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Friday, April 4, 2014

After 14 years in the "boy's club," Dianne Creech and Pit to Plate BBQ remain among Cincinnati's best

Dianne Creech and her cousin, Annie
Until recently, it was hard to find pitmasters who are women. While there are many different styles of barbecue, testosterone seemed to be a common ingredient in another old boys’ network.

But times are changing. Melissa Cookston, owner of Memphis Barbecue Company restaurants, is author of the aptly titled new cook book, “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” Lisa Mills, daughter of legend Mike Mills runs a barbecue consulting firm and co-authored the James Beard-nominated book, “Peace, Love and Barbecue.” Danielle Dimovski, joined Cookston as a champion and is best known to her TV fans as “Diva Q.”

As the old late 1960s advertisement put it, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

On a recent visit to Cincinnati, I decided to check out the Queen City’s No. 2 barbecue restaurant according to Yelp, Pit to Plate BBQ, which has been owned and operated by the warm-hearted Dianne Creech since 2000 and eight years in its current location at 8021 Hamilton Ave., Mt. Healthy, Ohio.

After 14 years of operating a barbecue joint, Creech acknowledges that she’s in a boy’s club, adding with a laugh, “They don’t like it, because, you know what, I’m a good challenge to them.”

Earlier this year, Cincinnati Magazine selected Pit to Plate as the best barbecue on the city’s northside and numerous positive reviews on Urbanspoon, Chowhound, and the “Food Hussy” (Really) attest to its solid local reputation.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

From the backyard to one of Indy's best barbecue joints -- Judge's

Judge Smith at one of his 10 Weber grills
Walking into many barbecue joints, you might ask yourself, “Could I ever do this?” Well, Judge Smith, namesake of Judge’s Tip ofthe Rib Bar-B-Que, is one of us.

Smith grew up in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, in Ofahoma, today an unincorporated area located along the Natchez Trace Parkway in Leake County. While raised on the food of his mother and the barbecue of many friends, it was not until he was in the U.S. Army, stationed at Purdue University, that he began to hone his craft.

“I didn’t barbecue at all while I was down South,” Smith acknowledged. “When I left Mississippi, I was only 21 and just out of school and cooking wasn’t the big thing.” 

That's not to say that he didn't like cooking, but he did not take it up seriously until years later after he reached Purdue, based in West Lafayette, Ind. (Smith also is a graduate of JacksonState University in Mississippi.)