The Moody Ques would like to extend our thanks to Frank Chin, Chuck Averwater, and Tom Conlee, three highly experienced Memphis Barbecue Network-certified judges. This past fall, the Moody Ques planned to compete in two regional events. However, both got canceled. One of our team members lamented that it was a shame; we could do practice cooks every weekend from here until BBQ Fest, but without feedback from actual judges, we had no idea if we were doing the right things to improve. Frank Chin heard about our predicament, and reached out to us. He told us that he judges, and he could get a couple of other judges together and we could walk through a simulated BBQ Fest presentation.
Pitmaster Frank Howell and cook team Clay Thompson and Erik Karlsson assembled at Frank’s house Saturday, January 9 and began preparing two competition shoulders. This would be the ultimate test of our new cooker: Temperatures were seasonable when the shoulders went on, but outdoor temps were to drop into the 30s and even the 20s by the time the judges were to arrive. Could the new smoker withstand the cold?
Indeed it could, and the shoulders were ready to eat when the judges arrived at Frank’s house at 10:30 Sunday, January 10.
The judges were very gracious and willing to share what they knew, and stayed for two hours giving our cooks plenty of helpful advice and tips, lots of insider information on exactly what a BBQ Fest shoulder judge would want to see and hear.
“We’re going to give you plenty of pointers on what to change in your presentation, and in the look of the shoulders you present,” the judges said. “But we want you to know, the flavor of your product is right there. You have got the taste right. You are going to be able to compete. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Keep entering regionals. Keep having practice cooks. Keep tweaking your product. Keep getting familiar with your cooker. You do those things, and we predict that in about three years’ time, you are going to be one of the big dogs at Tom Lee Park.”
Of course, we brought the judges over for constructive criticism. We wanted to hear what we were doing wrong, and the judges were brutally honest. Since this is a public forum, we won’t go into specifics on here, although the cook team will discuss what was suggested at the next full team meeting. We were told that there were certain things in our presentation that judges absolutely do not want to hear, and we will be eliminating those in the future. We were told there were things we briefly touched on that judges would be interested in hearing more about. We were given insider secrets on how to get the bark that perfect color that gets a judge’s “10.”
Of all the steps the cook team has taken in the offseason to improve, this has been the most important. We cannot thank Frank, Chuck, and Tom enough for taking time out of their schedule to help us. We appreciate it very much.
We are tentatively planning a meet & greet for next month, so check back. In the meantime, here’s a photo gallery of the food preparation for the practice judging.