May 27 • 12:32 PM

Imlay grad finds spice of life with ribs, sauce

September 10, 2008
DETROIT — When Dale Lockwood graduated from Imlay City High School in 1989, he already knew the secret to his success. It would be the secret ingredients blended into his very own barbecue sauce.

Lockwood, now 37, was selected Grand Champion at last month's 2008 Ribs N' Soul Festival held at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit.

The owner of Hickory BBQ & Grill in Westland, Lockwood took first-place honors in the categories of Best Ribs and Best Sauce at the annual summer event. It was his first time at the competion.

Dale Lockwood was named Grand Champion in the Ribs and Sauce categories at the 2008 Ribs ’n Soul Festival in Detroit.
Lockwood has come a long way since he graduated at the top of his culinary arts class at the Lapeer County Vo-Tech Center, now referred to as the Lapeer Ed-Tech Center. He said attending the vocational school helped direct him on a path for success.

"It (the school) really made me who I am," Lockwood recalls. "I didn't have a lot of direction before that. While there, I learned about discipline, hard work, responsibility and the ability to work with others.

"I learned a lot and the teachers were great," he says. "I would recommend that program to anyone interested in food service."

In addition to owning and operating his own restaurant along with wife, Michelle, the newly-acclaimed "pit master" has been the beneficiary of numerous culinary honors. He also garners the respect of others in his field.

In 2006, Lockwood was the winner of Westland's Culinary Excellence Award. Adding spice to the top of that honor, he serves as vice president of the Great Lakes BBQ Association.

Lockwood says the awards and media attention have been good for business, adding that they confirm something he already believes: That he makes the best ribs and sauce in metro-Detroit.

"We've gotten tremendous response," says Lockwood. "Radio stations are contacting us and we're getting endorsement offers. Local restaurants are interested in carrying our sauce, and of course, our customers are buying it. That adds to our revenues."

While not wanting to reveal exactly what it is that makes his sauce so special, Lockwood is willing to share a portion of his secret recipe.

"I wanted to create something that is unique," says Lockwood. "Something more than just a doctored-up version of some barbeque sauce you can buy off the shelf.

"Our ribs are prepared with a dry rub — then slowly smoked," he continues. "The sauce is sweet, but with a mild kick of spice at the end."

Secret recipes aside, Lockwood aspires to continued success for the business, while continuing to please the palates of his growing minions of happy customers.

To make it easy for customers to enjoy his sauce at home, Lockwood is now bottling the product for purchase at the restaurant.

"We are pleased to say we are now making and selling our own sauce," he says. "It's totally different from any other sauce that may have touched your taste buds."

For more information about Hickory BBQ & Grill, go to or call 734-673-8889.

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