A BBQ Lovers Dream: Judging The Fatboys Classic Canadian BBQ Competition

By on September 4, 2016

Whoever coined the proverb ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’ clearly never met me! As a diehard foodie, I love everything tastily satisfying!

Truth be told, I adore this time of year as summer and fall conjure up images of BBQ fantasies. How can one not fall in love with the ever so distinct smell of charcoal that just epitomizes savoury goodness?! A fragrance foreshadowing carnivorous pleasures! Hello BBQ season!!

Growing up, barbequing wasn’t just reserved for the summer months; it was a year-round affair in my family. I can still remember my parents brushing off the freshly fallen snow off of the old BBQ so that we could enjoy some mouth-watering grilled steaks or marinated pork shoulders in the dead of winter.

What barbequing is all about, regardless of the season!

For me, one of the favorite parts of barbequing was the ‘BBQ dessert’. After the BBQ was turned off and cooling down, we would place some freshly sliced bread on the grill to soak up all of the yummy goodness the main meal had left behind. How could you go wrong with the likes of charcoal grilled bread with melted butter to bring out the flavours?!

This turned out to be a family favourite and a BBQ ritual. If you love barbequing, you will love the unique taste that a BBQ gives to bread. Imagine having your favourite cup of coffee, eggs and bacon with toasts that have been blessed with the charcoal flavours of your fire god…simply delicious!

With my love of all things grilled, I decided not too long ago to step out of my comfort zone and dive right into something that I fully admit knew little about other than eating it, barbequing.

Like the old saying goes…’sink or swim’. And with that, I definitely swam my way through the ‘in’s and out’s’ of barbequing as I registered myself to become a certified BBQ judge for the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS).

Over the course of six hours, I gained so much knowledge as to what it takes to be an official judge at a BBQ competition. And let me tell you, those barbequing shows on the Food Network make it look all too exciting and easy, but what they don’t show you are all the rules and regulations that play into the grading system.


The Food Tease becomes a Certified Judge with the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS).

The smell of the grilled chicken and ribs that the class were about to grade during our mock BBQ competition had many of us salivating and waiting to be given the green light to sink our teeth into the offerings. Yet, we were reminded that the objective was to grasp the golden rules that were taught throughout the day.

Basic four categories in a KCBS BBQ competition:

• Chicken
• Pork ribs
• Pork Shoulder
• Beef Brisket

KCBS basic four categories (chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder and beef brisket) at the Fatboys Classic BBQ Competition. (Photo courtesy of Fatboys Classic and Jeff Lowe)

Scoring criteria for each “turn-in” entries are based on the following:


Students at the BBQ course quickly learned that all three scoring criteria were not at all left to be subjective. We had to learn that as KCBS Certified Barbeque Judge, we are not judging by what we like but rather judging by the standards defined by KCBS. These are two completely different things.

It was like I was back in school, needing to remember so much information. I haven’t even told you about all the rules and regulations that one must not only remember but adhere too when judging a piece of grilled meat.

Every rule has its reasoning and in most part I understood and agreed with them; however, one rule just blew me away and I wasn’t alone in my reaction.


I was convinced I had heard wrong. How can that be?! How can one eat something so delicious and not be able to lick their fingers was mind blowing to say the least.

Alas, it too had its reasoning but I can’t seem to recall what it was because I was in such a state of shock. So the use of paper towels and unscented towelettes were the appropriate way to discard any remaining sauce on my fingers….so so sad.

And with that I am very happy to say that I am now a Certified Judge with the KCBS, which permits me to judge in any BBQ competition in Canada and the US.

Grill Time

Flash forward twenty-four hours and now it was time to put my judging skills to the test as I was invited to be a judge at the second annual Fatboys Classic Canadian BBQ Competition.

John Thomson, President of the Canadian BBQ Society and BBQ competitor (Team Eatapedia) alongside with Shawn Dawson (owner of Fatboys Southern Smokehouse located in the Byward Market in Ottawa) created The Fatboys Classic based upon their shared vision and love for barbequing and BBQ competitions.

