First Time at the American Royal
CANNON ( BBQbyDan / Coyote Road Kill )
Missouri -- Since everybody has not been to the
American Royal, I thought I would put in writing a few
of the feelings and experiences that I had on my first
visit. I should state that I was not there to
cook either the Invitational or the Open. But
was fortunate enough to have been invited to judge the
Invitational. Heck, I might never get the
opportunity again so felt I should accept their
As you can all
guess, this being post September 11th, the air
transportation system was unlike anything I have ever
seen. There were lines and unique systems in
place everywhere to facilitate the air traveler.
Looked worse than it turned out to be in that no line
was longer than 30 minutes. But, I had to stand
in 3 lines prior to actually getting in the air.
Happened to meet fellow SCBBQA member Rob Kelso while
waiting in line at LAX for the same flight. So,
the trip was extra nice.
Took off from
LAX about 07:00, October 4th, and arrived at the
American Royal parking lot about 14:30 their time, me
driving and Rob navigating.
I was scheduled
for a Jack McDavid Cooking class at 14:30 and was
really in a hurry to make it. Ended up getting
into the class about 14:45 just as the attendees were
walking outside to where the actual cooking class was
going to be held. Good thing I made it not a
minute later as I would never have found out where
they had gone.
was very interesting and informative. He was a
very nice person and exactly as he is on the Food
Channel. Paul Kirk happened to be assisting with
his hardware and food preparation for the class.
So together they made quite an entertaining and
adversarial pair. All was in good fun of course.
That was the best $25 I ever spent on a class.
If they do it again I recommend you attend.
A place to
Got out of the
class about 16:00 and finally had a chance to get back
to the rental car to get my important things (cooler,
food, refreshments, and rain / warm cloths)
straightened out for the next two nights. I was
planning on sleeping in my car for the duration and
had to ensure that everything was set to go prior to
beginning the evening's festivities. Being at
the Royal only for judging makes all-night
accommodations more challenging if you choose not to
go to a hotel. I really did not care about a
hotel or comfort as much as observing the 24-hour a
day cooking activity, so I rented an SUV (car) to be
my on-site hotel.
But, then along
comes Don Grissom of Dueling Bubbas who finally, after
twisting my arm hard enough, talked me hanging with
them. It was very nice under their EZ-Up and
awning the first night when it rained 2 or 3 Inches.
And, sure beat running to the porta-pottie from the
rental car all night as well. Thanks Don and
Derek for making my trip so much more enjoyable and an
even nicer event while I was there. I hope I
stayed out of your hair.
One new thing I
learned about, that is "private Porta-Potties"
that were located at many of the individual team
sites. Never heard of such a thing before at a
Cook-Off, but I sure heard about it when I exited one.
I was very firmly told that this WAS NOT for public
use. I apologized and asked, "how can I
make up for my mistake", they said, "don't
happened to be parked next to Jerry King. Jerry
King won the Fry's Pigskin Classic Fiesta Bowl BBQ
Cook-Off in Arizona last year, and he won the Speedway
contest (with hundreds of teams) this year, so he is
converted a full size (40 foot) horse trailer into his
house / BBQ pit. The front half is his house,
the back half is his cooking area. While
everybody else on site was running around in heavy
rain torrents trying to cook and stay dry, Jerry was
roaming around the back of his trailer, hanging around
next to his built in heater (his pit), in his socks,
watching his meats and relaxing. Since I was not
cooking that night, he let me partake of his heat and
dryness. What a great person and rig.
About this time
the jitters of my responsibilities are starting to
enter my mind. I must correctly, and fairly,
judge the top 65+ teams in the World. I have not
been there or done that before, so I was starting to
feel a bit queasy. But, I just told myself I am
an expert at this (competed in the last 20 straight
contest in California) so I know what to look for and
how to judge responsibly.
It was really
great to be in that room with all the top BBQ folks
around. I won't throw names around but you can
guess who the judges, table captains, and organizers
were. What a great thrill it was.
Everything went very smooth and perfectly from my
perspective. If somebody wants to know what the
top 65+ teams in the World turn in and how it tastes,
well, catch me privately. That is another story
and I certainly learned a lot!
Friday night party
Phew, I walked
out of the judging quarters about 14:30 and really
felt light headed and relaxed. My job was over!
I can't explain how foreign a feeling that is to me at
a BBQ Cook-Off after having cooked so many consecutive
events. I was there enjoying it completely but
had not brought equipment, spent hours setting up, and
most of all, did not have to break down a cook-site
and pack up to leave for a long trip home. All I
had to do was now enjoy the victories our California
teams had deservedly won throughout the Invitational
and fly out the next afternoon! Way too much fun
for so little work, I almost felt guilty!
was really unlike anything I have every seen.
There were close to 400 teams now set up and cooking
for the Open. They were spread over a VERY large
area. You might get lost, or get sore feet,
trying to pass all the sites. Without
exaggeration I would guess there were maybe 20 - 30
simultaneous bands playing at different team locations
spread throughout the whole complex with fireworks
going off overhead. Where we in California might
have a couple of EZ-Ups, a team there might have a
real multi-peaked tent. That is capable of
holding a band, lots of seated people, and kegs of
Yes, kegs were
everywhere. Myself having no cooking
responsibilities found that I was roaming all the
different sites, enjoying all the amenities. When
Roland Cook showed me the "Booze Lounge" he
had found on his explorations, I really found out what
fun is (only $1 per session). If you can't
imagine what that is, catch me privately.
Gaulden's Perfect 180
So, as I wonder
back to the Dueling Bubbas site, Danny Gaulden is
cooking one of his four side dishes and warns me not
to step on or rock the RV. His cake in the oven
knew what he was doing. Dueling Bubbas scored a
Perfect 180 on Danny's sweet potato pie entry in the
potato category (another team also received a Perfect
180, and the tie-breaker gave Dueling Bubbas second
place). This was Dueling Bubbas and Danny's
first time at the American Royal Open.
day, in the American Royal Invitational, Dueling
Bubba's won fourth place for its Brisket.
I was so happy
for all seven Southern California Barbecue Association
teams at the Royal:
Fools (Tom Brohamer with Grant Ford)
Bandits II (Stu Carpenter, with Dick Stuart,
Mark Shardlow and Steve DiLura)
Bubbas (Don Grissom and Derek Muller, with Danny
Gaulden, Dr. Don Iverson, and Joe
- Madd Momma
and the Kids (Judie and Amy Anderson, with
- M M B BBQ
Co. (Franco McGonagle and Jay Diener)
- Pork Belly
Bandits (George and Donna Baroody, with Rob
- Rare Breed
(Hayward and Eva Harris)
stayed up most of Friday night, I felt I better get
some shut-eye in preparation for leaving the next
afternoon. The next morning, Saturday, I
dispensed all my leftover food and drink supplies,
said my farewells to all my new and old dear friends,
and left for home.
unexpected, and terrific, event and trip I had.
I knew it would be good, but never dreamed this good.
I never had any great desire to travel to the Kansas
City American Royal to participate in an event.
Knowing the work and cost that would be involved.
Well, I will be there next year competing, one way or
I can only say
in closing, I would make this event
"mandatory" for any BBQ lover. You
will meet the best people you have ever met, and you
will see, taste, and feel, the best BBQ environment in
the World !!!