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Cheree of @EatWithMe_XYZ has always appreciated BBQ, but she didn’t dive into the culinary craft until last year, a few months into the pandemic. Having spent her career in the food industry and constantly being around people, the isolation of staying at home got to her. Plus, she quickly had to adapt to becoming a full-time teacher to her 10-year old daughter, who has special needs. Her family saw her stress, so they gave her a pellet grill as a Mother’s Day gift. 

“My kids saw me going stir crazy. They could tell I needed an outlet,” she says. “They knew I was used to being in public, sharing food with others. The grill was like therapy for me.”

Cheree created her Instagram account a year earlier, but she wasn’t using it for much. As she learned about her new grill and craved social interaction while stuck at home, she decided to start posting her creations.

“It was a way to communicate with others,” she says. “At first, I was very hesitant when the BBQ community started reaching out to me. I’m still hesitant some days, but I started building relationships with people, getting advice and opinions. I’ve had a really good experience with it.”

Cheree was born in Washington state in an area near the Oregon border. Her dad was a Vietnam veteran who started a construction company in Washington and then moved it to Texas in the 1980s because of the construction boom in the area. Cheree spent half of her life in different cities and towns throughout Texas and Oklahoma. Her time in the south is what first sparked her love for BBQ. She and her family moved back to the Pacific Northwest six years ago when her dad passed away.

The Washington native has had an eclectic career in the food industry, working in a variety of positions at a variety of places, from big, fast-paced restaurants to small, high end, luxury eateries. When it came to BBQ, she was a fast learner. She credits that partially to her career.

“Being in the food industry, I remember things that I saw happening in the kitchen,” she says. “I try to use those things in my own creations.”

She appreciates versatility in her food, joking that her cooking style is “all over the place.” She credits part of this to the fact that she’s half-Thai and half-German.

“I’m definitely inspired by those influences, my background,” she says. “I like bold flavors, bright colors. It all starts with your eyes, so I do what I can to make sure my creations look good.”

Cheree was a bartender last March when restaurants had to shut their doors. She thinks she’s retired from that field now, but with her Instagram account growing and more BBQ brands knocking on her door for ambassadorships, she’s seeing another career blossoming.

“I’m starting to see that it could be something more. That’s why I say, ‘BBQ and beyond’ in my profile,” Cheree says. “’I’m definitely trying to see what else I can do with this.” 

After Cheree was gifted her grill last May, her son dropped off a few bags of Bear Mountain pellets for her to try. She loved them right away. 

“I’ve used other pellet brands, and anytime I open a bag, my biggest pet peeve is I practically need to put a mask on because of the dust. Bear Mountain is very low dust, and when it comes to cleaning the auger out, there’s nothing in there,” she says. “Plus, I love all the flavors I’ve tried. My favorite is Gourmet BBQ because it’s so versatile and goes with whatever I’m making that day.”

In many ways, the pandemic has not been easy, but Cheree thinks BBQ and the community that surrounds it are some of the best things to come out of this challenging time for her.

“BBQ has helped bring me back to me. It’s helped me refocus, figure out what I can do, what I can look forward to,” she says. “BBQ has been a saving grace.”

To learn more about Cheree’s BBQ journey, follow her on Instagram. And if you want to try one of her creations, check out these delicious Japanese Meatball Sliders.