The union of Shawn’s great business, media, marketing and promotions sense, and my passion for competition BBQ, my desire to establish an event in 2015 and to be partnered up with Ottawa’s best BBQ restaurant, well, it was just like Bourbon & BBQ. – John Thomson, President of the Canadian BBQ Society and BBQ competitor.

For its first year, Thomson informed me that the Fatboys Classic brought in 23 teams from all over Ontario, Quebec, New York and 2 teams came from far-away British Columbia. It was the largest inaugural event in Canada, and it was already the largest sanctioned BBQ competition in Ontario.

With such a successful competition, word spread quickly of the Ottawa competition in the BBQ community, thus brought with it its second year of the Fatboys Classic.

One of the BBQ competitors grilling away at the Second Annual Fatboys Classic BBQ competition. (Photo courtesy of Fatboys Classic and Jeff Lowe)

And what an event it was! I’m not sure who was more anxious, the competitors or me. I couldn’t wait to get the day started and start judging.

After I was assigned my table, I took my spot alongside my fellow judges and waited patiently for the Table Captains to present us with the first meat category to be judged.

I should explain that KCBS uses a blind system of judging wherein judges do not know which team prepared the entry to be judged and teams do not know who judged their entries. It is the most respected form of judging and scoring in the world of barbeque competitions.

Contest representatives and captains numbering the entries during the BBQ competition. (Photo courtesy of Fatboys Classic and Jeff Lowe)

Time to judge

And so it began…sitting patiently under the judging tent, I could smell the entry meals making their way in as each team was trying to make its entry ‘turn in’ time and avoid facing penalties.

As I sat waiting, the more experienced judges offered tips on how to place the judging plate. This even included a crafty way to convert my napkin into a mini holding basket for my soda crackers. Soda crackers and bottles of water are provided so that judges can cleanse your palate in between entries.

Well let me tell you when you’ve conveniently not eaten breakfast knowing that you’ll be eating all day, these crackers were quickly disappearing and all for the wrong reasons, which was something I was going to pay for at the end of the competition. But I digress.

When you get caught eating most of the crackers right before the competition starts! (Photo courtesy of Fatboys Classic and Jeff Lowe)

For each of the four categories, judges are given six entry meals to judge and in some fortunate cases, happily judged and devoured.

With each entry, I felt more and more comfortable filling out my judging slips (judging cards that grade each food category separately). I remembered the rules of the competition and applied them to the best of my ability; except I may have slipped up once (or maybe twice) as I caught myself licking my fingers…I am a diehard foodie after all.

We started with the chicken category and let me tell you, when you are hungry and you’ve smelt BBQ goodness for a couple of hours it’s hard to not savagely eat a piece of chicken especially when it’s utterly delicious.

I was told that after each category has been graded and slips have been submitted to the Table Captains, what you do with the entry meals is entirely up to you. Now this would explain why some judges brought their own coolers! I personally just ate the tasty entries right there and then and discarded the rest.

The Fatboys Classic BBQ competition in full effect! (Photo courtesy of Fatboys Classic and Jeff Lowe)

With three remaining categories to grade you can imagine I was pretty much full. Think about it, for every category, we had six entries to judge. That’s 24 pieces of meat that we took bites out of and, in some cases, I may have eaten the whole thing. I was getting pretty full to say the least, but happy that it was over. Or so I thought.

There I was wiping my hands, proud of my judging abilities and the fact that I held my own in a predominantly male oriented event that we heard that there were two ‘wild card’ categories that still needed to be judged.

Wild card categories are categories where rules do not necessarily apply to the entries. The “wild card” term means any meat or dish that is not sanctioned by the KCBS.

While we usually only see 4 meats at KCBS events (Chicken, Ribs, Pork and Brisket), we added the extra categories of “Hot Dogs” and “Maple Syrup” because we wanted to encourage more fun, more creativity and excitement for all involved, both the teams and the judges. – John Thomson, President of the Canadian BBQ Society and BBQ competitor.

