Photography by katheryn Moran Photography

Salmon BBQ Grilling Championship Guidelines

Please read the following information carefully.

Competiton Categories

Please select the category that defines your skill and experience – pro or amateur. Criteria:

  1. Professional: Either you own a business or you are employed in a professional occupation in either of which food is produced for profit. Or, you are an avid BBQ enthusiast who engages in BBQ competitions on a seasonal basis.
  2. Amateur: You are an individual, a family, or a team involved in backyard BBQ or smoking merely as an enthusiast, or as a foodie. 

    SPECIAL NOTE: If you plan to sell your grilled salmon to the public after the contest, you will have to make a separate Food Vendor Application. Go to the Food link on the website menu for instructions. 

Entry Fees

    Professional: $ 100/team

    Amateur: $ 35/team


A team consists of a Booth Captain, a safety assistant, and as many assistants as will fit inside the individual booth area. 

  • The Booth Captain is responsible for the conduct of all team members and guests. 
  • Discretion, care, and good taste should be used in the cooking process and in the booth area. 
  • We invite you to have a great time cooking, while also supporting and maintaining the family atmosphere at the Bellingham SeaFeast 2016. 
  • Team members who have had symptoms of illness/sickness within 48 hours prior to the competition may NOT participate. The booth captain is responsible for ensuring that team members adhere to this and all other policies.

Each team is responsible for the setup, maintenance, teardown, and cleanup of its own booth. 

Team Booths 

Bellingham SeaFeast 2016 will provide the following on site for each team:

  • Covered booth space – 10 x 10 Tent. All of your preparation and grilling activities must take place within this space. 
  • Ropes to separate BBQs/grills/fire pits/smokers from the public, to provide protection from burns.
  • Access to a warm-water, gravity flow, hand-wash station – one for every 4 booths.
  • Garbage receptacle for each booth.
  • Ice.
  • Access to communal garbage, recycling, waste-water disposal area.
  • Filleted salmon sides – described on p. 3.
  • Salmon presentation containers for the judging process.
  • Greens for presentation container given to each team at the Booth Captains meeting (9:30 a.m.).
  • Ash & Coal Disposal provisions
    • A metal garbage can with a lid. It must be clearly marked “BBQ ashes only” to prevent inadvertent placement of combustible garbage in the can. 
    • A water hose to cool/extinguish the ashes.

Your Team must bring these items to your cooking site:

  • All food/recipe ingredients.
  • All utensils.
  • Food preparation table.
  • Ice chest(s)/Cooler(s) clean.
  • BBQ/Grill/Fire Pit/Smoker.
  • Cooking surfaces (i.e., griddle, wood plank, fry pan, foil, etc.).
  • Chair(s).
  • Fire extinguisher (K Class).
  • Signs with team name and/or logo/branding.
  • Table skirt (optional).
  • Station cleaning and sanitation supplies.


If you need electricity, please specify which type on your booth sketch in the application packet. 

  • Teams requiring electricity must provide industrial-grade extension cords. Competitors must adhere to all electrical, fire, health, and other codes set forth by the event organizers.

Equipment Types and Cooking Methods

BBQs, Grills, Fire Pits, and/or Smokers: You can use wood, charcoal, pellet, or propane fuel. Additional cooking surfaces may be used in conjunction with the BBQ/Grill/Fire Pit/Smoker (i.e. griddle, fry pan, foil, wood planks, etc). 

Each team will grill whole fillets. Grills must be positioned away from the public by at least 4 feet at all times.

If you grill over open flames, any fire pit must be enclosed and above ground and at least 20 feet from a building. Please make sure you cause no damage to the ground. 

At the close of your event, dispense of ashes in a separate container and use water to ensure that all fuel is extinguished. (See details on p. 2 regarding Ash & Coals Disposal.)

You must have a fire extinguisher (K Class) that is up-to-date, on-site, and accessible. The Fire Marshal and local authorities will oversee the event. Please help ensure that we meet all of their instructions and exceed their expectations. 


Note: To provide a level field for competition, Bellingham SeaFeast 2016 will provide all salmon for the competition. Participants cannot bring or provide any salmon for the competition.

