Promoting women in BBQ


Chris Allingham

Staff member
I know that promoting women in barbecue is one of your passions. Can you say more about that? What are some of the challenges in this regard, what issues have you faced, what are you doing to help, what can we all do to help, etc?
That's an interesting question. Yes, you are right. Supporting women in BBQ is one of my goals. The best way I know how is to keep cooking and "represent" so to speak. When I see a lady out there cooking, I try to say hi and talk. It is intimidating going to a contest. My first one was at Lake Havasu in Arizona. The cooks meeting was held in a giant white tent. I got to the meeting late and found a spot against the wall and tried to remain unnoticed. The guy in front of me, for whatever reason, moved somewhere else. I tried not to take it personally and figured Johnny Trigg just found somewhere more interesting to stand. The contest is the first big one to start off the season and the tent was literally roaring with testosterone. What had I gotten myself into?

It eventually settles down and the guys get to know who you are. Sometimes, people ask where your husband is, where is the head cook, are you helping Harry with the garnish in his box (this one particularly irks me), ask me if the head cook is here yet (when I tell them I am Butcher's Daughter at the gate), or ask what I am vending (and I was tempted to say chicken fried rice) because I certainly couldn't be cooking BBQ. The biggest one is when people assume I am Harry's wife and helper and that I'm part of his team. But I'm not.

Another frustration I've had is going to the KCBS banquet in January and not seeing a single woman cook go up there and receive an award based on her accomplishments alone. C'mon. It's 2014.

When these things happen, I don't say anything and allow the trophies I carry home speak for themselves. I'm not doing it for the money or prestige. I enjoy pushing myself to see how far I can go. The ladies I meet on the circuit are extra special and are a rare breed. It's been a goal of mine to get a women only contest going one day. I have this long list of ladies who can cook. But I'm not a promoter and need the help of one to make it happen.

What can you do to help? Honestly, at the circuit, any woman who cooks tends to stand out pretty quickly and the community is terrific. At least out in California, I feel that we are treated equally, if not better or more softly, which is sweet in my opinion. I like being treated respectfully and honestly just like everyone else. Oh yeah, and if there is something other than a porta potty around, please tell me. I appreciate real bathrooms at contests.
This is a great topic.

"Ooooh, only the men can play with the's dangerous."
Seems like that's the outdoor cooking directive handed down from the BBQ gods.

I think many women have a sense of what really, really tastes good and that is the basic element that we chase.
To that, add fire control and the BBQ world just doubled.

Anytime there is a traditionally male-dominated "thing" there will always be stoopid comments from those "grandfathered in" and other various awkward moments.
I apologize in advance for these and welcome female input and ideas in this thing called BBQ that we all love.
Looking forward to your contributions to the forum, Donna.
Thanks Joe. To be fair, I get weird comments from men and women alike. It is just a little sadder when it comes from sister. But that's okay. It is all a part of the journey. The best part of it when the little ones see the trophy and their eyes open wide. Kathy Murphy, one of the first ones our here to establish California bbq once responded to my complaint that I get weird looks when I show up, she said very dully, "Of course you do, my dear." That made me laugh. I loved that and love her.