Hot BBQ Tips on Winning Challenges

Above all, Grill Club is meant to be a fun and social event, but newcomers are often surprised by the level of competition and the seriousness with which Challengers take their craft. Before you enter your next Challenge, try to keep these tips in mind.

Grill Club Tip 1:



Prepare as much as you can beforehand.

By the time you get to a Grill Club Challenge, you may only have an hour to finish your entry. What's more, with all the Challengers bustling and scrabbling for space at a site, there's often only so much work space to go around. Your best bet is to do as much preparation as you can before you get to the Challenge, short of actually grilling the meal.


Grill Club Tip 2:



Don't skimp on the presentation.

With a whopping 30 points of your score on the line, you'd think more Challengers would pay attention to presentation. Yet countless times, flavorful entries with great concepts have been brought low because their creator plopped them down on cheap paper plates with little attention to visual attractiveness. Don't let that be you. Plate your entries attractively, with an eye to color, detail and balance on the plate. Keep a napkin or towel handy to wipe off unattractive splatter. Choose your ingredients with their visual appeal in mind. Don't be afraid to bring your own plateware, if you feel it will help get you points.


Grill Club Tip 3:

Don't forget the essay.

It happens at every Challenge:A Challenger neglects to write up his 50-words-or-less essay and decides to go with the "The flavor speaks for itself" route.

Guess what? That Challenger never wins a gold medal. In fact, more times than not, that Challenger doesn't even medal at all.

The Grill Club Judges don't just want you to tickle their palates, they want you to tickle their fancies. Write a funny ditty that ties in your side dishes with your main meal in a common theme. Do a one-act play in which the different elements of your dish are represented by characters on stage. Trying an unorthodox combination of flavors? Then explain it to the judges in your essay.

Whatever you decide on for your essay, do something. That extra 10 points you spend a quick 10 minutes on could mean the difference between silver and gold, or between medaling and not medaling at all.


Grill Club Tip 4:

Side dishes deserve entree-sized effort.

Brother Tater raised the level of competition from the very first Grill Club Challenge, when he introduced an entry with not just his meat dish, but with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, grilled asparagus and heirloom tomatoes, and a carefully selected wine. From then on, the winning Challenges weren't just those that presented Judges with a nicely grilled beef dish, pork sandwich or chicken drumstick--they were the ones in which Judges got a well-balanced plate that included side dishes that nicely complemented the main attraction.

Remember that you're not just entering a single food item into the competition. You're expected to construct an entire meal around a theme ingredient. Side dishes not only provide a nice flavor balance to your meat, they also provide attractive visual stimuli and an opportunity for you to work on some great intellectual concepts for your essay.


Grill Club Tip 5:

Read the rules.

Believe it or not, the rules aren't there just to make the Moderator feel extra powerful, or to punish Challengers arbitrarily. If you submit an essay that exceeds the 50-word limit by 800 words, you should expect to be deducted points. If you enter veal, pork or lamb into a game-meats contest, you can't expect the Judges to award you a gold medal. If you arrive an hour late and push back the Judging (forcing the Challengers who arrived on time to submit cold, tough or warmed-over entries), don't be surprised if you're disqualified automatically by the Moderator.

For every Challenger who neglects to read the rules ahead of time, there are three or more who read the rules and abided by them. Letting scofflaw Challengers off easy would be effectively punishing the Challengers who actually took the time to learn and obey the rules. The rules are there to make sure everyone competes on a level playing field. By breaking the rules, you're claiming an unfair advantage in essay length, the range of meats you can use, the time you've got to prepare, or the number of extras you can pile onto your plate. Above all, Grill Club is about having fun, and the best way to ensure that everyone has fun is if everyone conducts themselves in a gentlemanly or ladylike way. And fair play is the essence of being a gentleman or a lady.