Wild-caught, previously-frozen, skin-on filleted King salmon sides that have been inspected and that come from a government-approved source will be provided to each team. 

Each Professional and Amateur team will prepare two (2) whole, filleted salmon sides for the judging. Once your salmon has arrived in your booth it must not leave the area or be replaced. 

Each salmon side will have a mark to identify which is assigned to each team, and to ensure that the salmon sides distributed to your team are what you will grill and then place in a marked container for delivery to the Judges. 

The salmon sides will be delivered to your team in the BBQ area on Saturday, October 1 at 11 a.m. Each BBQ booth must use sanitary practices and keep uncooked salmon separate from other foods/ingredients.  

Seasonings, Glazes, Marinades and Side Dishes

We request (not require) that your team makes any marinades, rubs/seasonings and glazes on-site to provide a cooking lesson for your audience and to generate excitement for your unique BBQ process. However, you may bring them with you already prepared. For everyone’s safety, and to meet food safety standards, cold items should be transported and stored at 40-45 degrees. 

Food Safety 

The public will NOT eat foods prepared for the Salmon BBQ Grilling Championship. However, the judges WILL consume these foods. We expect you and your teams to adhere to food handling safety and sanitation guidelines with high standards. 

We require that at least one of your team members to hold a valid Whatcom County Food Handlers Permit, which you can procure on-line at We will provide one warm-water, gravity flow, hand-washing station for every four booths. Please use these hand-washing stations.

We recommend wearing gloves when handling and/or preparing ready-to-eat foods, i.e. foods that are not cooked before eating, and when directly touching cooked foods before serving. A food-grade thermometer is recommended, but not required. If using the thermometer for multiple foods, please use an appropriate sanitation method. 

One of your ice chest/coolers must hold ONLY the raw, uncooked salmon. Use separate ice chests/coolers for your ready-to-eat foods requiring refrigeration. Store your other ingredients and/or foods in covered containers to protect them from the weather and possible contamination.

Booth Signage and Interaction with Public

We encourage you to enthusiastically promote your BBQ Team. Display only the name of the BBQ Team as stated on the application on the booth. You provide all booth signage and table skirts, if desired. Signs must be professionally designed and printed. 

Handwritten signs are not allowed at this event.

Use of the Bellingham SeaFeast 2016 logo on your sign is allowed,  with approval by the event organizers prior to the event. Contact

Each BBQ Team member is encouraged to interact with the public and answer questions. We would appreciate you telling your story and putting on a show for your audience as you grill salmon. 


Each BBQ Team is required to sign a “hold harmless” agreement (Indemnification and Waiver) relating to activities in the BBQ booth areas and the Bellingham SeaFeast 2016 site. The “hold harmless” agreement is included in the application portion of the Salmon BBQ Grilling Contest registration form. 

Judging Procedures

Highest combined score of the judges wins on a scale of 1-10.

Salmon prepared for judging will be placed in identical containers for each team, marked and provided by the Bellingham SeaFeast 2016 competition committee. CAUTION: BBQ Teams cannot mark the container in any way; violations will risk disqualification (a score of 1).

We will deliver the grilled salmon to the judges on a bed of green, leafy vegetable provided by Bellingham SeaFeast 2016 to ensure a standardized presentation for the judges. 

CAUTION: No side sauces (tarter, hollandaise, etc.) are allowed in the judging container. If any side sauces are added to the judging container, the entry will be marked as disqualified (a score of 1). Sauces and/or glazes may be applied before and during cooking, but not pooled into the container. 

Two unique exceptions:

  1. Salmon on a cedar plank – if the plank fits into the provided container and remains free from any additive.
  2. A half lemon, sliced as a garnish.

Each team may decide how to utilize the salmon skin in the grilling, but the skin will not receive consideration in judging.

CAUTION: Use of toothpicks, tinfoil, or markings, such as a distinctive brand (e.g., with a branding iron), is strictly prohibited and will disqualify an entry (score of 1).


A panel comprising three or more professionals from the Food & Hospitality Industry (examples: chef, food critic, food writer, etc.) and two non-professionals will judge the grilled salmon entries.

