Friday, December 23, 2011

That's A Wrap - 2011 Season In Review

Hard to believe that 2011 is almost over. Like everyone says, the older you get the quicker the time goes! I wanted to give a quick wrap up of our competition year. Even though it was a small window of time, it proved to be one of the best for us!

We got off to late start compared to most teams as our first contest was in Springfield, MO at the Rockin' Rib Fest in late April. This was our second time cooking this contest. The weather was not spring like at all. Cold, windy and some rain greeted us on Friday. It definitely was not barbecue weather but we approached it as a challenge. We get spoiled cooking in perfect weather and this was an opportunity for us to implement some different techniques to turn out the high quality product we seek to produce. What we learned here would come into play throughout our season as we faced different weather challenges. In the end, we finish 8th out of 58 teams. We had calls in Pork and Brisket. Not bad for our first contest out of the chute.

Trying to coordinate schedules for two people, plus their family commitments, sometimes does not leave time for barbecue contests. As we found out, the next contest we were able to get on our schedule was in Raytown, MO in early June. This was our second time around at this contest. The weather was warm but we did have to endure another downpour. We were just thankful for minimal lightning and no heavy winds. It made trying to finish our chicken somewhat of a challenge but no harm done. Forty six teams showed up and we finished 13th overall.  Not the top 10 overall finish  we were shooting for but a call in Chicken and Sausage would help ease the pain.

After another break, we cooked at Racing for the BBQ in Lee's Summit, MO at the end of a very hot July. This was our first time cooking this contest. We liked the venue as we had lots of room. The short walk to the turn-in tent was nice too. Prior to this event, a slight tweak was made to our Pork process and we tried it here. We loved the resulting flavor. Even though we did not get a call with it, we felt like we were onto something with it. Out of 36 teams, we finished 9th overall with a call in Ribs and Brisket. We were pleased with our results considering the level of competitive teams that participated at this event.

Our long break between contests would continue until mid-September with our return to Springfield, MO. This would be our second time cooking the Sertoma Summer Sizzle. It had taken place in August the previous year and moved to a cooler September date this year. We enjoyed cooking this event last year. It is well run and the organizers are great. Unknowingly, this contest would become our harmonic convergence. After twenty two attempts, all of our feelings of disappointment and doubt were swept away with the announcement of Holla N' Swalla as the Grand Champions of this contest. We were so close last year at winning here but we were betrayed by our Brisket entry. Not this year! A 1st in Chicken, 9th in Ribs, 1st in Pork (the tweaking paid off!) and 5th in Brisket finally provided some much needed validation about what we have been doing. It indeed was a huge goal reached for us and a goal we want to keep repeating!

The last stop on our barbecue tour was the American Royal Open. Our expectations were a little higher this year after coming off of our victory two weeks earlier in Springfield. The weather was great and our cook had no issues. The results were disappointing. We could not land anything in the top 100. I am still not sure what happened? All of our categories throughout this season have cooked and finished with the same consistency. There may be a slight divergence in taste on occasion but never anything drastic. It's easy to blame the judging but a contest of this size has so many factors that can influence it. I guess the only thing consistent about the American Royal is that Kemper Arena sits empty and the rest is a crap shoot.

The 2011 season is over but for our team, even though we only competed five time, it was our best season. Sure we had some great highlights from our 2009 season (BBQ Pitmasters, 3rd place Chicken finish at the Royal) but this was the most satisfying season. Now to look forward to 2012. We have already secured our spot at the Rockin' Rib Fest this coming April and we are looking at adding another five to 8 events for this season. Plus, we finally get to cook in the American Royal Invitational! No more looking in the toy store window like Tiny Tim. We get to go inside and play!

Happy Holidays from the Holla N' Swalla crew!

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