Have you ever experienced one of those times in your life where everything seems to be going your way? It’s like the stars align and all of a sudden – life dishes you out some incredible good fortune?
This exact phenomenon happened when the editor of GC Mag informed us that we would be required to attend and put together a review of the Hervey Bay BBQ-Fest. With 11 outstanding BBQ teams from around QLD competing in three delicious but grueling rounds of Hervey Bay Seafood, Chicken, and Pork rib.
At that point of my life, I really thought I had it all, but then…everything changed. The organiser of this magical event asked if GC Mag would also be interested in being judges for the BBQ competition.
Well, as you can imagine the answer was a resounding “heck yes – I will eat all of the BBQ”, and I will bring the mouth-watering experience to you, the people, converted into a prose word format (apologies on behalf of science not having yet invented digital taste sampling. Damn you, science).
On Saturday August 15th we entered into Arkarra Gardens, the Hervey Bay BBQ competition’s idyllic location – surrounded by Tiki huts, tropical trees and bird noises. Of course, on that day the smell of charcoal and hum of nervous excitement changed the usually calming environment into one of good-natured competitiveness.
Arriving to the judges tent to report for duty, our knowledgeable table captains Julian and Adrian shared their previous BBQ judging experience so that some of the less experienced judges would know what to keep an eye out for.
Head judge James Park explained the scoring system which ensured that the judges would be tasting all dishes anonymously, with no knowledge of which BBQ team’s dish they were eating.
Rules for the 16 judges:
– No talking between judges and competitors
– No reactions (gotta keep that p-p-poker face)
– Scores from 5 – 10 (anything lower than 5 needed to be discussed with the head judge)
– “Infractions” would cause a score of zero and are caused from things such as left over alfoil, toothpicks or undercooked meat
First up, we had the seafood round where “creativity” was scored as well as “taste”, “texture” and “appearance”. Teams certainly delivered the goods, with dishes ranging from seared tuna to peanut satay prawns. Creative genius was evident in many entries such as the dish of seared prawn wrapped around a scallop, on a bed of white wine and garlic butter fettuccine, served as individual portions on a scallop half shell – all delicately dusted with the awesome “SPOG” rub from Bulldozer BBQ.
Our table captain judges explained that it was very important to let the taste evolve – particularly with spicy dishes. We were also trained not to ‘compare each box’, but rather to score each individually on their own merit.
Next up was the chicken round, with many teams serving up “lollipop” style chicken dishes dripping with flavour. Although, it’s important to note that professional BBQ judges assess the dishes not on the flavour of the sauce, but on how the sauce “goes” with the protein. This is a fairly tricky task for someone who adds multiple sauces to her Subway BMT. But I started to get the knack and even resisted the “finger licking” urge – professionally using the napkins provided and keeping a poker face throughout.
The final round, (and in my opinion most delicious of the three rounds) was reserved for the Pork Ribs. Before entering into this round, I felt it was important to be ready. So the experienced table captain Adrian informed me to “watch for the bite”. If it falls off bone – it’s overcooked. Perfectly cooked pork ribs can be identified when you bite in and you leave a teeth mark where you took the bite. We were also looking for them to be well presented – perfectly displayed rectangles, not jagged or laid mismatched.
Some fantastic contributions were presented in this round, but with my training I was also able to note when they were perhaps a little dry or over cooked. I was certainly impressed with the efforts of each team.
Our work was done for the day and we were legally allowed to go and mingle with the BBQ teams. We listened to the incredible musical talent of Brisbane Bluesman Shane Fell – the one-man street band while we drank a few cold beers to wash down all of that fantastic protein.
As the sun began to get low in the sky, Head judge James Park and Head organiser Russell took to the stage to deliver the awards.
The final overall results:
Grand Champions – Charlotte’s Weber (Gold Coast)
Reserve Grand Champions – Smoking Guns (Hervey Bay)
Third place – Mary Valley Hogs (Gympie)
After just one year in the BBQ competition scene, Grand Champions Charlotte’s Weber are the team to watch. Jason Averay, Simon Young, and Myles McLindin are three best mates from the Gold Coast who are now leading the charge in all things low and slow. You can see/taste them compete next at the Sunshine Coast BBQ festival on Saturday, 5th September at Aussie World.
An outstanding mention to Reserve Grand champions Smoking Guns of Hervey Bay who achieved this impressive second place ranking in their debut BBQ competition.
Congratulations to all the hard-working and talented teams and a huge thank you to the organizers and judges. I would highly recommend BBQ judging to anyone interested in entering the scene. But be warned, I had an incredible amount of excess energy for days afterward and I am now even more addicted to low and slow BBQ.
BBQ enthusiast, moonlighting as a judge