Search For Excellence in 4-H Programming

Robert Scott
Texas AgriLife Extension

Scott, R.*1,
1 CEA-AG/NR, Texas AgriLife Extension, Lubbock, TX, 79408

During the COVID-19 lockdown, I began watching “Pitmasters,” a reality television series which follows cooks as they compete in cooking competitions. I felt this would be a good project to offer 4-H members, especially during a time when restaurants were closed, and families were having to prepare meals at home. A task force was created to plan, implement, and evaluate the grilling competition. The first charge was to write contest rules and scoresheets and then create project goals. To help purchase awards and decrease registration costs for participants, the task force recieved $1500 from a Texas Farm Bureau Clover Cash Grant. Since there were COVID-19 restrictions in place related to gatherings, the task force chose to utilize Facebook to promote and educate. To expand my knowledge, I attended a one-day grilling school conducted by Junior Urias, a “Pitmaster” champion. I spoke with Junior after the grilling school and he provided several tips and tricks for conducting the contest. Forty-eight posts were made in the “District 2 4-H Grilling Games” Facebook group. Posts included short videos and fact sheets. Education partners included: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Path to the Plate; Texas Pork Producers; Better Living for Texans, Lubbock County; Texas Tech University Meat Science Department; The Outdoor Chef, Lubbock, Texas; Texas Department of Agriculture; and Lamb County 4-H members. Currently, there are 127 members of the Facebook group. There was an average of 70 views on each resource. For the inaugural grilling games, 33 4-H members entered representing eight counties in District 2. Upon arrival, all competitors built their fires on a variety of grills, with parental supervision. They were provided a pork chop, steak and/or two bell peppers. For each category, competitors were given 45 minutes to season, cook, garnish their boxes, and submit for judging. Each age group and category were blind judged by three volunteers. Knowledge and skills observed were: use of thermometers to check meat temperatures; correct use of knives and cutting boards; covers being placed on knives; use of disinfecting wipes to control cross contamination; placing foods on ice to keep at appropriate temperatures.