Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judging at the Plant City Pig Jam serious, mouth-watering business

Judging at the Plant City Pig Jam serious, mouth-watering business

Michael Cameron calls the event an “artistic presentation.”

Michael Cameron calls the event an “artistic presentation.”

Michael Cameron's voice perked up, like it just had been splashed with hot pepper sauce.

"What you learn is that it's not just food," said Cameron, his mouth seemingly beginning to water. "It's almost an art."

Ask Cameron about being a judge at Saturday's Plant City Pig Jam, and the excitement rises with each word. He explains with a tone of gleeful anticipation that it's a mistake to confuse the grillmasters coming to the annual event with weekend hacks who drink a few beers and try to cook up a rack of ribs for the neighbors.

No, these Rembrandts, Picassos and DaVincis — they will travel from as far as California, Iowa and South Dakota — make a living competing in such contests. With some 80 teams competing for a total purse of more than $15,000 up for grabs, they will stop at nothing in trying to craft culinary masterpieces.

"It's different than what you get in the restaurants," Cameron said. "Many times, there are different layers of flavors. They might put dry rub on the meat, then cook it, then wrap it in an apple juice mix, then coat it with honey.

"It's an artistic presentation using food."

Cameron, president of Cameron Financial Management in Plant City, knows better than most. He has overseeing the judging for the 10th consecutive year and like the event, he's certified by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. Many of the contestants are vying for the top spot in the Sam's Club KCBS Team of the Year standings.

If that sounds serious, you're beginning to grasp the magnitude of the competition and the learned skill of judging grilled meats.

Just consider the judge's oath.

I do solemnly swear to objectively and subjectively evaluate each Barbeque meat that is presented to my eyes, my nose, my hands and my palate. I accept my duty to be an Official KCBS Certified Judge, so that truth, justice, excellence in Barbeque and the American Way of Life may be strengthened and preserved forever.

And you saw the Pig Jam as just another cookout. Shame on you.

According to KCBS officials, the oath comes from one Ardie Davis, a.k.a Remus Powers, Ph.B., one of the society's founding members. Davis also founded the "Diddy Wa Diddy" Barbecue Sauce Contest in his back yard in the late '70s or early '80s.

Just as the society has gone from Remus' back yard to mega competitions, so too has the judging. Each judge attends a school to learn about taste, texture and appearance. They use saltines and green grapes to cleanse their palates and drink only water between bites — no soda or beer.

And judges can't lick their fingers, please. They must use paper towels, unscented wipes or wet cloths.

The requirements may be stringent, but Cameron insists the dietary joy is unequaled.

"I will tell you I never, ever had good brisket in my life until I started judging," Cameron said. "A lot of people do good ribs, good pork, but for me, the barbecue contest is my opportunity to try some of the best brisket in the world."

Of course, the best thing about sampling these creative works is that instead of hanging them on a wall in a museum, you can use them to do some interior decorating in your belly.

Isn't that the best kind of art?

That's all I'm saying.

Judging at the Plant City Pig Jam serious, mouth-watering business

Judging at the Plant City Pig Jam serious, mouth-watering business 11/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 5:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bob Buckhorn: Expanding homestead exemption will endanger Tampa's progress


    In the years leading up to my taking office, Tampa families experienced some of the hardest times in recent history. Homes were lost, jobs were cut, and optimism for the future waned.

    Critics say expanding the homestead exemption for Florida property owners will strain the resources of local governments as they recover from the Great Recession.[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times, 2005]
  2. Volcano Bay, and its waterproof wristbands that eliminates lines, now open at Universal Orlando


    ORLANDO — Universal Orlando opened its third park on Thursday, this one a resort-style water attraction called Volcano Bay that features the first waterproof wristband that promises to eliminates lines.

    Universal Orlando opened its third park, on May 25, 2017, this one a resort-style water attraction called Volcano Bay that features the first waterproof wristband that promises to eliminates lines. [Willie J. Allen Jr. | for Universal Studios]

  3. Tampa Bay is ground-zero for assignment of benefits cases over broken auto glass


    When Rachel Thorpe tried to renew her auto insurance last year for her Toyta RAV4, she was stunned to see her monthly premium had nearly doubled to $600. The Sarasota driver was baffled since her only recent claim was over a broken windshield.

    Auto glass lawsuits filed by a third party (through what's known as assignment of benefits) are skyrocketing in Tampa Bay.
[Times file photo]
  4. In split vote, Hernando commission settles contentious airport lease issue

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes made it clear Tuesday that he wanted to see the issue about who would get to lease and then buy the old Brooksville Air Center settled once and for all.

    Wayne Dukes adjourned without public comment.
  5. Tampa Museum of Art exhibit proves love for animals is timeless

    Visual Arts


    An intimate, heartfelt show at the Tampa Museum of Art charmingly reveals — as if we didn't know it already — how little has changed among humans and their pets since ancient times.

    Camden Willeford and his fiancee, Leslie Moen, check out “The Classical World in Focus: Animals in Ancient Art” at the Tampa Museum of Art in downtown Tampa.