Baumann’s Fine Meats results:
19th – Overall
28th – Chicken
5th – Ribs
13th – Pork
26th – Brisket
2nd – Pork Steaks
6th – Dessert
Early Friday morning, Al shows up at my house ready to compete at our next BBQ competition. We anticipated all week for this event held in Florissant, MO. Some big names such as McFrankenboo BBQ, Quau and Rippel-Que (recent Sam’s Club Grand Championship in Louisiana) were all there to win in St, Louis’s only KCBS contest this year.
Coming off our overachieving 11th place finish in the Main Street BBQ & Bluesfest contest the month before, we were beaming with confidence at this contest. We even managed to convince Buamann’s Fine Meats to sponsor us for the weekend. Buamann’s couldn’t have been nicer to us, they are a family owned and operated meat market with lots of quality meats. In fact, they supplied us with the pork steaks that took 2nd place!
Under this partnership with them, our team name at this contest was Baumann’s Fine Meats. Al and I felt good to be associated with such nice folks who were very knowledgeable about competitive BBQ.
Our team arrives at the contest on a beautiful day, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. Unlike the Main Street comp, it was pleasant and no trace of rain in sight. Our overnight encounter was a little brisk, but we managed well. However, the disturbance that took place that night caught all of us by surprise…more on that later.
Brian Butts, who was our competition at the Main Street contest, was a volunteer for this contest. He helped us locate our spot and we immediately start to unload. Our space was roomy and oh so close to the building to turn in our BBQ boxes. And just like the last contest, we once again looked like a college tailgate party. Jeff Rippelmeyer, from team Rippel-Que observed that we “brought too much crap”…I have to agree with that assessment.
Later on, the empty spot next to us was occupied by A Pigs Worst Nightmare. I’m really fond of these guys. Not only because of their name, but they are some of the best cookers around and really nice folks.
However, we had no time for chit chat, our schedule was packed. We were once again entered in the dessert contest, also, we did the pork steak contest. And we were a man down, Tony (aka MacGyver) didn’t make it out this time. Without Tony’s skills, the rest of us have to pick up the slack with dessert and pork steaks pressing us. Both were turned in by Friday night, but the results had to wait until Saturday.
Our team is unique, we have 2 pitmasters who can bring it and compete with the best in all 4 categories. Realistically however, this hobby is expensive and requires lots of time to practice on a weekly (if not daily) basis. Al and I are both dedicated hardcore BBQ enthusiasts with families to support, so it made sense to combine our synergies and make amazing competition style BBQ. With that said, we couldn’t agree who should make the pork steaks, so we both made them and we turned in 3 of my pork steaks and 3 of his.
It turned out to be good enough for 2nd place! Although, I think my pork steaks scored the highest to make that happen. There may be no I in team, but there is ME…ha!
In the weeks leading up to KOCO, we were stressing about the County Health Department oversight. The general feeling about the health department (HD) at BBQ competitions is that we DO NOT sell or give samples to the public. The event organizers invite vendors who sell to the public. The KCBS also have rules in place for safe cooking practices, so the HD shouldn’t be at KCBS events. Still, St. Louis County requires they will check everyone for compliance with the HD. We were warned about 3 HD judges on the premises. They were described as:
1 woman – Mean, brutal, heartless. I saw her going through everyone’s cooler. I heard nobody got away without a citation if she checked you.
1 man – Intimidating, by-the-book. I didn’t see much of this guy in action because I was concerned more about the woman. From what I heard, he was a tough guy, but he didn’t go through your stuff.
1 man – Easy going, friendly. We got this guy. He didn’t let us get off the hook though, wrote us up for 2 violations. 1) Spray bottles not marked properly 2) not having chlorine test strips.
Afterwards, we felt like we were in the clear…except we got busted later on. While Jamie was prepping her dessert, I heard a female voice say “Whatcha’ doooin’?” just like Isabella from Phineas and Ferb (gotta have kids to know this). I turn around and the succubus is staring right at Jamie, who froze in the ambush. Turns out, Jamie didn’t have gloves on while cutting garnish…GARNISH!!! We took our scolding and thanked her for snarling pointing out our mistake. From then on, the health department was not heard from again.
Shaken, but undeterred by her encounter, Jamie presses on with dessert. The rest of us, however, were absent minded. With only minutes to spare, Al and I were on our way turning in the pork steaks only to find out that we forgot the number that should be attached to our plate. So, while Al held the plate of pork steaks at the turn in table, all 300lb of me took off running (more like a brisk walk) back to the site. I rumbled, bumbled and stumbled half way there, paused, called Jamie on the phone to stop what she was doing to meet me half way. In a few seconds, she raced to where I was and I waved her on like a third base coach waving the base runner into home plate, saying GO! GO! GO! Needless to say, we made it.
A BBQ is never fun unless there is family involved…I got to give credit to Uncle Danny and Aunt Sue who made it out again to support us and help Jamie with dessert. It turned our stunning and tasted silky smooth.
