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The Secret to Award-Winning ’Cue

A Kansas City Barbeque Judge gives Bay Weekly the deets

KCBS barbeque judge Jorge Alday gets a hug from the Naptown barBAYq pig at last year’s event.

Is each piece of meat evenly cut? Does it look appetizing? Are the pieces neatly arranged? What kind of garnish did the chef use?
    All these questions are answered in the first 30 seconds by Kansas City Barbeque Society judge Jorge Alday, who is judging the Parole Rotary Club’s Naptown barBAYq contest this weekend.
    He bases his first score on appearance: a 2 looks inedible, a 9 is perfect.
    He takes a sliver of meat with his fingers and places it on the respective circle on his placemat. Each contestant gets a circle so the judge knows which barbecue is which.
    Once he gets a piece of meat from each contestant, usually about six pieces, Alday starts the tasting.
    He can still feel the warmth from the charcoal or wood grill on his fingers when he picks up the meat. “It’s truly a hands-on experience,” Alday says.
    Now comes his favorite part: eating it. He bites into the piece, feeling for texture, which is the best indicator on how well the chef cooked the meat. If it’s undercooked the meat is rubbery; if it’s overcooked it’s mushy.
    A balance of flavors is what Alday looks for when he takes his next bite. He doesn’t want to be overpowered by one particular flavor, but wants to enjoy a combination of delicious tastes.
    Once he has decided on a score, Alday wipes his hands on a damp paper towel — making sure he doesn’t lick his fingers, because that is against the rules. With clean hands, he writes his final scores.
    Again, 2 is inedible, 9 perfect.
    He eats a saltine and takes a sip of water to cleanse his palate between entries. Then he does it all over again.
    Alday, 37, has been a judge for KCBS for five years, and this is his second year judging at the Naptown barBAYq contest.
    The Brooklyn judge says he’s excited to come back to Annapolis again.
    “The overall quality of the barbeque was very good last year, and I know this year even more teams will come,” Alday says. “The barBAYq goes beyond a contest. It has music and a lot of stuff for people to do. A festival of this magnitude will put the barBAYq contest on the map, which means better barbeque.”
    Parole Rotary expects 20,000 barbeque-lovers at this weekend’s festival and hopes to raise at least six figures in cash, which will be distributed to charities that help kids.
    Alday will judge four different types of meat: chicken, pork ribs, pork butt and beef brisket. Brisket is his favorite to judge because it’s the toughest meat to cook but the cheapest to buy.
    “If you have a good piece of brisket, you know you have a talented chef,” Alday says.
    Think you have a judge’s palate? You’ll get your chance to taste from 2:30 to 5pm Saturday ($10). Or just come and enjoy the festival running May 4 and 5 at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds.