A few years ago while competing in a barbecue event in Arcadia, Florida the unthinkable happened while preparing our chicken turn-in box. We prepared fantastic turn-in samples and were sure we had a good chance to win, but after placing the samples in the box and closing it I discovered that our box had been damaged.
I froze for a few seconds and wasn’t sure what to do next. Should I turn in the sample anyway and take a chance that the box would be disqualified? Should I throw in the towel for the chicken category and start preparing for the rib turn-in?
It was only a few minutes before turn-in time and I decided to take the box to the turn-in table. Once there I approached the official at the table and showed her the damaged box. I asked if the damaged box would be a problem, assuming it would, and she agreed. She gave me an ultimatum. Turn-in the box and be disqualified or put the chicken samples into a new box within the next two minutes and turn it in before the cut-off time.
She handed me a new box. I didn’t have any of the usual tools we use to prepare our boxes, but I transferred the chicken into the new box and turned it in.
The new box was not well prepared and was not nearly as “put together” as the original. The chicken wasn’t perfectly straight. We use a very sticky barbecue sauce for chicken and transferring it left a lot of smudges and smears on the sides of the box. The sauce wasn’t evenly distributed on the individual pieces of chicken any longer either. I figured it was at best a 10th place chicken entry.
Later on at the awards ceremony we were pleasantly surprised with a 5th place finish in the chicken category. I was convinced more than ever that if we finished 5th with a mediocre box, we were a shoe-in to win with the original box, but we were thrilled with 5th considering the circumstances we had to overcome. The entire episode might have been avoidable if we’d only looked at the boxes earlier in the day.
We’ve learned many lessons about barbecue competitions. Anything can and will happen when you least expect it. At another event, a strong gust of wind blew the canopy completely off the cooking site of our neighboring competitor just as he was preparing to slice his ribs for turn-in. It didn’t faze him. He went right along slicing the ribs and ended up with a top three finish in the rib category.
The moral of this story? Never give up. Keep on trucking full steam ahead. In the end, the outcome just might surprise you.