Tuesday, August 16, 2011

10 in a Row

I’ll spare you the excuses regarding the abandoned blog.   Instead I’ll pick up with the last Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Draw back in Sept 2010:

My team IQUE had an automatic bid based on our win at the Jack the previous fall.  The 2010 Jack would also be our 9th straight year competing at the contest.  And we were quite aware of the following rule in the fairly complex Jack Daniels qualifying criteria:

After a team has competed at “The Jack” nine times, the tenth year they win a qualifying competition, they will be invited without going through any draws.

So we had a year to win any qualifying Grand Championship and we would become the first team to ever be invited to the Jack 10 years in a row.  While winning a Grand Championship is never easy – in fact it gets harder every year – the task seemed at least quite do-able.  We usually cook 10-12 contests a year and have probably averaged 2-3 Grand Championships each year.  We were fresh off of winning New England BBQ Society team of the year and felt good about our cooking program.  No stress, no worry, let’s go get that Grand now! 

First up was Harvard, MA Sept 2010:

Chicken (2), Our absolute bread and butter category for at least the last two years
Ribs (19) rib issues were on the horizon
Pork (7), Brisket (3)

Reserve Grand Champion.  Close.  Oh how nice it would have been to knock out the qualifier in the first attempt

Oinktoberfest, Clarence NY Sept 2010

Chicken (16), Ribs (5), Pork (14) and Brisket (1, with a big score), Reserve Grand.  Yes close again.

Both the Oink and Harvard were good cooks.  In both cases another team just cooked better than us that day.

Jack Daniels 2010 (76 teams)

Heck a Grand here would be a great way to get qualified for next season.  ::grin::

Chicken (20), Ribs (55), Pork (18), Brisket (9), Overall (17)

Ribs, OUCH.  But deserved.   Guess we’ll have to wait until 2011 to qualify.


I was coming off of teaching two cooking classes in the NEBS and Mid Atlantic regions.  My plan for 2011 was to try out some new entries and mix it up a bit hoping to standout.   And why not?  I had a whole season in front of me to qualify for the Jack.  Turned out I got my butt whooped regularly by teams that had taken my class.  

Lexington MA April (27 teams)

Chicken (4), Ribs (6), Pork (14), Brisket (9), Overall (7)

A variety of new ideas tried.  Pork becoming an issue

Middletown, Delaware May (47 teams)

Chicken (3), Ribs (12), Pork (19), Brisket (20), Overall (8)

Chicken rock solid, Pork still a problem, Brisket undercooked.  Self-imposed mediocrity.

Rochester, NY May (83 teams)

Chicken (3), Ribs (31), Pork (28), Brisket (11), Overall (10)

I’m sensing a trend, my Pork sucks.

Cape Cod June (33 teams)

Chicken (22), Ribs (6), Pork (18), Brisket (5), Overall (10)

Even my reliable chicken was not present at this one.  These first four contests were all won by teams that took my class.  I mention that only that it made me question my approach.  Maybe I should use my old recipes?  I would mark this contest as the point where the pressure started.  Shit, I am running out of time and need to win a contest.  Stick with it or change up the program?

Old Orchard Beach June (17 teams)
Chicken (3), Ribs (5), Pork (6), Brisket (2), Overall (2)

Missed GRAND by 1 pt!

Lake Placid July (26 teams)

I took a much needed break but my team-mate John Delpha who has been bit hard by the Comp BBQ bug competed:

Chicken (10), Ribs (11), Pork (3), Brisket (11), Overall (10)

Well maybe John knows something about Pork.  I would have liked nothing more than to see John win our qualifier.

A note on Pork 
We have a risky Pork presentation that basically entails filling the box with huge slices of pork.  Risky because judges looking for pulled pork often ding this turn in.   Other times it can be quite impressive.  We have had hot runs with this presentation including 2nd place at the Jack in 2009.  We decided to take this approach out of the archives and give it a shot.

Troy NY July (32 teams)

Chicken (2), Ribs (18), Pork (9), Brisket (20), Overall (7)

Chicken returns, Optimistic about Pork but undercooked the Brisket.  I was really struggling to pull four decent categories together.  The problem category is starting to be something different every week.

Harpoon July (40 teams)

ROCK BOTTOM.  Possibly the worst showing I have had at a KCBS contest ever.

Chicken (26), Ribs (29), Pork (21), Brisket (8), Overall (20)

Fryeburg, Maine July (38 teams)

Meanwhile John was back in Maine

Chicken (9), Ribs (9), Pork (4), Brisket (8), Overall (3)

STRONG effort... close


The plan from here was to cook safe tried and true recipes, stay cool and cook as many contests as possible.  The large slice Pork experiment was over.  The next weekend John went to Saratoga and I went to Brockport.  It was unclear if either would be qualifiers but we needed to cook.  At this point I had a cooler in my car with ice and meat in it pretty much non-stop for over a month.  Thankfully my family was incredibly supportive and I actually had this in my fortune cookie:

Saratoga NY July (16 teams)

Chicken (5), Ribs (12), Pork (8), Brisket (2), Overall (7)

John thought ribs were the best thing he cooked.

Brockport NY July (25 teams)

Chicken (17), Ribs (5), Pork (3), Brisket (4), Overall (4)

How cruel.  A solid cook, pork finally returns but the bread and butter chicken does not score today.  Pretty much sums up how the year has been going.  Good news is I stumbled upon a nice Pork technique here.  I am a bit more optimistic, stick with it, change nothing.

Manorsville, NY August (42 Teams)

Chicken (2), Ribs (22), Pork (5), Brisket (1), Overall (1)

Boom!  There it is - 10 years in a row  The BBQ Gods still tried to derail me by dinging my excellent ribs but the brisket was just too good and we won our Grand.  Break out the Single Barrel we are going back to Lynchburg!

Eliot ME August (40 teams)

I’ll cook one more, why not?

Chicken (31), Ribs (1), Pork (5), Brisket (8), Overall (5)

There it is again.  A different weekend and a different category gives me trouble.   My plan is to take a month or so off to recharge and then start practicing for the Jack.  I'm dropping out of the Sams Club tournament... it just doesn't feel like its our year.

Hudson Valley, NY August

John is cooking this one, good luck!

1 comment:

One Food Guy said...

Congratulations! Way to qualify for "The Jack"! Ten years in a row is a huge accomplishment! Well done.