• Ms. Freak

A Freakishly great Master CBJ experience



Smoke Freaks are excited to welcome Master Certified BBQ Judge candidate Karl to the team for this weekend’s “Best of the Midwest” competition in Union Grove, WI.


A Certified BBQ Judge (CBJ) can apply for Master CBJ status after judging 30 contests, cooking with a team and passing a knowledge test. CBJs are required to cook with a team so they can gain a more intimate view of what it’s like to cook on the pro BBQ circuit. We think it’s also a great way to build relationships between judges and cooks, and hopefully our judge can draw from this experience and become an even better judge.


Smoke Freaks had always planned to host a judge one of these days. It’s the right thing to do as part of the broader KCBS community.


But to be honest, we had some other business we needed to take care of first.


Selfishly, we wanted to preserve as much of our focus for the task at hand -- winning our first Grand Championship.


Plus we wanted to make sure we had something worthwhile to offer our first MCBJ candidate. Our mission is to deliver Freakishly great BBQ experiences, whether we’re cooking, entertaining or coaching and consulting. So if a judge was going to cook with us, “Freakishly great” is the bar we’re aiming for.


We’d been approached a few times before but hadn’t yet welcomed a judge to the team.


Fast forward to the “Harbor Que” competition in Winthrop Harbor, IL. A guy named Karl shows up at our cook site after judging is complete and introduces himself as a MCBJ candidate looking for a team to cook with.  


Here we go again.


We explained that we’re not feeling ready to have a judge join us just yet. But the more we got to talking to Karl, the more we thought he was pretty cool. He seemed like he could roll along with our Freak Force, which is really important to us.


Plus, he was wearing a tie-dye, so we got his contact info and promised to let him know one way or the other by Monday.


Well, the awards ceremony ended with a whole lot of howling as we are called up for Grand Champion! We finally did it!


Our thoughts went almost immediately to Karl, and we laughed because even though we’d all but decided to welcome him to the team, we knew there was no way of saying “no” now. Besides, he’s a good luck charm as far as we’re concerned.  


But how do we go about making it a Freakishly great experience for him? We got to work on that right away:


  • We talked to as many people as we could. Teams, MCBJs, CBJs, KCBS reps, face-to-face conversations, phone, email, Facebook groups... These conversations were all about learning from their experiences and getting suggestions on how to make it great. (Interestingly enough, many MCBJs said cooking with a team was an enlightening experience, but only a few were sure it helped them become a better judge.)


  • We immediately got the lines of communication going. This was about hearing directly from Karl to understand his motivations and goals, as well as us sharing our own.


  • On a real-time basis, we’ve been telling Karl about our preparation activities. We want to help him gain an appreciation for all of the work that takes place before we even show up. Things like sourcing ingredients and proteins, blending rubs and sauces, trimming meat, restocking supplies and everything else we do on or before “The Wednesday Shuffle.”


  • We’re creating a sense of investment in the experience. I don’t mean financial investment, but rather, ways for Karl to feel the Freakage. He doesn’t know it yet, but Karl is going to inject meat, load and light pits, wrap ribs and seriously get his hands dirty. We even got clearance from “The Godfather” for him to lead the 9:22 toast on Saturday morning. And should we happen to be fortunate enough to get some calls, Karl is going to walk on stage right along with us.


And of course, we’re planning to tap into all of his experience when we make decisions on what goes in the turn-in boxes. We can already tell he’ll have some great feedback for us.  


I know we’ll learn a lot from the experience, as will Karl. I’m so thankful our paths crossed.


Do you have any thoughts on other ways we can make it Freakishly great for our MCBJ candidate? Drop us a comment and Freak ON!

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