Each BBQ Team will present two salmon sides to the judges. They will sit all together at round tables. Event Runners will retrieve the sides from the BBQ Teams at their presentation time and take the salmon to the judges, who will designate time of delivery on their scorecard.

A blind judging system utilizes a duplicate numbered theater ticket. To clearly identify the grilled salmon delivered to the judges, one-half of the ticket will be taped to the bottom of the container and the Teams keep the other half. Judges record the number of the ticket that corresponds to the salmon they are judging. Event Runners assist with the taping of the ticket half onto the presentation container.

Judges will review, deliberate, and score the grilled salmon silently without discussion among other judges. 

Judging Schedule

Note the schedule for Saturday, Oct. 1 on p. 8.

Each BBQ Team will receive a specific time to deliver its grilled salmon to the judges (using Event Runners). Times will be staggered to allow the judges to sample the BBQ’d salmon while it’s still freshly-grilled. The delivery times will be drawn at the BBQ Team Booth Captains Meeting (location to be announced) from 9:30-10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Judges will receive and review 4 containers of grilled salmon every 15 minutes beginning at 1:30 p.m. Each 15-minute time slot is a “Heat.” Six (6) Heats make up the competition (4 teams in each Heat = 24 teams). 

To ensure a quality-grilled salmon side for judging, it is important that each BBQ Team plans accordingly for time between arrival at Bellingham SeaFeast 2016, and setting up its BBQ station, firing up its grill, receiving the salmon at 11 a.m., and grilling time in accordance with their Heat delivery time to the judges.

Bellingham SeaFeast 2016 Salmon BBQ Grilling Championship Judging Rubric

For eligibility, Teams must present salmon sides to the judges:

  1. In the container provided by the Bellingham SeaFeast 2016 organizers with no additional markings.
  2. On a bed of green leafy vegetable provided by Bellingham SeaFeast 2016.
  3. With NO side sauces.

Scoring in each category:


    1 = Disqualification
    2-10 = 10 is best; fractional scoring is encouraged to the second decimal point (e.g., 7.51). 

    NOTE: Appearance of the salmon skin is NOT considered one of the judging elements.

Judges will total scores for each side and divide by the number of Categories (3).


Prizes & Awards 


Grand Prize for Overall Best Salmon – $700
(The Overall Best Salmon winner receives $1,000!)

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Awards Presentation, The Boathouse, 3:30 p.m.
1st Place winners will attend:
Bellingham SeaFeast Grand Finale (6 p.m.)
Bellwether Hotel Ballroom
Awards Presentation    

International Salmon BBQ Championship Schedule


Sept. 10, 2016 - Application Due
September 15, 2016 - Booth Assignments, Load-In & Parking Info emailed to all competitors

Schedule for Competition, Saturday, October 1, 2016

7-9 a.m. - Arrival & Setup                
9:30-10 a.m. - BBQ Team Booth Captains Meeting (times drawn for Heats & salmon delivery to judges) 
10 a.m.
- Bellingham SeaFeast 2016 Opening Ceremonies    
11 a.m. - BBQ Grilling Contest BeginsBoth Professional & Amateur (Salmon Fillets delivered to each Team)
1:30 p.m. - Heat #1 – 4 BBQ Teams deliver salmon to Judges
1:45 p.m. - Heat #2 - 4 BBQ Teams deliver salmon to Judges
2 p.m. - Heat #3 – 4 BBQ Teams deliver salmon to Judges
2:15 p.m. - Heat #4 - 4 BBQ Teams deliver salmon to Judges
2:30 p.m. - Heat #5 – 4 BBQ Teams deliver salmon to Judges
3 p.m. - Judges Deliberate (scores tabulated, winners selected)
3:30 p.m. - Winners & Awards Announced & Presented (Boathouse steps)

NOTE: Specifics about takedown/load-out times and procedures appear as part of the Booth Assignments/Load-In & Load-Out details sent Sept. 15, 2016. Generally, BBQ Grilling Contestants can use vehicles to load out their gear beginning at 6:30 p.m.