The Commissioners Cup is organized by the SC Department of Agriculture and is recognized as The South Carolina State BBQ Championship. It doesn’t get much more SC Grown than this event. The SC Farmers Market Vegetable Sheds are turned into a ring of smoke and fire for one weekend. Columbia, SC residents are treated to the best in the State and the crowds turn out in droves to raise money for the Harvest Food bank. Events include a tractor parade, a kids area, plenty of SC Grown Vendors selling their wares and of course – BBQ!
In South Carolina BBQ is pork, pure and simple. It’s the tradition, and tradition will go unfettered at this event. Pork and Ribs are the categories, and there is plenty of money and serious bragging rights on the line. “A great day in South Carolina”- Governor Haley
The Friday night featured the Commissioner’s reception. It is an annual event that is hosted by the SBN is a show of gratitude to the judges and cookers who participate in events through out the year. Chicken Purlieu (a SC original dish), green beans, coleslaw and brownies were on the menu. Jimmy Harmon (SBN Presiden) and I had to work so we arrived a little late. Sorry, no great food shots, or shots of the reception were taken. It was delicious.
One of the best duties of being a judge is handing out the 9×9 sample boxes used for judging. It is an opportunity to meet every cook on the field, shake hands and say thanks. I will make it a point to do a better job at getting great images of this process more often so we can highlight some of the great cooks that we deal with at every contest.
Mary(My wife and the primary photographer for this blog) and I arrived early Saturday morning. There were some set up chores to do and we wanted to be available to pitch in if we could. We knew we were close.
We took a minute to soak in the sights and smells inherent to BBQ Competitions. Lots of very cool equipment and the aroma of succulent pork and sweet smoke filled the air. You could feel the anticipation. The cooks appeared busy putting the final touches on their creations.
We arrived at the judging area where folks from across the great state of South Carolina were gathering with great anticipation. There was BBQ to judge!
The judges briefing was called to order and SBN Event Rep Randy Eudy gave out the final instructions. Judges were seated and ready to judge the Pork Category!
The turn in table was ready! This is a busy place. 1 hour between turn in times with a 10 minute window. 50 teams today, so this area is expected to need lots of help.
Time to judge. Samples are set on a mat similar to this. Samples are judged on 3 criteria. Appearance, texture/tenderness, and taste. It’s a tough job – choosing a champion!
After the pork category is judged, samples are lined up on a table known as the “Grazing Table.” This is an area where all of the samples can be viewed, tasted and talked about. It’s a very educational time. Some contests do not allow a grazing table. SBN is very good at allowing the exchange of information and education to take place. It’s tightly controlled.
After grazing on the pork, it’s time to be seated for the rib category judging.
There isn’t usually much grazing after the rib category is complete. Cooks are required to turn in 8 individual samples for judging. With as many as 7 judges on the table there isn’t much left over after the staff gets done sampling the cooks creations.
After judging the scores have to be tabulated. The only people allowed in that area are those who have prior approval of the Event Rep and the tabulators. There are usually 5 or 6 people in the room to help facilitate collation of the scores and comment cards. SBN frowns on images of this area for obvious reasons. I will try to get some good visual impressions at future contests.
While scores are being tabulated it is always fun to take a tour of the event and check out the fun. This contest featured a tractor parade.
The Commissioner’s Cup always attracts many different types of cooks and cookers. From the homemade…
…to the big rigs of the Pros.
This is an example of a PDQ cooker. This type of cooker and cooking style was invented in South Carolina by Henry Rast. Rast was a John’s island farmer. For a great read check out this story by the Charleston Post & Courier reporter Hanna Raskin. Click here.
The results were in and the SC Commissioner of Agriculture was on hand to announce the SC State Championship honors to Creek Mill BBQ. A backyard team from the Columbia area. Great Job gang!