RFB returns to the Winner’s Circle
We crammed two competitions together back to back with hopes of getting our team out of our sophomore slump. The reality is we really didn’t slump, we just did not take that next step forward early in the year as we expected.
First we road tripped to Reno with hopes of making our way into the Sam’s Club regional in Vegas. Although we missed qualifying we were able to hold our own among a stacked field of BBQ professionals. We followed Reno up with the Winner’s Circle BBQ event at Santa Anita race track. We love this competition for a few reasons. It was our first decent finish as a rookie team and I scored a winning trifecta box bet for $172. Good results, gambling and we made some new friends. Good reason to go back.
This was our second competition with the new trailer (Denise) and we were lucky enough to have our support team attending the event. Mike arrived early and with the help of Janette they got the space set well before my arrival. March 31st just so happened to be my birthday so I bolted from work a bit early hoping to beat traffic. Unfortunately I failed that mission and ran into the famous 91E Friday afternoon traffic jam. Happy Birthday to me.
Eventually I made it to the track and rolled up to the site. We asked for a space outside the infield as it is free from distraction. Although we love hanging with our BBQ buds we are here to compete and we figured it would be best to share a cold one once our job was done.
As much as I wanted to start celebrating my birthday, I knew I still had an 18lb SRF brisket that needed my attention. We had a quick birthday toast with the team and I settled in to 45 minutes of trimming. All went well it was a good way to decompress after several frustrating hours on the freeway.
Mike went to the competitors meeting solo and when he returned he followed the same path I was on for his respective meats. We were right on time and everything was sailing along smoothly. Shuji decided to make us Philly Style Cheese Steaks for dinner. On top of that Shu had sent Keenan to a famous bakery (pardon but the name escapes me) in Pasadena to get two pies for a post dinner birthday treat. It was really cool everyone would go out of their way to do that for me.
Dinner and dessert were finished, final prep was done so we called it an early night. The first alarm would come soon enough. The Winner’s Circle comp is a bit different due to the fact that the turn in times revolve around the race schedule. This causes the turn in to be an hour early. Chicken has to be at the judge’s tent at 11am and we needed to adjust our entire schedule. This may seem simple, but when you sleep very little in these situations losing that hour is a bummer.
We were up bright and early and started our cooks. Shu started his world famous breakfast and we got our last exhale before everything started ramping up. One item that threw me off was our turn in boxes. The loss of an hour caught up to me and 45 minutes before the chicken turn in I realized I had not even started! I immediately jumped on the boxes and the good news is that I learned I can knock this out in 30 minutes when under the gun.
We started the turn in fire drill at 10:45am with chicken and all was going well. Chicken box check, ribs box check, pork box check. Now the real fun begins. One issue I have with brisket turn in’s is that my slicing skills are not great. It’s not like they are terrible but I have three knife masters on my team so when I start slicing I feel more pressure to do that right then I do actually cooking the brisket. This stress led me to switch to an electric knife. I know for the purists this is seen as a crutch but to be honest it works great for me and cuts the finish process in half.
Since I was new to electric knives and never really paid attention to why there were two different blade types. I figured I would just swap back and forth to save on blade life. Well it turns out they have specific purposes. One is for carving (good) and the other is for bread (bad). I grabbed the bread blade and started slicing the flat and the slices looked jagged and uneven. Too make matters worse, they were a bit over. I can’t get even slices and I’m not happy with the cook either. This didn’t leave us with many options.
The bright side is that the burnt ends were awesome and the team agreed. We decided to roll the dice and only put burnt ends in our brisket box. We know it’s risky and definitely something we have not done before.
We popped open a few cold beverages before starting tear down. We just finished loading the trailer when everyone started heading over to the awards. This competition was huge with 77 teams so getting a top 20 in this field is legit. Of course we want to walk (typically top ten in each category received awards and cash, it is called “walking”) for each meat we turn in.
We sat patiently as they went down the list for chicken. 10 names were called but nothing for Rad Fondo BBQ. We have not walked in 2017 so are we officially in the sophomore slump? Ribs nothing, pork nada. That leaves us with our cute brisket box of just burnt ends for any sort of chance to walk. Much to our surprise Ben Lobenstein, the event coordinator announced in 10th place brisket… RAD FONDO BBQ! It was great to walk to the stage for some pics with Ben and grab our trophy. We got some high fives from our peeps and waited to see how we did overall. We were nervous as one call is a dicey situation, did the judges hate our food?
I headed over to get our cash and the overall results and was pleasantly surprised to see that we ended up 13th overall! I guess we have ended the sophomore slump.
Below are the final results by category:
Chicken 26th 171.9772
Ribs 56th 159.3828
Pork 11th 174.2744
Brisket 10th 176.0000
Next up on the schedule is the SOCAL BBQ Bash at the Fairplex in Pomona.
We hope to see you there!