Here is an article posted in Lancaster Online, written by Mary Ellen Wright on May 4, 2016. The link to the original article is here.
Danielle Bennett says she was a “really intense home cook” 10 years ago when she agreed to judge a barbecue competition. It transformed her life. “I just fell in love with barbecue, and I just knew it was something I had to pursue and do.” Bennett, a native of Ontario, Canada, who grew up eating southern barbecue on family trips to Florida, set about learning all she could about barbecuing. She took classes at culinary institutes, and “apprenticed with some amazing pit masters throughout the U.S. and Canada.” Her bubbly personality led her to appearances on morning television and cooking shows. She eventually became the TV personality known as Diva Q, hosting her own show, “BBQ Crawl,” on the Travel channel.
On her program, this diva of the grill visits far-flung barbecue joints and participates in barbecue competitions around North America. Bennett is bringing those years of competitive experience to Lancaster Saturday, May 14, to offer an all-day barbecue competition class at Stone BBQ Supply on Lincoln Highway East. The class, Bennett says, is tailored to those interested in competing in the burgeoning world of barbecue competitions. “Basically, we go through a simulated competition timeline,” Bennett says by phone from her home outside Orlando, Florida. “We go through all four categories: chicken, ribs, pork, brisket. “I talk about all the preparation that goes into making these meats — trimming them and presenting them for the judges, and, of course, how to cook them and barbecue them. … It’s everything you need to know to get ready for a competition.
“While it is competition oriented,” Bennett adds, “I’ve had a lot of non-competition people take the class. Because at the end of the day, they want knowledge on how to make really amazing brisket or awesome pulled pork, or they want to do ribs really well for a family. … They just want to learn how to be a backyard superstar.” The class costs $300 per person or $400 per couple, and runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — “good barbecue takes time,” Bennett notes. The class includes breakfast, lunch and samples of all the meats that are barbecued during the day.
Michele Perelka, who runs Stone BBQ Supply with her husband, Tom, says Bennett also will be at the store from 5-7 p.m. Friday, May 13, to meet her fans and sign her new cookbook, “Diva Q’s Barbecue: 195 Recipes for Cooking with Family, Friends & Fire.” “It’s a compilation of 195 recipes, barbecue tips, the basics for the beginner,” Bennett says of her cookbook. “I have recipes for rubs and sauces, I cover vegetables, pork, beef, chicken, a lot of seafood as well. “I cover libations — what are you going to drink with your meal? What are you going to have for dessert? These are real recipes for real people who want to spend some time on their grill,” Bennett says.
While she’s not filming any new “BQ Crawl” shows right now, some of the three years of episodes are still airing on Travel.Bennett, 42, is also a guest judge on the new Food Network show, “Kids BBQ Championship,” which premieres May 23. “These kids were amazing,” Bennett says. “I’m still in shock at how awesome they were. They have such a great skill set, and they have such a passion for barbecuing and grilling.”
This is the second straight year Bennett has held a class at Stone BBQ Supply. “We got to know her on the barbecue circuit,” Perelka says. The Perelkas have been competing since 2006 under the team name Lo’-N-Slo’ BBQ. “We’ve just become really good friends,” Perelka adds. “We compete with each other, but we also share secrets.”
“I prefer cooking on hickory more than anything,” Bennett notes. “It’s the number one most recognizable wood flavor in the world for restaurants to use. My next favorites would be the sweet fruit woods, like the apple and the cherry, and pecan is another favorite of mine.”
One tip she’ll share at the class, she says, is how to learn where the hot spots are on your new grill.
“The first thing you should do with a new grill — whether it’s gas, pellet, charcoal, whatever — is start up your grill, and make sure you have a can of the cheapest biscuit dough,” she says. “Crack it open, and once your grill is hot, spread that biscuit dough all over the grill, and into the corners. Within seconds, you’ll learn the hot spots of your grill, just by watching the color of the biscuit dough change.
“It’s better to learn with a can of 89-cent biscuit dough than on a $30 steak,” Bennett says. “It’s biscuits over brisket, because brisket is so expensive.” Bennett says she knows why barbecue is so popular around the world. “Barbecue really crosses over every socioeconomic base,” Bennett says. “One of the great things I love about barbecue is that it doesn’t matter if you’re rich, middle class, poor — you can always barbecue something. “It can be a simple brick pit with cinder blocks and an oven grate or an $8,000 state-of-the-art, technologically advanced pit in your backyard,” she says.
“It doesn’t matter what culture you go to — Asia, Europe, North America, South America, everybody barbecues, everybody grills. “I love the fact that barbecue just makes everybody feel great. Anytime you think of when you were growing up and having a barbecue — it was always a fun time. It always harkens back to that pleasantness, that great memory, that terrific taste on the grill, and it gives you this overall warm, fuzzy feeling. “It doesn’t just feed your body,” Bennett adds. “It feeds your soul.”