We won our fourth Grand Champion award for 2010 at our first ever New Mexico State Championship contest on June 26, 2010, with 1st in Brisket, 1st in Pork, 2nd in Ribs, and 9th in Chicken amid 27 teams. This marked our first out of state GC. Although there was a contest in California that weekend, we could have cooked in, we decided to drive 850 miles to compete because the IBCA-sanctioned New Mexico Grillin and Chillin contest would be one of the two qualifying Jack Daniels Invitational Draw contests for the state of New Mexico. That meant if we won it, we would have a 50-50 shot at being picked for the Jack. Compared to California where there are about ten such contests, winning one would give us only a 10% chance of being picked. Several top teams also figured the same strategy and showed up in force from Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas to do battle (Rhythm n’ Que, Sweet Peppers, AZ BBQ, Smoke Ring, Q, and others).
It was a gamble to drive the 14 hours to Albuquerque as it was unclear the day before we left whether there would be the minimum 25 teams to qualify for the Jack draw. If teams dropped out or couldn’t make it, the team count was in jeopardy of falling below 25. To keep the count in the qualifying range, Jim Ballog from Sweet Peppers, a top Jack team from New Mexico, offered to teach rib and chicken class to the newbie teams. Mike Reiman and Tom Duncan, AZ BBQ from Phoenix, fielded 2 additional teams from Arizona. Daniel Denton from Mule Barn BBQ and Sandra Perro, event organizer, also did a marvelous job getting the word out to teams about this fun event.
We left Los Angeles Thursday evening and despite some showers and windy conditions, arrived on Friday at 5 pm at the event site. Benny, my teammate, drove his big Ford E-150 van this time and brought his wife Shari to join us. After getting settled with contest prep, we drove a short distance from the RV site where the teams were situated to the Isleta Lakes Hard Rock Casino where we enjoyed a delicious seafood buffet dinner. We put our pork butts and brisket in the WSMs around midnight and got some sound shuteye.
The Saturday IBCA cook went smoothly with temps in the 90’s. After hearing that most of the judges were members of the public, we decided to overcook our meats to make them fork tender as the IBCA rules require judges to eat with fork and knife, as compared with KCBS judges who eat with their fingers. We also cut our ribs Hollywood-style (leaving more meat by cutting flush with the adjoining rib bone) to make it easier to eat ribs with fork and knife. Since we were in New Mexico, we noticed lots of spicy flavors in the buffet. Also, Daniel of Mule Barn BBQ cooked the contestants a delicious burrito breakfast with eggs scrambled with spicy roasted New Mexico Hatch chilies which were super yummy (many thanks to Daniel and his crew; and to Sandra for her wonderful homemade cinnamon buns). Consequently, we adjusted our normal flavor profiles and made everything spicier to match the palate of local New Mexico judges. These important tactical changes paid off as the judges gave us top scores!
During the awards ceremony, only three teams received three calls (top 5 placings) among 4 meat categories. With our very strong placings (1st brisket, 1st pork, and 2nd ribs) I thought we had won GC as no team had done better. To our surprise, we were called for Reserve and Smoke Ring BBQ took GC. Something was obviously awry with the scoring. Benny asked the IBCA official, who was from Texas, what was the difference between GC and RC, she told him that it was a 2-point difference and that the pork entry was excluded and not counted towards GC. Huh? We were puzzled and a number of our BBQ friends (Jim and Adrian of Sweet Peppers and Mike Reinman and Tom Duncan of AZ BBQ) questioned the official since the contest was advertised and entry fees were paid for 4 meat categories. Jim from Sweet Peppers called the area President of the IBCA, and Tom from AZ BBQ called Kelly Macintosh, our Western IBCA official to question the official’s exclusion of pork in a 4-meat contest. After a flurry of phone calls, spirited discussion, and input from Sandra, the event organizer, the scores were corrected, and all was well just as a monsoon thunderstorm broke over the contest site. [Update 8/31/10: The IBCA official results web page shows 27 teams, so this was a Jack qualifying contest]
Congrats go out to Casey Nevarez from OKC’s for Reserve Grand Champion and to all who competed. A big thanks goes to Sandra Perro, event organizer, IBCA officials, volunteers, judges, and helpers. We’d like to thank our terrific Sponsors: Rocks BBQ System for our Stoker temperature control system, T&H Meat and Sausages for our meat products, TheSlabs.com for our rub products, Cajun Grill for our Weber stainless replacement doors, Smokin Guns for our rubs, Butcher BBQ for our injections, and Snake River Farms for our Wagyu meat products.