Norma Frances Tomanetz- nicknamed ‘Tootsie’ is an 87-year-old pitmaster from Giddings, Texas. Thanks to her 50+ years of experience, Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, Texas thronged by queues of hungry barbeque lovers as early as 8:00 am on a Saturday morning.
Featured in the documentary Chef’s Table BBQ on Netflix, Tootsie has been nominated for a James Beard Award, in 2018. Her cooking has been the spirit of community camaraderie in the Texas BBQ circle. Monikered as the “Queen of Texas” barbeque, grandma Tootsie works at the Giddings High school as a janitor throughout the week and transforms into a magic pitmaster on weekends. Her cooking draws people from all over America to partake in the deliciousness.
Talking about her childhood, Tootsie was raised on a country farm, the eldest of three siblings. She was born around the end of The Great Depression of 1930 and recalls having braved many tough days. From sewing her own clothes to canning peaches, she worked hard on the farm property with her siblings.
In the year 1956, she married Edward “White” Tomanetz, an army man and began working at the City Meat Market in Giddings in ’66. It was where she learned how to make meat cuts, season, and prep for BBQs. What started as a fill-in when there was a staff shortage has turned into an irreplaceable legacy for Tootsie. The Tomanetzs ended up buying and running the City Meat Market for many years, as a team. But, things took a turn for the worse. White suffered a stroke, which forced Tootsie to sell off the market. This is when she was invited to work at the Snow’s BBQ by a close friend and owner Kerry Bexley.
Brisket is the most popular cut in Texas BBQ, that comes from the lower chest or the breast of a cow or veal. It is often a tough cut of meat and needs to be cooked slowly to release its juices, making it unbelievably tender. Tootsie uses a simple salt and pepper seasoning and a mop sauce to tenderize it.
In 2008, Snow’s BBQ was named No.1 BBQ across 2000 Texas BBQ joints. It blew people’s minds to see an 83-year-old grandma behind the stove, cooking up a storm. Tootsie works the traditional way and tries to do things by eye and touch. She became a BBQ queen. As she admits to being puzzled by all the fame in the Chef’s Table: BBQ documentary, on Netflix. Later, she was joined by her youngest son Hershey Tomanetz to work at Snow’s BBQ.
Tootsie has been through several ups and downs throughout her entire life. Post her husband’s death, Hershey suffered brain cancer. Losing two members of her was incredibly difficult for her.
Days after her son’s funeral she returned to Snow’s BBQ puzzling Kerry and the staff. However, she regards him dearly highly for standing by her like a rock when times weren’t good. All the overwhelming support poured in from customers, onlookers, and well-wishers helped Tootsie along the way. She saw the light at the end of the tunnel, hand-held by her beloved BBQ community.
Tootsie is regarded as a true Texan legend- her simplicity, hard work, and determination never cease to amaze us all!