BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- As we head into Father’s Day weekend, many families are prepping for festivities. They’re getting last-minute gifts, grocery store trips and getting the barbecue ready.
However, one local man gets a little extra help with the grill from an unlikely source.
Blaze Criqui’s daughter, Hailey, is like any other 15-year-old girl in many ways, except when it comes to grilling.
“It just started becoming my hobby when I was probably 12,” Hailey said.
That’s when she started shadowing her dad at barbecue competitions.
“Hailey’s like ‘Hey dad can I go along? Can I check this out?’ She was always cooking at the house,” Blaze said.
Shortly after that, she started competing by herself.
Her dad keeps her motivated and ensures she doesn’t get intimidated by the other contenders, many of whom are men, and much older than her.
“When I did my first backyard comp, this guy across from me thought it was really weird that women were doing this cause I was with my grandma. And I beat him. So I guess he did underestimate me,” Hailey said.
Blaze recognizes that most often, it’s young men who are interested in learning the ins and outs of the barbecue. He does have a son, but he wasn’t too keen on grilling. To Blaze’s surprise, his daughter who showed interest from an early age.
“I just had a grandson recently and first thing in my mind is ‘oh another boy, I’m gonna teach him how to barbecue.’ So didn’t think that with my daughter but she definitely showed interest in it and jumped on board,” he said.
Hailey said her favorite part about grilling is getting to spend time with her dad.
“It’s like a father-daughter relationship but with food,” she said.
“I was just shocked my little girl wanted to come hang out with dad and learn how to cook so it was fantastic,” Blaze said. “I think 3 times now at competitions when she’s got her award, she’s reminded everybody the pro-circuit that she has the grand champions and dad doesn’t.”
Hailey has some advice for other women interested in learning to grill.
“Just try and do your own thing. It doesn’t matter if there are men who have been there longer,” Hailey said. “The guys might intimidate you, but a whole bunch of them are just softies who like to barbecue so just try and have fun with it.”