Oh! One more thing the event organizer decided to throw at us…pork shoulders. All the cooks got 2 pork shoulders to cook and will be made into pulled pork sandwiches for the people’s choice award (BTW…we didn’t win). Al got started on rubbing down the shoulders and put them on the cooker.
The rest of the night was dedicated to building the blind boxes and prepping meat. Because of the HD, our meat had to be checked in and checked out of a refrigerated truck. A log kept track how many times we did this to make sure the meat stayed below 40 degrees, otherwise the meat will spoil. Typically, meat in our coolers is sufficient, but this is what happens when BBQ competitions take place in big cities.
With the meat prepped, it was time to chill out. Learning from our previous all night cook, we need to conserve our energy for tomorrow. It’s better to have our wits about us rather than being sleep deprived. This is where things got weird.
As I was dozing in my chair with ear phones on, a couple of guys came though the lot in the middle of night, causing a ruckus. Finally, they laid on their horn to wake me up. My wife pointed behind me and 2 punks started yelling “Wake up, where’s the BBQ?’, “is it done yet, we got money!”. I didn’t recognize them as being other competitors, they must have been drunks that got past the barricades to harass us. Calmly, I went up to their truck and explained that we don’t sell BBQ, we compete. I really wanted to stick my Thermapen in their eyes, but I don’t want to ruin my precious instrument. After a few more demands and blaring of the horn, they got discouraged and peeled out of the parking lot.
After that strange encounter, I got back to work. Early morning went by quickly, all meats were on the grill and had myself a hearty breakfast…which included my stuffed blueberry muffin fatty.
At 11am, it was time to turn in the pork shoulders. But before we did, we had to pull the pork. Al decided to use his puny forks, I however, had Meatrakes! Al was visibly working harder to keep up with my ability to pull pork easily.
And he winced in pain when the hot pork juice touched his fingers, meanwhile the slip resistant rubber grip handles kept my hands out of harms way…silly Al, get some Meatrakes.
Crunch time arrives when chicken is ready to be boxed up. Chicken was turned in, Al and I tested the results. Al immediately said, they were dry, but I thought they were just like the batch we lost out on 1st place by .0003 points in Washington. We both thought flavor and skin were great.
Ribs up next…I felt good about ribs, but I could have done better. This time, I adjusted the schedule to make sure those ribs had sufficient time to cook until tender. The chances of getting high scores seemed daunting because of the deep field of competitors here. At the least, I was hoping to improve on the 22nd place finish I got last time.
I missed out on Al putting the pork box together, it was time to separate the brisket and prepare the burnt ends. From the pictures, Al never disappoints on his turn in boxes.
On the other hand, the brisket wasn’t done, not even close. Al tried and spat out the burnt end, too tough…damn. The flat needed another hour to cook, but no more time is available. I boxed it up, sent it away and hoped for the best. This defiantly was not my best brisket. As with the ribs, timing is an issue I need to work on. There will always be mistakes, but I can’t repeat them and expect to win.
Towards the end of our last turn in, my Mom brought my kids up, hopefully they will see Daddy win. When the last box was turned in, we’re exhausted and hot. We waited until all the results were calculated, meanwhile we packed up the tailgate party.
At 4:00pm the hall was filled with all the cooks and their friends & families. I don’t recall who won people’s choice, but it wasn’t anything I was interested in winning.
However, BFM scored early…Jamie’s cheesecake earned 6th place! She was real exited to have her first call and rosette award.
As I said before, we get called for pork steaks, 2nd place! I’ve been on a roll with pork steaks, one of the few meats I have mastered so far.
Now, the critical 4 categories were set to be announced. I felt chicken was top 10 for sure, so when they got down to 1st place, I was certain we had it…but we didn’t. I was deeply perplexed, because this was our strongest turn in and I’m concerned about our overall placing.
Leading off ribs for the money placers at 5th place…Baumann’s Fine Meats! Total shocker here, I didn’t think I had a shot at top 5, but I was stoked about it. I felt I redeemed myself from the last contest. My boys and I marched down the aisle to receive our award, take pictures and slap high fives.
Immediately, I thought if we had a top 15 chicken, we still had a shot at Grand Champion, but we have to do well in pork and brisket.
Other teams came and went, but no other calls for Baumann’s Fine meats, bummer. I felt good about our chances at this contest, but it was not meant to be. Baumann’s Fine Meats finished 19th place overall (33 teams) to my chagrin. In addition, we scored well in pork (13th), but once again, brisket was dismal as predicted (26th). The biggest surprise was chicken (28th)! How can the same recipe take 3rd at one comp and do so poorly in another…that’s judges for you.
However, this setback doesn’t discourage our team, in fact, we were motivated because we could do better. There were a lot of positives to take away with us and the experience of having family and friends makes it more enjoyable. But don’t be mistaken, we have the potential to string our top 10 finishes together in a single contest. It’s only a matter of time before we eventually win.
We had a great experience at the 2012 Kick-Off Cook-Off BBQ Competition, we’ll be back next year!