Berea’s National Rib Cook-Off & Beer Fest

BEREA, Ohio — Donna Rice does what she knows best.

“Well, we’re grilling some ribs to take care of our customers,” Rice said.

What You Need To Know

  • Berea’s National Rib Cook-Off & Beer Fest takes place at Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds
  • 10 rib teams are competing for awards such as “Best Ribs” and “People’s Choice”
  • Desperado’s, who previously won the award for “Best Ribs,” is scheduled to compete
  • Owner Donna Rice said she took over for the barbecue company after her husband died

She’s the person behind Desperado’s Barbecue and Rib Company. They are one of the 10 rib teams that competed at Berea’s National Rib Cook-off and Beer Fest.

“This is hometown girl,” Rice said. “It’s a hard competition because if you like the Ohio flavor profile of ribs, there’s a lot of us from Ohio, and so our ribs are very similar.”

Rice said they took home the prize for “Best Rib” and “Best Sauce” at the cook-off last year. This year, Rice said, they wasted no time bringing in the awards.

“Well, we won the first one, which is called the ‘Pick of the Pig,’ and that’s the Miss Berea candidates. They try all the ribs, and then they choose the winners and they picked Desperados,” Rice said.

Rice said her rib team has won competitions in 27 states.

“It’s great. I mean, not all 50 states have competitions like we have, some are a little different. That’s why we haven’t won in states like Montana and Louisiana, those kind of states,” Rice said. “But it’s a great honor to know that our product is consistent.”

Rice said she’s been perfecting her product for years. She first started the barbecue business with her husband, Lee, who then worked in the fast food industry.

“He said, ‘I’ll come up with the rub recipe, or the seasoning, and you come up with the sauce,’” Rice added.

Rice said her husband died in 2009, but she felt like it was important to continue taking the company to competitions.

“Well, it’s something that we really appreciate,” said Rice. “We love traveling across the country, and meeting all of our friends and that it’s sort of like a working family reunion.”

It’s the feeling of family that keeps her going.

“Well, this is a man’s circuit, let me tell you, and they have their ways and I have a lot of friends out here,” Rice said.

She had this advice for other women who are looking to work their way into the rib business.

“If you surround yourself with good people, women can do it all,” Rice said.