Friday, June 12, 2009

The View From the Other Side

So, on Saturday, I had a very interesting experience. I was asked to be a field judge for the Eagle Mountain Pony Express Days Dutch Oven Cookoff.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I'd participated in the cookoff the previous two years, and had interacted with field judges each time. Still, interacting doesn't mean the same as doing.

I read over the instructions and the judging criteria the night before. They had all turned in their recipes. Part of what I was supposed to do was to make sure that they cooked their chosen recipes in a safe and correct way.

Actually, that's not entirely true. My job was to watch them do it and mark them down if they did it "wrong". It seemed that all of the criteria in the scoring was based on messing up. I thought that was strange. They got 3 points in each of five categories. The highest score was defined as "satisfactory", and the others were things like "Needs Minor Improvement", "Needs Major Improvement", and "Don't Eat Their Food". There were no provisions for someone doing something exceptionally well.

That would have made my job much easier. See, the teams all knew what they were doing, and did a pretty good job of it. So, with a few minor exceptions, they all did "Satisfactory". So, how am I to distinguish?

But it was a lot of fun. I got to know some good dutch oveners, and it was fun.

Here I am, yours truly, walking out to the judges table from the cooking area. Like I have said before, it's not often that I get a picture here in the Black Pot, and that's probably a good thing!

In addition to a fun new experience, I also got to keep the cool embroidered apron!
These guys were new to competition, so it wasn't a surprise that they didn't place as high, even though their dishes were well done. When you've competed a while, you learn certain touches in presentation and style that really impress judges. I really liked their bread, and I want to try their spicy chicken, too!
This guy cooked with his 14-year-old daughter. They made a great team. In addition to helping him cook, she did all his dishes. I wonder if I could work out an arrangement like that with Brendon...
The judges table! The judges were an interesting mix. About half were local celebs, and one was the author of a food storage cookbook, and there were two that actually had some cooking skills.

The judging was difficult, too. I was allowed to taste everything, but as a field judge, I didn't vote in the taste testing. In all but a very few cases, it was tough to pick a favorite!
This one's the winner's main dish. It was wonderful! Ribs with a homemade BBQ sauce. I thought the shrimp on the edge was a nice touch, too.
This one was incredible, and I want to make it at home sometime. A pork rib roast with a brown sugar and pepper sauce. Man, it was gooooooood.
The winners! Not only did they win the prize, qualifying for the World Championship Cook Off next spring, but they also won the Mayor's Choice award (second year running!). This couple also competed for the first time with me the first time I did the Eagle Mountain.

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