and countless other sticking points are factored in, the likelihood of such a program working is extremely remote.

Q. If pooling used equipment for educating judges is an unworkable solution, why can’t the KCBS simply assign judges to cook with teams?
A. It’s fair to assume many judges would gain experience by rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty by competing. However, having the sanctioning body, organizer, or any other third-party arbitrarily assign judges to teams to fulfill this requirement would likely do more harm than good to all participants. Competition cooks, by nature, are a secretive lot. Most have their own recipes, techniques, timings, and methods that they would probably resent having to divulge in the presence of a stranger.

A cook who is resistant to the thought of revealing even a few of his secrets is more likely to have the judge instead perform superfluous jobs such as watching thermometers, washing dishes, keeping work surfaces clean, and gathering trash. These tasks need performed during the course of a contest but, they border on the menial and punitive when compared to the intended goal of such an assignment program and are not likely to give a judge much insight to the contestants’ plight. In a similar vein, the members of established teams already have their own tasks they perform throughout a contest. Introducing even a well-intentioned interloper into the mix would likely upset the teams’ workflow.

Also, the assignment of judges to teams leads to the very real possibility of personalities clashing. If the two parties are not able to get along with each other for any number of reasons, the intended beneficial contest cooking experience would become a miserable experience for everyone involved. With a turn-in deadline looming large, head cooks snap at their closest family members and friends. The discomfort of having a complete stranger in the mix at that time is discerned for all.

Finally, just because a certified judge has not yet cooked – or has chosen not to compete – simply does not translate to that judge being unqualified or incapable of judging satisfactorily. In practice, many judges do interact with the teams on a personal level. If the right chemistry exists between a judge and the team, the judge or the cook may broach the subject of joining the team to get a chance to view the contest experience from the cook’s perspective.

Q. What is a Master Judge?
A. A Master title indicates a judge has served as a judge in at least 30 contests in a 5 year period, and has competed at a sanctioned contest at least once during that time. That participation may have been as a member of an existing team or by competing as his or her own team. Truth told, the title is largely an honorary one. Achieving the rank does not necessarily mean a Master is any better or more qualified than a certified judge serving at his or her fifth contest. More than anything else, the title is granted by the KCBS to recognize a judge’s dedication to supporting competition barbecue over the course of several years.

Q. Are there any regional differences in what the judges like?
A. This may have been true at one time but most judges and competitors would probably agree the existence of a vast difference in taste according to regions is largely a myth, yet one that can be debated to death. With KCBS contests being held year-round now and many cooks and judges traveling great distances to participate, any significant regional differences that may have exited at one time have largely been eliminated. Right or wrong, most successful cooks are achieving their success by appealing to middle-of-the-road tastes.

Q. Where can I find out more?
A. Go to the KCBS website at http://www.kcbs.us. On it you will find more information about judging, the location and contact information for upcoming judging certification classes, as well as a schedule of upcoming contests.

The following review was submitted by Brian Pearcy aka “The BBQ Guy” on the BBQ Forum. Thanks Brian.

When we lived in Casselberry, FL, Linda and I were frequent visitors of Bubbalou’s Bar-B-Que located in Winter Park just off of 17-92 south of Maitland on Lee Road, a real bbq “shack”.

We tried two other locations, one in Altamonte Springs on 436 and another on Alafaya Trail near the UCF campus, and although those restaurants are more modern and had more inside seating, they just don’t measure up to the Winter Park location.

While waiting for your meal at the Lee Road location, diners are treated with a who’s who montage of head shots from some of the most popular musicians around including–Charley Daniels and Molly Hatchet among many others.

On a busy day most folks have to eat outside on picnic tables or in their cars because inside seating is limited, but we didn’t mind it. During the lunch rush, the parking lot fills up and for me that only added to the overall ambience of the place.

We always enjoyed the sliced barbecue pork, potato salad and baked beans and the barbecue sauce was pretty good too.

Sliced pork is not my personal favorite, but it worked when I had the craving for ‘que and didn’t have the time to cook it myself.

If you’re ever in Orlando, stop by Bubbalou’s in Winter Park. You’ll be glad you did.

Pick-up a t-shirt to commemorate your visit. They’re pretty cool.

Winter Park / 17-92 and Lee Road
1471 Lee Road
Winter Park, FL 32892


Brian Pearcy
“The BBQ Guy”
Phone: 734-658-1874
Member Kansas City Barbecue Society
Member Florida Barbecue Association

For the next couple of articles, I want to cover some other contest topics, judging, the KCBS representative’s role, and the organizer’s input into a contest. I’ve enlisted the help of several BBQ buddies to help write and add content to these articles. Thanks guys. There’s much more to a contest than just cooking. Hopefully I’ll shed a little light on some of the other things that go on, but even then, I’m sure I won’t adequately relay all that happens behind the scenes.

