2005 Madison Ribberfest Pro Division

KCBS judges take their job seriously
Ezman, Dentin enjoy tasting, camaraderie

By Levi King
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (Aug. 12, 2005) – When the power went out at Lee Ezman’s home in Louisville two years ago, he and wife, June, decided to drive to a barbecue cook-off in La Grange, Ky., rather than sit around in the dark. The Ezmans toured the contest, meeting judges and teams and, of course, eating barbecue. Lee was so impressed that he decided to become a Kansas City Bareque Society-certified judge and take part in area cook-offs.

KCBS judges Dentin, Ezman

Photo provided

KCBS judges Jim Dentin (center with hat)
and Lee Ezman (second from right)
examine an entry.

To judge at a KCBS-sanctioned contest, one must attend a half-day class presented by the organization. The classes, which cost $30, are scheduled at various locations around the country throughout the spring and summer. Ribberfest organizers brought KCBS representatives to town in April to hold a class. Ezman drove to Illinois one weekend to attend a class.
Judges learn contest protocol and the KCBS rating system – each dish is rated on appearance, tenderness-texture and taste on a scale of two through nine, with nine being the highest possible rating. A score of one is a disqualification. Contests require a ratio of one judge per competing team. Judges are seated at tables of six, with one designated as the table captain.

KCBS Richard Schmidt

Photo by Don Ward

Table captain Richard Schmidt shows an
entry to a table of KCBS judges.

Each judge receives a small portion from every contestant. To ensure fairness, the samples are judged blind and marked only with teams’ assigned numbers.
“The rules are very clear,” said Ezman. “If a team sends their entry to a table and the six pieces aren’t completely separated, they get a score of one.”
Ultimately, how an individual rates a piece of meat is subjective, but much of the class is spent sampling meats and learning tips on judging.
“The teachers are master cookers, so they’ve got a lot of experience from both sides," Ezman said. "You get a lot of clues, like if a piece of meat is rubbery, it’s undercooked and probably gets a lower score.”
After completing the class, judges must pay annual dues of $35 to join KCBS.
Judging seems to be a win-win situation for organizers and judges alike.
“These are people who just love to judge. They come from all over the Midwest and don’t get a dime for it,” said pro division cook-off co-chair Shawn Auxier.
Ezman, a sales consultant, now judges four or five events contests each year in Kentucky and Tennessee. This will be his second Ribberfest. Ezman said he enjoys the privilege of sampling the finest portions of barbecue by professional cookers.
“These teams don’t hold anything back," he said. "They come to win, so they send their best to the judges. Before I started judging, I thought I was getting good barbecue at restaurants in Memphis.”

For more information or to order tickets, call the Madison Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-559-2956 or visit: www.madisonribberfest.com.

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