I was recently asked by a customer to compete in the State BBQ Championships in Declo. I agreed thinking that I would have no problem being a competitor with all my years of professional experience. I called on a fellow chef, my father and former sous chef to come along. Collectively we called ourselves “Son of a Berkshire.”
We made some extraordinary food. My ribs were Thai peanut glazed with cilantro and lime. Our brisket was cooked with chipotle and kalbe barbecue. We made roasted garlic and cracked-pepper pulled-pork. Our chicken was seasoned with elderberry and rhubarb. When we turned our food over to the judges, we had confidence that, at that particular moment in the time space continuum, we had just made the best barbecue on the planet.
Like the Metallica song says “The light at the end of the tunnel is just a freight train coming your way.” That is exactly what happened in the competition. We got out butts kicked, ran the hell over. Not just a little whooping, a whole can of it.
Out of the 20 teams that competed in the competition we came in last. With more than 55 years of combined professional cooking experience, award winning barbecue restaurants, a certification from the American Culinary Federation and a borrowed $4,000 smoker “Son of a Berkshire” took absolute last place in the competition: 20th place. The highest any one of our dishes scored was 18th place and it was for the Kobe brisket. That hurts a guy’s ego.
After we received the judges' score sheets, we received a little talking to from the event promoter about the “style” that was expected. We cooked “above the expectation and the judges’ wishes.” Basically we were told that these competitions do not take lightly to changes in recipe or formula. The food we cooked was too out-of-the-box for this style of competition. The judges wanted hardwood-smoked and barbecue sauce-rubbed items. No Thai peanut sauce allowed.