The first in this series is the topic of judging. This can sometimes be a delicate issue, but when all the smoke clears one thing is clear, cooks and judges share a passion for BBQ. And as tumultuous as the cook/judge relationship can be at times, a mutual respect is generally observed between both parties. And you won’t have to dig too deep to find cooks who judge on occasion and judges who cook on occasion. So here it goes…judging, when you flame me, please be kind. This article will focus on KCBS-sanctioned contests (while acknowledging that there are many other sanctioning bodies across the country) by outlining the judging process and then having a Q & A format to elaborate on some points.

At the cook’s meeting, teams receive a set of uniquely numbered Styrofoam boxes for submitting their entries to the judges. After the cooks hand over their box at the turn-in table, a contest rep or an assistant renumbers that box. This is to ensure that judges don’t know which team’s food they are sampling. Table Captains then log the entry number (the new number of course), and carry the boxes (usually six per category) to their respective tables.

At the judges’ table, the captain reads off the numbers of the entries and the judges record the numbers on their standardized KCBS issued score sheet and placemats. The judging begins when the captain opens and presents the lowest numbered box to the judges who then evaluate the appearance and record their scores. Allowable scores are whole numbers between 2 and 9 with 9 being the highest. The table captain scans the entry for any rules violations. If there are none, the box is closed and the next entry in the sequence is opened and scored. This is repeated until all the appearance scores have been recorded.

The boxes are then passed around the table in the same order in which they were presented to the judges for appearance. Each judge takes a sample of the BBQ, placing it on his/her placemat. After all of the entries have been distributed, judges may begin sampling the product for taste and tenderness. Judges will try the first entry, carefully evaluate it, and mark the taste and tenderness scores before moving on to the second sample, and so on. No talking is allowed during this time to prevent the comments of one judge from perhaps influencing the others.

The completed score cards are gathered by the table captain and turned over to the contest reps who enter the scores into the computer. Judges are allowed to discuss entries only after all these tasks have been completed. New placemats and score cards are distributed by the table captain and the process repeats for each of the remaining categories.

Q. Who are the judges?
A. Barbecue judges come from all walks of life, teachers, students, retirees, engineers, construction workers, truck drivers, realtors, farmers, and so on. Despite their varied backgrounds and lifestyles, most judges share a love of great BBQ and a deep appreciation for the people who make it.

Q. What is a certified barbeque judge (CBJ)?
A. To be certified, a judge has attended certification class taught by an accredited instructor recognized by the KCBS. During the class, the judge is taught the various cuts of meats allowed in competition, the scoring system, some standards for testing the tenderness of meat, rules regarding illegal entries and garnishes, rules of conduct, the importance of their role, and more. The students then apply these lessons by judging a mock contest. They are tasked with scoring and spotting rules violations while sampling two or three entries from each of the four main KCBS meat categories.

Q. How does a certified judge get on a roster? Are they assigned by the KCBS?
A. A one-year membership in KCBS is included in the CBJ class fee. The judges then receive the Bullsheet, KCBS’ monthly newsletter. Upcoming contest schedules are listed in this publication. In some cases, if a judge has served at a contest before, the organizer may contact the judge to give them the right of first refusal to serve at the contest. Most of the time however, it’s the judge’s responsibility to contact a contest organizer and request to serve.

Q. Are judges paid for their services?
A. No. They are responsible for picking up their own travel expenses, hotels, etc.

Q. Who finds the judges for a contest?
A. The individual contest organizers are responsible for finding judges to serve at their contests. Usually, eight judges are needed for every six teams competing. Each table has six judges and one table captain. The extra judges can be used at the turn-in table, assigned the task of renumbering boxes or other jobs as necessary. It is also left up to the organizer whether to use certified judges exclusively; or friends, neighbors, co-workers, sponsors, people pulled off the street, or other volunteers; or any combination of the above.

Q. Why should an organizer go through the additional trouble to line up CBJs from far away?
A. As described above, the selection of judges is left to the organizer’s discretion. There are a few sanctioned contests that do not use certified judges at all. Certification does not automatically make good, qualified judges. There are a number of experienced judges who have judged many years without being certified or receiving formal instruction. However, most competitors agree it’s advantageous to compete at contests where the majority of the judges are certified. These people are much more likely to judge according to a set of more narrowly defined and generally accepted standards. There is also an element of accountability with certified judges since they must abide by the sanctioning body’s standards for conduct. CBJs make a commitment to attend contests. Most travel many miles and sacrifice a significant portion of their weekend to serve. These actions demonstrate a level of dedication that the certified judge has to the BBQ passion, a dedication that may or may not be there for the local citizen.

