Sunday, March 14, 2010

Contest patrons-

Rude or uninformed?

If you cook enough BBQ competitions you will eventually come in contact with a rude or obnoxious patron, this I can guarantee. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when and how often. Let me explain. First of all, I am not talking here of the contest drunk. Some events have more than their share of inebriated attendees, and let’s don’t forget the overly indulging contest participants. Either one of these groups are always a possibility when you have cookers, charcoal, meat and beer all in the same location at the same time. Even at the so called dry contests, where there is a will, there is a way.

I am talking here of some of the supposedly sober patrons that are at the contest during and after the turn-in window on Saturday. Now, before I go any further, I think I need to say that the rude patron is the exception rather than the rule. Most are very friendly, polite, sober and fun loving. There are however, a few exceptions:

The Nosey Nate- You are busy with your last minute saucing and box preparation, everyone on the team is busy with the task at hand. If your team has been at it for a while, at times, there is very little conversation, everyone knows what needs to be done and when. It is like a finely tuned engine. Wait a minute, who is that over there with their nose stuck inside our spice box? Which is sitting inside our enclosed trailer. I don’t recognize him. Did you invite him? “Can I help you?” the interloper is asked, “no thanks, I am just looking”. What are we in a grocery store here? This is a good example why you need to lock up and guard your valuables at a contest.

The Trespassers- Not quite as bad as The Nosey Nate these folks will walk right through your site in order to save a few steps in getting where they want to go. At times, we have had groups of trespassers, (sometimes known as herds), walk right through a circle of teammates sitting inside our site while we are eating or discussing strategy. I feel sorry for the teams at heavily attended events when they are cited in the path to an area where the public wants to be, the words trespasser super highway comes to mind. Many times even crowd control devices such as caution tape or hay bales are not sufficient to deter these folks from taking a shortcut to the rest rooms.

The Scout- This person could be sometimes confused with a two face. Very polite, non obtrusive, asking a few timely questions, not interrupting, you almost feel that you are dealing with a regular person. In a weak moment, you offer a sample, after all, they have been standing quietly talking and it does appear to be a bit of drool on the side of their mouth as they stare quietly at your pile of extra ribs. They thank you over and over, reach into the pan and begin to sample. “Wow, this is the best I have ever eaten…..hey Uncle Bill, grab the kids and come here.” Uncle Bill, who has been stationed just around the corner and out of eyesight, has been waiting to hear the dinner bell ring. He storms the site with 5 or 6 kids of assorted ages in tow, let the feeding frenzy begin. “Do you have any napkins? Where are the drinks?”

The Intruder- This is the person that will walk right into your site and stand right amongst the team as they are preparing their boxes. Sometimes even developing a bit of an attitude when asked to move and or leave. We have had these folks exclaim, “I can’t see anything from out there!” referring to the area where the general public is supposed to be.

The Buffet Patron- Here is the guy that bellies up to your turn in table and begins to help his self to what ever is being offered as the special of the day in his pea brain. Dipping his ungloved, who knows where they’ve been hands into your freshly pulled pan of pork butt, this guy is sure to give you a tude when asked to leave….”I thought this was a BBQ contest” I heard him mumble as he left the site in a huff, surely looking to find a manger for which to file a complaint.

The Take Out Patron- Sometimes working in conjunction with The Intruder and or The Buffet Patron this person is not only looking to feed their uninvited faces, they also operate without regard to any health and safety regulations or even basic common courtesy. “Where’s the plastic bags?” I was asked two years ago at Dover by a woman as she finished wrapping a self served order of my brisket in some of my aluminum foil that she had already helped herself to.

The Hit and Run Specialist- You have just finished with ribs, the box has been sent to the judges, you have a few minutes to catch your breath. You single bone the remaining ribs and toss them into a pan for later sampling and possible discussion with the team. The pan is moved from the prep table to another table as you ready the area for the pork entry. The pan is situated within arms reach of the front of your site and without thinking you forget to post an armed guard. You turn your back to sauce your butt and ‘bam’ he’s got you. He has been circling unnoticed in front of your site just waiting for this moment. If it were just him, maybe no big deal, but now you’ve got The BBQ Seagulls to deal with.

