There you have it -- the words that no BBQ competition team ever wants to see on a comment card. BURN!
How did this happen? What could we have done differently? And most importantly, what have we learned?
It all started 3 weeks ago at our first of 25 competitions this year, CCS Fest in Indianapolis.
After a long off-season, we were finally back on the BBQ trail, cooking and reuniting with our BBQ family. Despite a nagging feeling that we had forgotten something, everything was going well.
On cook day, the weather was still a little windy, but nothing our pits from Hunsaker Smokers couldn’t handle. The sun was coming out and it turned into a lovely crisp spring day. And we had a good cook. Things fell into place, and we worked well together as a team. It felt good to be back.
And then finally, it’s time for awards. Such anticipation… HERE WE GO! Chicken. 9th place. Alright, we’re off to a good start. 6th place ribs, also nice. Ribs have always been our specialty, and we were pretty sure we’d placed. And then pork. Smoke Freaks for 7th place!!
That means 3 of 3 calls, a fantastic place to be sitting in, especially for your first cook of the season! People around us were starting to chatter and consider the possibilities… and for a very brief moment, I allowed my brain to drift over into the land of BBQ glory. BUT WAIT. We knew something no one else knew … our brisket was a fail.
(And when I say “fail,” I mean it sucked. The slices were like leather, so imagine the fun I had boxing up an anemic looking collection of burnt ends.)
But maybe, just maybe, by some miracle, we hit 11th in brisket and that might be good enough for something, right? NOPE. 42nd in brisket. Out of 45 teams. That dragged our overall score from top-3 to 25th. OUCH.
When the winners were announced, everyone around us was perplexed, asking how we managed to get 3 good calls but miss the overall top-10?
Well, this comment card sums it up pretty well...
We used our laminator to preserve that comment card, which memorializes the worst score we’ve ever received. It now hangs on the wall of the Wolf Wagon. Between that haunting reminder and our own Freaky efforts to diagnose and fix our our brisket problem, I can promise you we will never let that happen again.
What else did we learn? Work hard and play to win, but never take yourself too seriously. Own your mistakes and move on. Be humble. Stay Freaky.
We’re putting those lessons to the test this weekend at the Great Wisconsin Tune-Up in Manawa, WI. Freak ON!
Ann is Co-Founder and Pitmaster for Smoke Freaks. She loves being the Head Cook and and has fallen head over heels in love with Pork.