The hotdog ‘wild card’ category during the Fatboys Classic BBQ competition. (Photo courtesy of Fatboys Classic and Jeff Lowe)

Ok, so a hotdog category sounded like it could be interesting and it would make sense that they would also have a ‘sweet’ category like maple syrup (especially for us Canadians) to finish up the day. The high note quickly went away as our table didn’t fare so well in the wild card categories.

The hotdog entries were good (I couldn’t exactly have much enthusiasm at this point, as I was beyond full). Then the maple syrup entries started coming in the tent. And all of a sudden I could feel a tiny area in my precious tummy making room for the sweet concoctions that were about to be presented.

Well I was wrong, dead wrong. Most of us ASSUMED that with a category like maple syrup we would be receiving entries of imaginative desserts, and in some cases we did and others we didn’t.

So, remember when I said that each category had six entries well it turns out that our ‘lucky’ table had entries divvied up half savoury and half sweet…all using maple syrup in one manner or another.

The BBQ gods must have had a field day as I couldn’t hide my look of despair in my eyes when I saw before me maple syrup rice krispies, maple syrup salmon fillet and maple syrup pork. As for the remaining three entries, I blocked them out as I couldn’t believe what I had to eat. And to top it off, we had to eat them in the order that they were presented.

Some examples of the maple syrup ‘wild card’ category during the Fatboys Classic BBQ competition. (Photo courtesy of Fatboys Classic and Jeff Lowe)

But like a hard core BBQ veteran I survived! Believe me when I say that I didn’t want to see anything grilled for quite some time….Ok, I lied. I think that feeling only lasted 24 hours. But who can get tired of grilled meats?

The Food Tease after a long day of judging and eating during the 2nd annual Fatboys Classic BBQ competition. (Photo courtesy of Fatboys Classic and Jeff Lowe)

Now that the judges’ stomachs were nice and bloated, it was awards time…the moment competitors were looking forward to!

Chicken Competition Winners

  1. Q’n Canucks
  2. Meatopia
  3. What the pork

Rib Competition Winners

  3. Q’n Canucks

Pork Shoulder Competition Winners

  1. McLay Brothers BBQ
  2. P& R Sweet Heat – Appetite For Consumption

Brisket Competition Winners


Hotdog Competition Winners

  2. Smokey Joe BBQ
  3. Amberwood BBQ

Maple Syrup Competition Winners

  1. KC ROCK

Grand Champion: SMOKIN HOGGZ BBQ – MA
Reserve Champion: Q’n Canucks

Highlights of the 2016 Fatboys Classic

It was the largest BBQ competition east of Calgary (and that event is in its 24th year!)
• $12,500 Purse, largest purse in Canada!
• 38 new Certified BBQ Judges were trained
• 42 teams registered, nearly doubled last year’s 23. Including: 7 teams from the USA, 8 teams from Quebec and a record 27 Ontario teams!

Winner received: Automatic entry to the World Series of BBQ (American Royal in Kansas City)
• Points towards the Canadian Points race for tickets to the World Food Championships (Alabama)
• A bung in the draw for one of 3 Canadian sites at the Jack Daniels International Invitation BBQ Championship in Lynchburg. The Jack is deemed the “holiest of holies” in BBQ competitions. This is the goal all serious competitors have: To get to The Jack.  And it’s VERY hard.  Thousands of teams compete, less than 100 get to go.


Group photo of the judges, organizers and BBQ competition representatives during the Fatboys Classic BBQ competition. (Photo courtesy of Fatboys Classic and Jeff Lowe)

As a Competitor myself, I have long wanted to see KCBS here in Canada and specifically Ottawa, and wanted my friends to come to Ottawa, enjoy our beautiful city and create some gorgeous BBQ. – John Thomson, President of the Canadian BBQ Society and BBQ competitor.

What an experience I had learning to be a certified BBQ judge and then to actually follow through with my training at a successful BBQ competition was very unique to say the least.

With the ever growing popularity that has been generated by the success of the Fatboys Classic BBQ Competition, it will no doubt carry forward for the years to come. And I for one will be there for future events, judging my way through the entries and trying not to lick my fingers!


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