Up-and-coming Dayton pitmaster competing on Food Network’s ‘BBQ Brawl’



A Dayton woman is working with Food Network legend Bobby Flay in an effort to put Dayton barbecue on the map in a big way.

Erica Blaire Roby is competing in season 2 of Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl” that premiered June 14. A new episode airs every Monday at 9 p.m. on Food Network and the season finale is planned for Aug. 9.

About two years ago, Roby began doing barbecue competitions and putting her progress on Instagram. Not long after starting her barbecue journey, she received a message about “applying for an unspecified show that was about barbecue,” which she thought was a spam message on first glance. After consulting some barbecue peers on social media, she was told the people contacting her were legit and she should definitely write back.

“Me and my husband were running to find the best ingredients in the area and make all these dishes,” Roby said. “And then I didn’t hear anything for a year. So, I was like, ‘OK. Well, at least that was fun.’”

After a year of no communication, Roby received a call in November 2020 that would set in motion the road to her traveling to Austin, Texas to start filming at Star Hill Ranch.

Competing under the name “Blue Smoke Blair,” Roby plans to open a Dayton area food truck under the same name this August — around the same time as the “BBQ Brawl” season finale. The barbecue truck, to be co-owned with her father, was supposed to open right before the pandemic, but was pushed back due to COVID-19 and then the Food Network competition.

Once opened, Roby said the food truck, full name, “Blue Smoke Blair Roadside,” will be located on the side of the road on E. Third St. in Dayton.

“My dad was going through his bucket list of fun things he wanted to do with a family, and he said he wanted to start a barbecue restaurant in Dayton,” Roby said. “That’s how everything happened.”

Not one to sit on a dream, Roby began taking barbecue classes and entered some competitions “to see what she was made of.”

Both of Roby’s parents are in the Air Force. In fact, family was stationed in Dayton when Roby was about 7 years old. She attended high school in Hawaii, came back to Ohio to attend college at Wright State University, then left to go to law school at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Before coming back to Dayton right before the start of the pandemic, Roby practiced criminal defense in Miami, Florida for 10 years, owned her own law firm and closed that law firm to go to wine school in San Francisco. On top of all that, she also has a 3-year-old son.

Though it seems like there’s nothing Roby won’t do if she puts her mind to it, Dayton will have to wait to find out if she is titled Food Network’s “Master of Cue” for an entire year. The winner of the show also gets a deal for a digital series on Food Network.

“I want to do everything now,” Roby said. “Because if I get to the end of my life and I have regrets from something I didn’t do, and it wasn’t because I couldn’t have done it, but because I didn’t do it or was scared to do it, I’d be greatly unhappy.”

New episodes of “BBQ Brawl” air every Monday at 9 p.m. on Food Network, but are also available on Amazon Prime and Discovery Plus every Monday at 12 a.m.

“I just want the people of Dayton to know that one of their own, one of their Dayton daughters, is out there trying to put us on the map so that people will start taking Ohio BBQ seriously,” Roby said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make that dream happen.”

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