Chicks in the Pit
Women are becoming players on the competitive barbecuing circuit in Ontario
June 13, 2007
PARIS, ONT.–Competitive barbecuing may be a man's "sport" but that doesn't stop the guys from welcoming Diva Q into the fray.
They wander into her makeshift cooking tent – a white, waterproof car shelter actually, since the wicked winds of Friday destroyed her regular tent – offering advice and bear hugs, lending a hand, some muscle, chunks of cherry wood or even a couple of grill racks.
"Diva Q for grand champion," someone yells as she struts off to the judging tent on Saturday clutching her team's entry for pork ribs. "And if not, at least for best dancer tonight," yells another guy.
"Any time anybody comes into the barbecue world like she does is a plus," says Brian Wittiveen, who's part of Big Sid's BBQ team from Brantford. "I know the stress she's under, so I'll flip a few comments so she'll relax and enjoy it."
And enjoy it Diva Q does. This is her first professional competitive barbecuing event and she see-saws between stressed and euphoric.
By day, Diva Q is Danielle Dimovski, a 33-year-old, stay-at-home mother of three from Barrie. But for a few precious weekends this summer, she's pitmaster of Team Diva Q, where she's assisted by her husband, Vlado Dimovski, and their friends John and Louisa Hadden.
Diva Q and 17 other teams camp out at the Paris Fairgrounds for the Canadian Pork BBQ Championships, $5,000 in prize money and plaques for best chicken, brisket, pork shoulder and pork ribs. Eighteen judges taste the entries "blind" – without knowing which team made which. (Don't confuse these competitions with ribfests. You can watch but nobody's selling food.)
Yes, it's mainly a man's world, admits Kirk Sharpley of the Canadian Barbecue Association. But, turning to Diva Q, he pointedly adds: "Generally speaking, the teams that have women are ... more enthusiastic, particularly when they're winning. They're a lot shriller."
Diva Q isn't the only female pitmaster here – Adrienne Ross of Brantford leads the Smokin' in the Igloo BBQ Team. She's philosophical about why more women aren't doing this: "You put the meat on at 10 o'clock at night and sit around and drink until you're done – and that's not a women's thing."
Ross (who "only had one bottle of wine all night") leads a crew made up of husband Aaron and friend Rambo McKeown.
"It's nice to see the women are starting to get involved in this sport," McKeown says. "With most teams in the past, the women have come along to do the dishes. We've got a flip show here. She (Diva Q) runs the show and she orders her husband around."
So she does, but Diva Q also commends her husband, a TTC engineer, for being supportive: "He takes a lot of ribbing from the other guys because his wife leads a team, but he's so secure in his own manhood that it doesn't faze him at all."
Diva Q, an avid cook, got bit by the barbecue bug last summer after judging the Canadian Open Barbecue Championships in Barrie. She created a team and competed at the amateur level in St. Catharines in the fall and then, recently, in Ottawa and Brantford.
"It's back to the basics – fire and cooking," she explains of the allure. "It's far away from microwave and convenience foods."
As for the team name, Diva Q's friends concocted it over wine.
"I'm the most undiva diva there is," she insists, "other than my occasionally indulgence in Dolce and Gabbana, pedicures, manicures, and I like Ralph Lauren shoes."
Besides, can you really be a diva when you reek of smoke, your clothes are smeared with sauce, your sandalled feet are grubby, you sleep in a tent (if at all) while smoking meat for up to 20 hours, and you don't get to shower for 48 hours?
"I know it's cheesy, but carpe diem – whatever makes you happy," says Diva Q. "If it's legal, just do it."
Team Diva Q places 6th overall in Paris. They get 6th in chicken, 5th in brisket, 5th in pork and 11th in ribs. Watch for them at the Canadian Open in Barrie next month.