The BBQ Sea Gulls- What in the world do seagulls have to do with a BBQ contest you ask? Have you ever been to the beach or on a large parking lot in an area where there are a large population of seagulls? Renowned scavengers, seagulls have the uncanny ability to spot a corn chip or a french fry in the sand at 1000 yards. BBQ Seagulls have the same ability to spot a handout at a contest, as soon as they observe the score made by the Hit and Run Specialist, they dive in and help themselves. The commotion caused by the initial incident, followed by the ever increasing size of the flock helps attract even more of the ferocious and raucous feeders. Left unchecked, they will continue to feed until the pan is empty. I have even observed some of this ilk even go as far as moving the pan closer to the public area to facilitate even easier access for their comrades.

The Questioner- I sometimes think this person is not so much rude as they are oblivious to what is actually going on. They amble up to your site, right in the middle of crunch time, can see that you are extremely busy, yet continue to ask question after question. All while you are watching time slowly tick away out of the corner of your eye, and you thought you would have time to run to the spot a pot before the next turn-in. Forget that.

The Brown Noser- This is the person that thinks if they heap enough praise on you and or attempt to inflate your ego with high flying compliments that you might even throw the keys to your truck in along with the extremely large carry-out order that you are sure to box up for them to take home. “This is the best stuff that I have tasted all day and I have even eaten some of THE BIG GUYS stuff.” I’ll bet he says that to all the teams.

While I have had some fun here with some of the experiences I have had, I do believe that I have touched on an important issue, better informing the public. I am sure there are a certain percentage of patrons at a contest that know exactly what is going on and how the entire contest schedule proceeds. But I do believe that there is a large majority of folks wandering through the venue without a clue. They are at a BBQ contest and all they see are folks standing around looking at their cookers or playing with white Styrofoam boxes. Where are the samples? What the heck is going on here? Can I buy a sandwich from you? Where are the men’s rooms?

A simple one page handout along with some strategically posted signage would go a long way in letting the public know exactly what they are seeing and what will be occurring. The contest organizer could also assist with the message when advertising the event, particularly in an area where the contest is a first timer. Information could be contained such as a brief explanation of a contest, what can be seen and when, what is and is not permitted as far as food sampling and sales, a time schedule as to when the teams will be busy as well as when the awards will be given out. I don’t think a three page pamphlet is needed here, just some brief and basic information.

A better informed public would have a positive effect on the entire competition circuit in a multitude of ways. First, more informed contest attendees are least likely to become rude or obnoxious patrons, although in some cases, nothing can be done to correct a person’s ignorance. Second, it would help to improve the public’s contest perception as well as their enjoyment as a spectator. I have witnessed on several occasions persons grumbling and storming out after they learned that there would be no free foods offered for their consumption. Lastly, I think that we would be more likely to attract folks into the competition arena if they were better informed. My thinking is the more people informed and involved, the better the entire experience for everybody.

The other option I have would be to carry a couple of rolls of barbed wire and fence posts along with my regular contest gear. This way I could erect a barrier that would be sure to keep even the most hell-bent intruder away. I could also bring along some off-duty Police or a couple of out of work bouncers to act as a sort of quasi security force. Somehow I feel this would be frowned upon by the contest organizer, for my money, it would be easier and less hassle to inform the public, what do you think?


Bill said...

When I went to my first BBQ competition as an interested civilian, I was amazed that the contestants didn't sell their BBQ to the public. This is how a lot of other "contests" work, after all.

There generally isn't any information as to what's happening, but the events are often advertised all over town.

It seemed to me at that first competition that the only reason to advertise to the public was if the public could get a sampling.

I'm still amazed at why the public would go to a BBQ competition, since there's really nothing there for them!

Perhaps everybody at the gate should receive a rundown of process and rules, so to speak.

Just a former outsider's insights ;-)

Navchop said...

I plan on attending my first competition in Salisbury this weekend.

I'm not new to barbecue, but competition barbecue is pretty new to me. I stumbled on a couple of forum sites when I decided to upgrade from a medium sized weber kettle to a Ranch kettle. I became facinated with the competition end of Q.

I love good barbecue and it is not always easy to find it in local resturants. Fixing it yourself is sometimes the only way. I've learned quite a bit from the forums and have looked forward to meeting some of the people who's posts I've been reading.

I found your blog earlier this week and have enjoyed reading it from start to finish. I'm hoping to meet you and I look forward to buying your book.

I just don't want to be characterized as one of the above "characters." I believe I do understand how the contests work and that there are times when the teams shouldn't be disturbed.

Keep entertaining and educating with your blog and good luck this weekend. I hope to see you there.