Girl on grill action: Ontario’s barbecue queen fires up Hogtown

Girl on grill action: Ontario’s barbecue queen fires up Hogtown

The honours, all mine: The head of the Diva Q team clutches her well-earned trophies

She smoked the competition on the Ontario barbecue circuit, has taken a prize for Best International Team at the prestigious Jack Daniel’s Invitational in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and earned an invite to the National Barbeque Association’s showdown in Georgia. Now the grilling goddess, Danielle Dimovski—better known as Diva Q—brings her fiery style to Toronto for the first annual Crazy Canuck Championships at Woodbine Park on June 20.

“There’s not much I haven’t put on a barbecue,” says the self-described OCB (obsessive compulsive barbecuer); she’s even tried ice cream bars and chocolate cheesecake, the Death by Diva, which won top honours in a Kansas City competition. When we catch her, she’s tending to 50 “atomic buffalo turds” for a TV spot on the series Playing House. The snack, which she calls “the crack candy of the barbecue world” (we say cardiologist’s nightmare), is jalapeño peppers stuffed with spices and cream cheese, wrapped in bacon and cooked low and slow for three hours.

The Diva got her taste for the pit three years ago, when she judged the Canadian Open Barbecue Championships in Barrie. She racked up awards in amateur contests, then turned pro in 2007—pro, in this case, means she competes in four cook-off categories (chicken, pork, ribs, brisket) and a keeps a stash of 10 to 15 bottles of sauce in her fridge. Today Dimovski and her team can claim to be the only Canadian squad to win two U.S. competitions in a year. She does almost all of her cooking outdoors. “There is no reason to turn on my oven until December,” she says.

Dimovski may be a spicy lass, but it’s not easy being a gal in a man’s gig. Other than the absence of grilling gloves in dainty sizes, the toughest part for the Diva is the dearth of flushable toilets on competition grounds. “Honestly, that is the biggest difference. Guys can go pee on a tree. For me, it’s a little more challenging.” Dimovski would like to see other women get out of the kitchen and into the backyard. “Every barbecue show features men, and there are lots of women who would love to barbecue but don’t know how.” Her goal is to be the Paula Deen of barbecue in Canada: “Somebody who people can relate to, not a trained chef.”

When dining out, the Diva sits down to what she calls the best southern barbecue in Ontario at Busta Rhinos in Whitby (the super-secret dry rub is worth the drive). She also likes S and B Southern BBQ at St. Jacob’s Market. But the backyard is still best, and her tips for charbroiling debutantes are simple: get a good grill and read the instruction manual. “Learning how to control your fire is key,” she says, giggling suggestively. Are we still talking about barbecues?