Judging Professionalism

I have been asked to write a post on judging professionalism.  Recently a cook team witnessed some questionable behavior by a judge, and brought it up on Facebook.  In their own words, “Yesterday at a BBQ contest during the brisket judging a judge was observed holding up a slice of brisket swinging it back and forth like a dinner bell. Is this the new way to test for tenderness?”  This Facebook posting quickly received dozens of responses condemning this judges’ actions, and questioning the professionalism of judges in general.  It was quickly followed by responses by judges defending the majority of judges while apologizing for this judges’ actions.  Many cook teams also commented that they appreciate the judges, and believe that most conduct themselves in a professional manner.

I am not sure what this judge was trying to accomplish.  I don’t know of any reason why you would swing a piece of brisket back, and forth like a dinner bell.  The thing that they forgot is that although we are in our own little judging area, there are many eyes on us.  Cook teams spend hundreds of dollars, and spend many hours preparing their entries.  Even the best teams have off days, and new teams are learning the ropes.  Out of respect for them we should provide them with professional judges.  I am not saying that judges should not be able to have fun.  If it wasn’t fun why would anyone want to do it?  Of course you can still have fun without looking disrespectful.

I asked Ralph Williams a respected KCBS Contest Representative to weigh in on this matter:

“We enjoy seeing judges on Saturday who are excited to be on site and willing to work with all of the “stuff” that may have happened that they are not aware happened and still want to have “FUN.”  Secondly we enjoy those judges who, when time for judging, show the
professionalism they were taught in their initial training class and still have FUN !!

What we DO NOT LIKE are the stories that are told of things that happen during judging that in most cases could have happened to anyone. The person you talk about may on the other hand be talking about you and something they may or may not know is factual All of this makes a cook wonder why should they invest their time and money for what they “hear” is happening.

Cooks have many reasons for wanting to travel and cook as they do. They enjoy cooking and winning prize money the same as a professional fisherman. As cooks they provide a judge an opportunity to come together as a group for fellowship, enjoy judging great BBQ and even taking some home with them On the other hand all they ask is the judging be done in the professional manor they were taught. Judges scores are critical to cooks. A judge and their scoring help determine the awarding of thousands upon thousands of dollars on any given weekend. All the cook asks is: be consistent, be fair by only judging what is presented and not what you the individual expects, and follow the judging guidelines as presented by KCBS at EACH contest.

HAPPY BBQing hope to see you soon.”

I know that the majority of our judges conduct themselves in a professional manner.  It only takes one unprofessional act to bring in to question the entire judging corps.  Remember the eyes of an entire contest are upon us.  We are the ones that determine the outcome, and to some their livelihood.  We also want to make sure that we don’t turn off new teams that are just starting out.  If you are the table captain, or judge at a table and see something that might reflect badly upon us say something.  I don’t think that we need to institute draconian measures, just a simple suggestion should suffice.  Just let the person know that people are watching, and it might make them question whether we are taking our responsibilities seriously.  Remember I am not saying to take all the fun out of judging, just keep it professional.





KCBS Master Judge and Certified Table Captain Founder and CEO BBQJudges.org

Posted in BBQ Brett's Posts
One comment on “Judging Professionalism
  1. BBQBryant says:

    I’ve judged nearly 80 contests in 5 different states and never witnessed any behavior such as that in the judging tent. The worst thing I’ve ever seen is a judge scoring so much lower than the rest of the table that the contest rep had to talk to them about it to justify their scoring. I believe this brisket swinging was just an isolated incident and hopefully somebody explained proper prototcol to this judge.

    I Googled the word professionalism and one of the definitions is the competence or skill expected of a professional. Based on my experience, the vast majority of judges take their duties seriously and follow the guidelines set forth in our training and the judge’s CD that is played at every contest. After every category we talk about the samples to discuss things such as scores, flavor profiles, box arrangements and overall what was good or maybe not so good about those meats.

    I highly encourage cooks to judge at least once a year to see what happens in the judging tent. And judges should cook with teams more than just once to get their Master CBJ. I believe if we understand what happens on both sides of the contests that you’ll see we have a dedicated bunch of cooks and judges in KCBS. Don’t let one incident reflect badly on those that are doing the right thing all the time.

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