Q. When considering all the costs (time and expenses) why volunteer to judge?
A. Many judges agree their payment is in intangibles. Judges sample bbq from some of the country’s best cooks. That fact alone offsets much of the inconvenience. Judging can also serve as an excellent learning experience, for new competitors as well as for home cooks wishing to improve the quality of their own barbeque. The social aspect also appeals to judge, forming new friendships and developing a sense camaraderie between fellow enthusiasts, judges and competitors alike. Despite its sometimes serious overtones, serving as a judge can be a way of supporting an enjoyable activity.

Q. What happens during the judges’ meeting?
A. The judges’ meeting is held about two hours before the first entries are due. The timing of the meeting allows the reps to count the available judges. With the number of judges known, the reps will be able to determine whether they’ll have to resort to any contingency plans to have enough judges on hand. Seating is determined, making sure to separate married couples or buddies and disturbing new or inexperienced judges around all tables. Tasks such as table captains, turn-in table staff, and others are also assigned during the meeting. If needed, instructions specific to that contest are given by the reps then a CD containing recorded judging instructions (similar to that played at the cook’s meeting) is played for the group. This ensures all judges are made aware of the common set of rules. At the close of the meeting, the judges are asked to recite the Judges’ Oath. They are dismissed with the reminder to keep a respectable distance from the cooks. They are free to wander around the contest grounds, see the sites, and exchange greetings with the teams until they’re needed when the first turn-ins are due.

Q. An oath! Doesn’t that seem a bit hokey?
A. Maybe; but the oath is included to reinforce the importance of the role the judge plays in competition BBQ.

Q. What happens if there aren’t enough judges to go around, certified or not?
A. As they say on Broadway, “The show must go on.” If the number of judges is significantly short, the organizer can round up enough volunteers from bystanders and they are given a crash course in judging by the contest reps. These judges are then interspersed among the tables as evenly as possible to eliminate having one or more tables comprised entirely of inexperienced and quickly trained judges. Most reps, cooks, and judges would agree this is undesirable and used only when necessary. Another solution is to have the judges present double up on the number of entries they judge per category. Usually a table will judge only six chicken entries. When there is a shortage of judges, a table may instead judge 12 in two rounds of six entries each. Table captains can be pressed into double duty, serving as both captain and a judge.

Q. What is a table captain?
A. Captains are generally experienced judges who have given up a seat on the judging panel to allow a new judge to gain valuable experience. A captain oversees the judges at his or her table. They are responsible for maintaining order at the table, keeping the table clean, bringing samples to the table, logging the box numbers, presenting the boxes for appearance, checking entries for rules infractions, collecting score cards, making sure they are filled in properly and legible, keeping the judges supplied with fresh water and napkins, and more. In essence, a captain is the contest reps’ eyes and ears at each table. They monitor the judges to ensure they stay focused on the food on their own plates and fill in the score cards according to their instructions.

Q. When a table captain declares an entry legal, is that the final word on it?
A. Not at all. Any judge can question an entry’s legality and have the captain call a contest rep over to the table for a clarification and final ruling. In many instances, the judge may be viewing the entry from a different perspective and spotted something the captain could not see. Regardless of who spots a possible rule violation, the contest reps are the only people who have the authority to disqualify an entry.

Q. What happens when an entry is disqualified?
A. First of all, disqualifying a team is NOT taken lightly. Most judges and table captains are well aware of the time, money, and prestige each team has invested in their entries and knows the effect a disqualification will have on that team’s chances. Paraphrasing the process: the Representatives convene and make a decision. If it warrants a DQ, the Rep then has the dubious task of informing the cook of the decision and infraction to ensure it’s not repeated in other entries submitted. NOTE FROM JOEY MAC: This topic is important enough to have a complete article dedicated to it and that will be submitted in the near future.

Q. Can a competition cook benefit from serving as a judge?
A. Absolutely. This is especially true for cooks who are relatively new to the contest environment. By participating as a judge, a cook can eavesdrop on other judges as they discuss the entries they have sampled. New cooks will also get to see, feel, smell, and taste a wider variety of flavors and presentations by judging a couple of contests than they are likely to try in many months of practice. This knowledge about what other teams are turning in may also give the budding cook a baseline against which they can compare the quality and appearance of their own entries. Finally, exposing cooks to the entire judging experience may help eliminate some misconceptions cooks may have about judges and the judging process.

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