Last year I submitted a series of articles about judging and what goes on under the big top. It been awhile since
I've discussed competition decorum, so I thought it was time to acknowledge some people that all cooks, judges, and organizers must become familiar with…the KCBS Representative or simply the
"Rep". These men and women are the extensions KCBS at the contests being conducted any given weekend. The reps are instrumental in assuring everything runs smoothly at an event. They are the folks that make sure a contest in South Carolina will have the same basic look and feel as one conducted in Kansas City, or Washington State. Hope you find it informative. Again I enlisted the help of some folks in coming up with the following question / answer format discussion.

Q. What is the role of a contest rep?

A. The canned answer: the reps are present to ensure the published rules of the KCBS are followed. Those rules are in place to keep the competition fair and apply to the teams, the judges, as well as to the reps themselves. More practically, reps ensure teams prepare and present their entries according to the rules, oversee the judging process, tabulate the scores, verify the results, distribute them, and do the KCBS paperwork. In a business sense, the reps serve as the public face for the KCBS to the
contest's organizers and its sponsors. Countless hours of planning go into putting together a contest and tens thousands of dollars will change hands before the contest is over. In this respect, the contest representatives are responsible for delivering a satisfactory product, a well-run contest.

Q. What is the background of a typical rep?

A. Most reps have long experience with the KCBS and have come up through the ranks as competitors and/or as certified judges. Many still cook competitively. In their ‘real' lives, most reps are business people, employed in a wide range of professional and technical fields.

Q. Do reps get paid for serving at a contest?

A. Yes, contest reps are paid a fee, set by KCBS, by the contest organizer for their services. They are reimbursed for mileage, lodging, and meal expenses. Most reps usually use at least one day of vacation from their regular jobs, and have to spend much of the weekend away from their homes and families.

Q. How many reps are needed at a contest?

A. Two reps are required by the KCBS for contests of up to 49 teams. A third is called for at 50 teams with an additional rep for each increment of 25 teams above that.

Q. Do the same sets of reps always work together?

A. There are a few married couples where both spouses are reps and they do tend to always work together. Some reps tend to work exclusively with certain other reps. Many reps can be thought of as free agents, electing to serve contests as their schedules dictates.

Q. How does a rep get assigned to a particular contest?

A. There are several ways. When the contest calendar for the upcoming year is published, the reps can request to serve at certain contests. A contest organizer can request to have particular reps serve at that event. An organizer can also express the desire to have a particular rep not serve at the event. As a general rule, reps will serve at contests within their own geographic region. This saves the organizers the additional expenses of airfare or mileage associated with bringing reps in from other parts of the country.

Q. How does a person become a contest rep?

A. A candidate must train under qualified reps at a minimum of four sanctioned contests before earning his or her ‘wings.' Under the
reps' supervision, a trainee is expected to satisfactorily perform all of the tasks – both those behind-the-scenes and those in the public eye – a rep would normally do during the course of a contest. After each contest, the
candidate's performance and knowledge of the rules are critiqued by the supervising reps. Ideally, a candidate will train under as many reps as possible in order to be exposed to a wider variety of
reps' ways of managing a contest. "Reps in training" do not have expenses covered by the organizer.

Q. Could you provide a timeline of a rep's activities from when a contest starts through its conclusion?

A. The reps' involvement begins several weeks before the contest when at least one of the scheduled reps will meet with the organizer either in person, by phone, or via email. During these meetings, they discuss how the plans for the contest are progressing, get an update on the status of the team and judging rosters, and provide any needed input.


