Recipes From Christie Vanover
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Born to Grill With Christie Vanover
Everyone's got their go-to grilling style. What's yours?
I love this question because my answer is simple: it’s Vegas style. When people think of Las Vegas, which is where I live, they don’t think of a style of barbecue, but we do in fact have our own style. Vegas is a true melting pot community. On the strip, you’ll find a heavy European influence at restaurants, but off the strip, the Latino, Hawaiian, Filipino and Asian cultures play a huge role.
We also love to indulge. So, my Vegas-style barbecue tends to combine some French and Korean techniques I learned while living in Europe and Asia, along with some Hawaiian and Filipino tricks I learned from my husband’s family and some of the classic barbecue skills I learned while living in Texas. And I top all of that with a little Vegas flair.
Could you tell us about your earliest food memory?
Family dinner was a very important part of growing up. After school, we would play outdoors for hours, but when it was dinner time, my parents and siblings and I all gathered around the dinner table and shared our day. The meals weren’t fancy dishes you’d see today on social media. Sometimes, it was just Hamburger Helper or pork chops and butter noodles. But those meals nourished us both physically and spiritually. And the meal wasn’t complete until we knocked out the dishes together and grabbed a bowl of ice cream. So to me, food is more than a protein or a side. It’s about the people you’re surrounded by when you enjoy that meal together.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I began catering some small family events and people would always ask me for recipes. So, in 2010, I started a food blog called Zestuous.com where I could catalog the recipes and share them with others. Over the years, I realized that I was starting to cook more of my recipes outdoors on my gas grill. I didn’t know a lot about grilling, so I read cookbooks and watched cooking shows to learn as much as I could. I realized that there was a need out there for approachable online grilling resources and recipes, so in 2015, I launched GirlsCanGrill.com.
My site quickly grew in popularity for men and women alike. New grillers were experimenting with me, and we became a tight group of virtual backyard cooks. It wasn’t long before barbecue brands saw the value of Girls Can Grill and started investing in me to serve as a spokesperson for their products. Fast forward seven years, and now I’m an award-winning competitive pitmaster. But my goal remains the same – to help anyone who’s interested learn how to grill.
What nurtures your spark for cooking?
I love to cook because it’s a way for me to express my artistic creativity in a manner that makes me and the people I’m serving food to feel happy and fulfilled. When someone tells me they love my food, it just warms my soul. But I’m also cool when people are honest and let me know when something is lacking. No form of art is perfect, and that’s what makes cooking so fun. We can always learn from each other. I am inspired every day by the people and things around me. It could be something I see on social media or an ingredient that simply speaks to me when I’m walking through the aisles of the grocery store. My mind is constantly dreaming up new recipes and ideas. And every time I have a thought, I grab my cellphone and add those thoughts into my notes app for future cooks.
Let's say you're cooking to impress. What's your favorite BBQ dish?
The BBQ dish that I always cook when I want to impress a crowd is beef plate ribs. On instagram, you’ll hear them referred to as dino bones, because they are a huge 3-bone rack of beef ribs similar to what you would see in the Flinstones. Not only are they super easy to smoke – with just a hit of seasoning and a few hours on the smoker – but they are incredibly delicious. They come from the belly region of the cow where there is a ton of marbling, which means loads of flavor. I serve the full rack and slice it in front of my diners. Someone always grabs a full bone for that instagram-worthy picture. For sides, I usually go with white sticky rice and Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.
Tell us what's on the horizon for you and your brand.
I just retired from the federal government after 20 years of service with the Army, National Park Service and Air Force. Now, I am devoting all of my time to taking Girls Can Grill to the next level. I’m developing additional how-to videos, instructional articles, infographics, recipes and more to help people fully understand the basics of barbecue. I find that since barbecue has become so huge on social media, many people are trying to create the next viral recipe. As fun as that is, it’s still really important to me to continue to teach people the basics of barbecue. When someone emails me and tells me that they followed my methods and mastered their first brisket or they followed one of my competition techniques and won their first BBQ competition, that’s when I know I’ve made a difference. And that’s what I want to keep doing for our grilling community.
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