Joey Mac’s season came to end at Arthur, IL a couple weeks ago. We didn’t do as well as we would have liked there, but borrowing from my Cub fan mentality, “wait ‘til next year”. The last contest is bittersweet. Many conflicting feelings abound, disappointment over our showing, elation over finally hitting in chicken, an emptiness at the anticipation of nothing to do but practice for 6 months, fulfilled for having a pretty decent inaugural season.

Taking a moment to reflect on my Newbie season, I’ve concluded the most rewarding aspect about it isn’t the money won, or ribbons, or trophies, but about the friendships established this year. Cooking together with the people who I met at that first contest, meeting new folks who are more newbie than me, and getting to know some other more seasoned competitors are unexpected pleasures of the season. I guess when the smoke all settles after the awards, it’s the friendships and camaraderie that stick out in my mind. In all likeliness, I’ll not see any of these folks until next year, but I expect we’ll pick up right where we left off.

It takes a special type of person to wander the grounds of a competition at 1:00am and talk a fellow competitor off the ledge when his/her cook isn’t going quite right. The Friday night dinner gatherings, the Saturday morning breakfasts, the wandering around at all hours, the unified stress of turn-ins, the decompression that happens as you turn in brisket and you share your doubts with your comrades are what stick out in my mind. You don’t think about this aspect of competition BBQ when you’re making the choice to get involved, but believe it or not, it’s what keeps you coming back.

Like many others, we’ve got several months to contemplate what went right and what went wrong. We get to work on flavor profiles and timings a little more. But while I’m taking a little breather from the intensity of competition cooking, I’m going to also fire up the cookers and cook some BBQ for the sole purpose of enjoying the low and slow method and share that with friends and family. I also get to compete at the Jack Daniels and other events vicariously through others, doing my best to send any good cook vibes I may have to them as they continue on the trail for a little while longer. Good luck to all still active out on the circuit, and good luck to those who are planning to make the leap in the spring.

As for the Blog, next time I hope to speak a little more about what happens at a competition, from arrival to departure. Other plans are to have some guest interviews from seasoned teams to other newbies and how they chose to get started.

And don’t forget if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email at joe@bbqblog.com.