Introduction to FBA Style Competition Cooking
April 18, 2011
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been introducing the Grilling.com community to the various types of contests that take place across the country each year. And just as each region of the country has its own unique flavor profiles, cooking techniques and specialty dishes, the various contest sanctioning bodies tend to differ slightly. Today, we’re speaking to Jimmy Brod of Everglades Seasoning/Smokin’ Cracker BBQ Team, a true master at the art of cooking Florida Bar-B-Que Association style contests.
First of all, how about a little background on yourself and the team. You’re originally from Florida, correct?
I have lived in South Central Florida all my life and consider myself a Florida Cracker…Native Floridian. I grew up in a small town Sebring and live in Sebring now with my wife and three boys. My team consists of my family and Dennis Bandish from Merritt Island, FL and John Sircy also from Sebring. Dennis is a custom car painter so his attention to detail is second to none. John owns a rental store in Sebring and he can get anything from anywhere and just knows how to make things happen. Both of these guys are great friends and make a contest much more enjoyable.
Any idea as to when you first got bitten by the barbecue and grilling bug? Any special memories from those early days around the grill?
Sebring has a long standing BBQ tradition with one of the oldest annual contests in Florida. I got bitten by the bug in about 2004 while stumbling through my first contest in Sebring. I was set up right next to Myron Mixon and I had no idea who he was but he helped me out and put me on the right track. I remember the FBA reps threatened to DQ him because he left his meat out on the table after injecting, He flipped out…it was great entertainment.
What sets Florida apart in your mind when it comes to outdoor cooking? More seafood? More spice?
The fact is, my gas grill sees more fish than pork and beef. We are for sure spoiled when it comes to fresh seafood. I think Florida outdoor cooking is all about fresh fish, pork or beef and vegetables enhanced with vibrant clean flavors with some acid background.
And when and why did you first start cooking competitions?
I started cooking competitions as Smokin’ Cracker BBQ Team in 2004 and I won my first Grand in 2006. I struggled for about two years making slight changes and that was before anyone would share info on forums or e-mail. I’m kind of proud of the fact that I have never taken a class.
How many contests do you usually do a year? What are the most memorable ones?
It depends because I own an aviation maintenance business and that demands a bunch of my attention. I think the most I ever did was about 18 in 2007-2008 and this year we are busy with J.B. Aircraft so it looks like I will be lucky to get about 6 or 8 in 2011. The most memorable contest was our 2009 “fly in and steal the Reserve Grand Championship” at The American Royal.
Yes, I was there and it was indeed an amazing thing. How’d you pull it off?
The three of us made a last minute decision to fly out to Kansas City and see if we could pull off the contest with all borrowed equipment, a rented mini-van and an EZ Up canopy. We had a blast! We cooked on a cooker that we never used or ever saw before. Thanks to some great BBQ Brethren friends we pulled it off with several walks in the Invitational and Open and a RG in the open. Now that was fun.
I did the same thing that year, just didn’t score as well as you! It really says a lot about how friendly competitors can be when you’re in need. So back to FBA style contests, what really sets them apart from say MBN or KCBS? I believe you all don’t care much for garnish and the chicken category is a bit different than KCBS.
Very similar to KCBS but no garnish at all and only the contest meat is allowed in the turn-in box. You are required to put a minimum of 8 pieces in the box and turn-ins one hour apart starting at 11:00 with chicken, ribs at 12:00, pork 1:00, and brisket 2:00.
So you do have a little bit broader window to turn in the categories versus the 30 minute windows in KCBS. How about the scoring system? Any real differences between FBA and KCBS?
Very similar! FBA uses a 10 point scoring system 0 being the lowest and 10 being the best. The meat is judged on presentation, tenderness and taste. Tenderness is weighted the most followed by taste and finally presentation.
Aside from access to the contests, is there any reason personally that you’d pick one style over another?
Nope, I like them both. FBA is more difficult because you have to use the food to make the food look good. You don’t have the crutch of a garnish to fall back on to cover up mistakes. It also forces you to prepare the meat in various ways to garnish the box using the meat. Also the FBA has a bunch of contests in a year and FBA teams get a lot of practice and they are damn good.
Finally, any quick tips for someone thinking about trying their first contest this year?
Forget about what you like…Cook good, average BBQ that all 6 judges will like and make sure that no individual flavors on you meat are discernible. Make sure that the flavors blend to taste like BBQ, not some kinda fruity mess, honey, pepper, or individual spice. There is no magic flavor that all the judges will like so be open minded with your flavors and concentrate on tenderness because if it’s not cooked right it won’t matter what rub you use.
Thanks again, Jimmy, and we’d love to hear more from you as the season progresses!
- Clint Cantwell, Grilling.com Guest Editor