Reps will arrive onsite late Friday morning or early afternoon. They first meet with the organizer to discuss last-minute changes to the teams. Reps usually then walk around the contest site and introduce themselves to each of the teams. This allows the reps to rekindle old acquaintances and gives them the opportunity to meet new teams and answer any questions they may have. Later in the afternoon, after the team roster has been finalized, the reps retreat to a secure location where the information is updated in the computer. It is at this time that the reps assign each team their unique identifying number according to the numbering convention
they'll use at that event. Those numbers are then written on the Styrofoam boxes the teams will use for turning in their entries. The cooks meeting is held later in the day and the boxes are distributed to the teams at its conclusion. Depending on when the meeting was held, the reps may hang around the site for an extended time or they may leave shortly afterward for the night. The reps are not required or expected to remain on the contest grounds overnight.


Upon arrival on Saturday morning, reps typically visit each team again ensuring everything is in order, times are understood, and answer any questions the cooks may have come up with. Next they set up in the
judge's tent. This means setting up the computer and printer and conducting the
judges' meeting. The reps must also compare the number of judges against the number required and make a decision as to how any judge deficiencies will be rectified. If necessary to recruit judges from ‘off the
street,' one of the reps will give them a judging crash-course after the meeting. At the meeting the judges will be assigned to their table for the day.

When the judging begins, both reps will initially oversee the renumbering and the judging. As the completed score cards are turned in, one rep will begin entering scores into the computer while the other continues to monitor the turn-in table, the renumbering station, and the judges.

After judging is completed, reps finish entering scores, verify results, print and make copies of results, collate them, and get them ready for distribution at the awards ceremony. If time allows before the ceremony, the reps will also do all the invoicing, accounting, and other reports necessary to close the books on that contest.

Much like the teams, the reps' schedule at a contest starts with an initial period of planning and preparation followed by an extended period with little to do
that's capped by several hours of intense activity and high stress to meet the deadline of the awards ceremony.

Q. What is the most rewarding aspect of being a rep?

A. For me, it's getting to meet the new teams and introducing them to this pastime. The experienced teams already know all the ropes and almost make the reps unnecessary, at least up until the judging commences. Should a new team get their first call during the awards ceremony,
it's especially gratifying to watch the members of a team who, just seconds earlier, looked utterly exhausted and overwhelmed by the experience leap to their feet at the announcement and dance to the stage.
It's easy to remember going through that same broad range of emotions the first time I heard my team name called.

Q. What's the least enjoyable part of being a contest rep? Is it having to disqualify a team?

A. Informing a team that they've been disqualified is unpleasant, but I accept that responsibility. I
don't want to dwell on disqualifications but I won't declare an entry to be illegal unless
it's a clear-cut violation and the other reps present are in complete agreement. I can then deliver the bad news to the team with a clear conscience.
I'd be much more troubled by the task if the decision was made for ambiguous reasons.

The most basic task of a contest rep is to solve problems and manage people with the goal of conducting a contest as fairly and efficiently as possible. At a 60-team contest, once all the teams, judges, and volunteers are added up, somewhere around 250 people are directly involved with that event during its 30 to 36-hour run. A contest rep must interact effectively with every one of those people at some point: sometimes under difficult weather conditions and always under the pressure of time.

Conflicts are inevitable during the course of a contest, regardless of its size. I’ve found that what troubles me long after the contest is over, are those rare occasions when I’m not able to find some way to communicate effectively with a cook, or a team member, or with a judge to everyone’s satisfaction. Fortunately, conflicts such as these occur much less frequently in a contest environment than they do in ‘real’ life. Barbecue is great at bridging many of the personal differences between people. This common ground can usually be used to foster a civil, working relationship with the people I encounter at contests.

As a contest cook and formerly very active judge, I respect the teams who invest their time, money, and prestige to compete as well as the dedicated judges who give up a significant part of their weekend to participate in a contest. 99 times out of 100, the teams and the judges return that respect and recognize my desire and efforts at managing a contest as fairly and efficiently as I’m able. It’s the memory of that 100th one that always dogs me long after the contest is over.

In closing, the benefits of serving as a contest rep in this most unique and enjoyable passtime outweigh the negatives by a factor of…99 to 1.

Hope you enjoyed the article and have a safe and happy holiday season.

Joey Mac