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I Was A Pork N Hops Judge

Ray Michaels
Ray Michaels

This year’s Pork N Hops was extra special for me. I was asked to be a judge the barbecue rib competition!

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a barbecue expert. No, I’m not a card carrying member of The American Royal competition committee but I’ve attended the “American Royal World Series of Barbecue” dozens of times. This annual competition was held in what’s called “The West Bottoms” of my home town of Kansas City for decades until recently moved to Kansas Speedway. Growing up in KC, and having been fed the stuff since I had a set of teeth, I have a pretty good handle on it. So when I was asked to judge the rib competition at this past weekend’s Pork N Hops, I jumped at the chance.

How this came about was completely by accident. I was hanging out backstage Friday evening waiting to intro Kip Winger when one of the Pork N Hops officials noticed my KC Chiefs cap. “You from KC? “Yes sir”, I replied. “We’re short a judge for tomorrow’s amateur rib competition, you in?” “Absolutely”, and just like that, I was a judge.

I arrived Saturday at my assigned time and joined the other four at the judge’s table. I must say I was disappointed in the first entry I sampled. I get it was the amateur side, but I excepted much better. The entries did improve. We had 11 in the competition and all styles were represented. There were sweet flavored ribs and others with a little kick. We were asked to score according to several categories from appearance, tenderness, and of course taste. I skipped lunch to make sure I was plenty hungry and I stuffed myself. In the end there was a clear winner. I’m don’t know who was the pit-master of entry #8 but they did a fine job. I hadn’t had any barbecue in quite some time so I was enjoying it. Now after this weekend’s q fix, I’m thinking “who’s up for a road trip to KC?.” I’ll drive.


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