Finally! Our season kicked off in the center of Springfield, MO's universe. On the sprawling grounds of The Bass Pro Shop, 58 teams faced off in what turned out to be some of the worst cooking weather we had ever faced.
Now we all know Missouri is no Eden. It is more like the sweaty knee pit of some fat lady on the Tilt-A-Whirl at Silver Dollar City. Hot and sticky or cold, clammy and wet. Well, we ended up on the cold and wet part from the start. Throw in non-stop windy conditions and it was miserable. I was layered up more than that kid from "A Christmas Story" and still could not keep warm! It was a test of fire and temperature management for us.
The wind created problems with our set-up. Normally, we like to put our 2 Easy-Ups together and use our sides to give us a nice block from the wind. Luckily, we were supplied with a 10x10 tent from the event organizer that was anchored in the asphalt. We anchored our Easy-Up to that tent. The gusting wind made it almost impossible to put it up but with some persistence we were able to make it work. The sides were another story. The wind blew so hard that the velcro straps would not hold. We had to find a way to block the wind and rain or we were in big trouble. Plan B kicked in. I bought 2 tarps at the Pro Shop and we zip tied them to the anchored tent creating a much needed wind/rain block. The downside was that we had every piece of equipment crammed under the tent which severely hampered our work space. Yet another challenge to work around.
The cook itself went better than I had thought it would. The brisket and pork finished on time. The ribs followed the always predictable timeline we have. The chicken was stubborn. For some reason, about half of the pieces were not done. I am still not sure why? We followed our same exact recipe and cooking timeline and have never had this issue before.
In the end, the chicken proved to be a disappointment. We were only able to select from a limited amount of pieces and it handcuffed us when it came time to put the box together. The chicken looked good but it did not taste very well (too tough in my opinion). The ribs also disappointed me. They had a great flavor but did not look good in the box. We tried a different brand of rib that was supposed to be of better quality but it did not deliver for us. On the bright side, I thought our pork and brisket tasted great (this usually signals doom at judging time).
Overall, we were "caned" by Quau as they took the Grand. We finished 8th out of 58 teams. In chicken, we finished in 16th place and 19th place in ribs. Pork was our first call in 8th place and brisket finished in 10th place. Considering the crappy conditions, I was pleased with our finish.
Now we have a few weeks of downtime as my personal schedule and competition schedule are not seeing eye to eye. We are looking at the Raytown, MO contest for our next event. I hope that my schedule will allow for another in between but it is not too promising right now.
See ya' down the trail and beware of the "Missourah" fat lady!