Yesterday I had the honor of judging at the 2011 State Fair of Texas Bacon and Eggs contest. Yeah, be so jealous. There were six categories for competition: bacon appetizer, bacon entree, bacon dessert, egg appetizer, egg entree and egg dessert.
I walked into the Creative Arts building just as competitors were handing over their bacony and eggy dishes and tables were filling up with all kinds of goodies. When I was told I would get to judge the bacon appetizer category, I was so hyped I chest-bumped Big Tex and slapped him on his brand new Wrangler-ed ass. Bacon game face: on.
The entry fee for the contest was just two bucks. And when I saw that winning first prize in a category was only worth ten dollars, with a Best of Show award of just $25, I realized that this contest isn't about the money. It's about the glory.
The badasses who compete in the food contests at the fair rarely compete in just one contest. Coveted awards for "Best Competitor" given out at the end of the fair to the contestants with the most blue, red and white ribbons over the three weeks of contests. The first place Best Competitor award wins you $100. And obviously, some kickass bragging rights. Some competitors take weeks off of work for this. They call the State Fair offices in June to find out when the contests will take place so that they can schedule their vacation time properly.
My judging partner for the bacon appetizer category of the contest was The Mr. Sir Brian C. Luscher a.k.a That Guy From That The Grape Restaurant.
Luscher was a total judge pro. "After you taste an item," he said, "don't make any faces. And don't spit anything out. They're all watching. Some of these people can even read lips." Holy shit, this is awesome.
Luscher has been judging "here and there at the fair for about ten years. I love doing it, the whole competition aspect, the cultish following the participants [most] embody, camaraderie of the judges and mostly seeing the particpants' joyous reactions when their names are announced as a place winner. There is always a gem or two in each category that really show some skills."
Of all the categories, ours was one of the smallest. Bacon entree had over 30 entries. And for reference, the pie contest had over 200 entries this year. Ours, bacon appetizer, had 11. Judy Spencer Creed won our votes for her Bacon Twists. Just strips of bacon, twisted up, brown-sugared, cayenned and baked. And so delicious.
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When they started announcing winners, things got real. There were cheers for some winners, there were stink-eyes for others. There was even a guy videotaping himself with his iPhone as he pretended to be surprised that he had won. The announcer of the awards called him out about it, "Are you videotaping yourself?" His answer, "Yes! Of course!" Everyone laughed. It was a perfect expression of Texas-style ribbing.
Creed won first place in two of the six categories, and she also took home Best of Show for her bacon-wrapped dates. She told me she's been competing for five years and that last year she won the coveted third-place prize for Best Competitor. Best of luck to you this year, Judy Spencer Creed. You're my Bacon Queen.
For more info on this year's State Fair of Texas contest calendar, go here.