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Behind the pit, in the spotlight, the women shaking up Texas BBQ

In your average Texas barbecue joint, you likely won’t see many women.
Tootsie Tomanetz laughs while remembering the story of her introduction to BBQ
Posted at 1:07 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 23:30:03-04

ROCKDALE, Texas — What comes to mind when you think of Texas? There’s a good chance for some it's the thought of barbecue.

However, nine times out of 10, it's the who behind the mouth-watering brisket or the fall-off-the-bone ribs that gives the food its Texas flare.

Brett's Backyard Platter.jpg
Plate of various meats at Brett's Backyard Barbecue in Rockdale, TX

In 2021, Brett’s Backyard BBQ in Rockdale was listed as one of the Top 50 BBQ joints in the state by Texas Monthly magazine. The owner and pitmaster, Brett Boren, is honored by the recognition, but he also knows the credit goes to his staff- a staff made up of mostly women.

With makeup on and tortoise hoop earrings in, Tristen Gage gears for another day behind the pit.

Tristan Gage of Brett's Backyard BBQ.

Gage does nearly everything at Brett’s Backyard BBQ. She preps the meat, tends the fire, cooks the sides, and serves customers.

“It’s a great feeling, waking up every day knowing that you’re coming to do a man’s job,” Gage said while laughing. “Like, you’re more powerful for some reason- like you have it going on for ya.”

Since starting in 2019, she said the passion she has for barbecue continues to grow.

”Once you start doing it and you fall in love with it, then it's something that you see yourself doing every day,” she said.

If you were to walk into your average Texas barbecue joint, you likely won’t see many women in the pit room. However, Snow’s BBQ in Lexington is an exception.

Snow's BBQ in Lexington, TX.

Its long lines and an even longer list of honors are a backdrop to the home of Texas barbecue royalty; specifically the ‘Queen of Barbecue’ – Tootsie Tomanetz.

The 87-year-old woman in charge has been cooking up a storm of deliciousness since the 1960s. After a lifetime of trailblazing in the realm of barbecue, today, Tomanetz earns her title by waking up at 3 a.m. every Saturday to begin cultivating a culinary masterpiece that attracts people from all over.

Tootsie Tomanetz looks on during a hard days work at Snow's BBQ.

The globally-recognized pitmaster is an inspiration to those following in her footsteps.

“I really hope that there's just a little something that rubs off on me to one of those students each day,” Tomanetz said. “I want somebody to learn and see what I do and to be able to pick up the range and go down the road.”

Tomantez has been the pitmaster at Snow’s since its opening in 2003. Under her leadership, the small-town joint has garnered recognition on Texas Monthly’s Top 50 list of best barbecue spots each year since 2008. In 2008 and 2017, Snow’s even captured the number one spot on the same list.

Snow’s BBQ in Lexington is open only on Saturdays starting at 8 a.m. until they sell out.

However, if you want to try some of Snow's barbecue and can’t make it to the small town, they ship to anywhere in the country.

Meanwhile, Brett’s Backyard BBQ is open on Friday through Sundays from 11 a.m. until they sell out.