Meet Christie Vanover
What got you interested in barbecuing?
Christie: When I was living in Texas, my husband was deployed, and I got a grill that had all sorts of gadgets and features that allowed me to do more than just grill. I really enjoy being outdoors, so I started taking all of my indoor recipes and finding ways to make them on the grill.
Who inspired you to get into barbecuing?
Christie: My father-in-law is a great cook. He is a huge inspiration for me when it comes to all things food. As for barbecue specifically, I have a few inspirations. I met Ray Lampe AKA “Dr. BBQ” several years ago when he was in Vegas. He was doing an event with Big Green Egg, and I ended up getting the Egg when he was done using it. That’s when my barbecue game started getting better, and he was always there for me when I had questions. When it comes to competition barbecue, a local Las Vegas man named Barry Greer saw my social media account and invited me to attend a Nevada Barbecue Association Meeting. After I attended my first meeting, I learned more about competition BBQ and started down that path. I haven’t looked back since. But there are dozens of people who continue to inspire me every day either on social media or at barbecue competitions; great people doing really creative things cooking over fire.
What are some of your culinary influences?
Christie: I’ve been to 49 states and 26 countries, and I’ve lived all over the U.S. and in Europe and Asia, so my influences are quite diverse. My husband is also Filipino, so I find I add more Asian influences to some of my dishes.
What inspired you to share your BBQ through social media?
Christie: My background is in mass communications and public relations, so I’ve managed social media accounts for different companies and agencies for years. As I fell in love with grilling, I didn’t see a lot of women on social media in the grilling space, so I saw an opportunity to change that and to inspire others.
Who are some of your grilling heroes?
Christie: There are a handful of people I put on pedestals for various reasons. My husband and in-laws are my absolute heroes because they support Girls Can Grill more than anyone on Earth. They truly believe in everything I am doing.
I consider Bobby Flay and Steven Reichlen heroes because they were the face of BBQ for me in the beginning and their techniques of teaching made grilling approachable to me.
There are also a few women in BBQ who I consider heroes. Kita Roberts of Girl Carnivore is my best friend and biggest cheerleader. She shares amazing insights about the backend of this business and encourages me with new ideas and inspiration every day. Susie Bulloch from Hey Grill Hey started her site the same month and year as I did. Instead of seeing me as competition, we’ve become friends who share tips and information and enjoy the ride together. I’m so proud of how far she has come. Lastly, one of my newest heroes is Sunny Moody. She is a recent steak world champion and has overcome so much in her life. But she constantly maintains a positive attitude and encourages others to get out there and give grilling a try.
What are your best BBQ memories? What is the funniest?
Christie: My best BBQ memory is winning the Indio, California State BBQ Championship. I felt that I had a good cook, but I was up against some world championship teams. As they were calling 5th place and higher, it slowly dawned on me that I had a chance. And when they finally announced Girls Can Grill as Grand Champion, I got really emotional. The first call I made was to my sister to tell her that I had a chance to compete at the Jack Daniel’s Invitational. She and I have attended the Jack together for years. She works the event, and I judge.
The funniest BBQ memory is when I was at a competition and unknowingly dropped a drill bit in a pellet hopper. I subsequently caught the grill on fire. To this day, people still give me a hard time about it.
Can you tell us the most daring thing you’ve ever done while barbecuing?
Christie: I’ve shown up to competitions with new grills – without ever cooking on them on multiple occasions.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve ever learned from barbecuing?
Christie: I’ve learned that it’s okay to fail and that on occasion, you will. I put out a lot of “pretty food” on social media, but there are days when my brisket isn’t perfect or when the competition judges don’t like my flavor profiles, and that’s okay. So long as I have fun while I’m cooking and I enjoy the people I’m around, it’s all good.
What do you hope people get out of @girlscangrill?
Christie: My main reason for starting Girls Can Grill was to help make grilling approachable to other women who were nervous about trying this style of cooking. Over the past seven years, I have found that the platform has helped make grilling approachable to everyone – no matter their gender or background – which is even better.
What are some of your favorite things to grill?
Christie: My go-to weeknight dish is Korean Kalbi Ribs, but I also love a good ribeye and throwing on a slew of vegetables that I’ll eat throughout the week.
If you had your own cooking show, which celebrities would you bring on and why?
Christie: I would bring on some of the heroes I mentioned earlier, with some of the up-and-coming young ladies who are crushing it on the Steak Cookoff Association competition circuit.
When you’re not grilling, what are some of your favorite BBQ joints to go to?
Christie: I honestly don’t eat a lot of barbecue since I cook so much of it at home, but when I do, I go to Jessie Rae’s in Las Vegas, and Fox Smokehouse Barbecue in Boulder City, Nevada.
What two items would you take with you if you shipwrecked on a deserted island where all your food and water needs were taken care of?
Christie: If I was shipwrecked on a deserted island, I would bring something to start a fire and a cast iron pot with a skillet lid.
If you could choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what song would you choose and why?
Christie: “Keep Up” by Raelynn. It kind of summarizes me and makes me feel empowered.
What’s next on the horizon for you and the @girllscangrill brand?
Christie: In April, I’m retiring from 20 years of federal service and will be operating Girls Can Grill full time. I plan to develop and share more recipes and videos, participate in more competitions, and travel to more awesome BBQ destinations.