BBQ Festival Judging in Tennessee

Invitation leads to Tennessee BBQ festival standard, the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue.


| January/February 2010



These barbecued spare ribs, with a bit of dipping sauce on the side, could win a contest any day.

These barbecued spare ribs, with a bit of dipping sauce on the side, could win a contest any day.

iStockphoto.com/David Smith

When I was invited to judge the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Barbecue, I was like a child watching the calendar for the great event. I simply love barbecue.

Held in October, this is the crème de la crème of competitions and is hosted by Lynchburg, Tennessee, the home of Jack Daniel’s Distillery. To be invited, a barbecue team must be the top team at a regional competition, then survive a lottery of regional winners who want to compete at “The Jack.”

Teams from 36 states and 16 countries included chefs, butchers, retirees, entertainers, farmers, housewives and firefighters. The number of teams determines the number of judges. This year, 60 teams meant 60 judges at 10 judging tables.

All judges must pass the Kansas City Barbeque Society Judging Course, and the KCBS rules are extensive, covering minute details such as:

  • Entries must be six separated and identifiable portions of meat. (Later I saw an entry disqualified for not doing this.)
  • No red-tipped lettuce allowed for garnish.
  • Sauce is allowed, but may not be in a pool.

One of my first thrills as a judge was meeting Ardie Davis and Paul Kirk, deans of American barbecue.

Ardie Davis, in his trademark black bowler hat and bow tie, greeted me in the judging area. Davis started the first Barbecue Sauce Contest in his backyard in 1984. It is now part of Kansas City’s American Royal, one of the top three barbecue competitions, along with “The Jack” and the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.





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