I would like to welcome you all to the first of a very special weekly column, “Q & A With the Gridiron Chef“. We from LWS are honoured to be joined by one of the most renowned tailgate specialists in America, and host/producer of the new Tailgate Radio Network & Show on LIVE365, Doc “Gridiron Chef” Dockeray. “Doc” will be giving you tips and pointers on how to make the most of your tailgates, as well as unique insight into this 20 billion-dollar industry each weekend throughout this football season. Each episode will have a different theme and downloadable recipes, which will help you to hone your craft. Let the grilling begin!
Week 1: The Essentials
M: Having been in the industry for as long as you have, what can you tell us about the trend? Is tailgating on the rise?
Doc: With ticket prices having gone through the roof, the onset of seat licenses, 10 buck beers compounded by a never-ending recession, the culture of tailgating has become the primary element and center-point of millions of sport fans’ gameday. For the past 10 years, tailgating in its traditional form has now crossed over to otherwise non-traditional cultures like RV’ing, outdoor recreation, and even the home.
Tailgating has also become so prevalent as a brand building culture for the NFL, NCAA and NASCAR, that its now used as a label/catchphrase for media networks, signifying a Pre-Game/Pre-Race media slot prior to the broadcast.
Also, with the incredible array of new technologies combined with Sunday Ticket, the Red Zone channel and a $9 billion fantasy industry; HomeGating has become its own billion dollar culture. So we have transferred the best parts of an interactive tailgate party to the home consumer.
M: What, if any, misconceptions have you found about tailgating that you wish would be cleared up?
Doc: On the consumer side, the culture is deeply embedded and a core tradition within each sport it supports. But the only time you may see it as a backdrop in the media is when some drunken-ass assaults someone at the stadium, or drives home from the tailgate drunk. That may be .01% of what has become the great American neighborhood, a culture around comradery and breaking bread in the lot. This pastime deserves a lot more love than that.
On the business side, top sports leagues need to understand the fact that the 75k avid gameday partyers grilling at 9am in their stadium lot are the “most” active fans they have. They travel the most, spend the most, are in more pools, and all in all and are far and away more engaged in fandom than the norm. Teams owners, leagues and marketing networks need to respect this far more than they currently do.
M: What advice can you give for the first time tailgater to make his or her experience positive?
Doc: 5 words: Plan, Gorge, Libate, Social Intercourse
Plan – Its essential. Checklists and assignments are a must. Leaving the grilling utensils in the garage and the garlic-crusted beef tenderloin in the fridge is a buzz-kill….believe me. Checklists are a plenty. My friend Ray at SimpleTailgating.com has one on his main page.
Gorge/Libate – You can do light beer, hotdogs and store bought potato salad at your mother-in-laws b-day BBQ. Not at a good tailgate. Instead, plan an upper crust feast with 4 courses and scattered over enough hours to produce it on-site. And don’t kill that beautiful feast with a watered down libation. A selection of good beer, premium spirits, and lots of ice make for a great tailgate. My crew is named “Excess in Moderation” for a reason.
Social Intercourse – Tailgating, when done right is the perfect cocktail of friends, food and bev, gaming, conversation, meeting and greeting, and engaging sports and life conversation. I called it “social intercourse.” When interwoven, it’s the best party on earth. When its done right, you’ll casually glance at your watch and say “sh*t, we have to get up to the stadium!” That’s when you’ll know the tailgate is more important than the game.
M: What do you feel are the most important elements of a successful tailgate? Is it all about beer and barbecue?
1. Get there early and secure a good spot – quintessential elements are shade, access to porta-potty, and distance to stadium.
2. Plan 4 separate areas – 1 for your bar, 1 for the cooking, 1 for serving, and 1 for gaming.
3. Plan for delays… an extra hour for set-up, and an extra hour for teardown. As we do appreciate the “always happy to help” perennials who have been libating for 3 hours, we don’t need them reefing on the bent tent poles, and accidently grabbing a hot grill. They may think they’re helping, but say “thank you, no!” Its always best to have the unpackers…pack! It’s a science.
4. Lastly, for God’s sake, share in the designated driving duties…..but definitely have one. Not the “second guessing slightly buzzed under the legal limit” kind – the completely sober kind.
M: What is the most common mistake you see made by inexperienced tailgaters?
When too focused on the party, you may forget to stay hydrated. Bring plenty of water/liquids. You may also forget, where there’s fire/charcoal and libating, injuries small or otherwise can occur. Bring a first-aid kit no matter how big your party is or is not. Lastly, if its 1 hour straight drive to the tailgate, plan 2. If you want to be grilling by 10 and serving at 11, plan to be there at 8:30. When it’s too labor intensive, you may miss the reason you’re there in the first place.
M: Before we wrap-up, can you share with us a bit about your own tailgate set-up? Maybe a few pics and a brief description?
Don’t really have an average tailgate as I travel all over. NASCAR’s a 3-day trip, NCAA is usually an overnighter like 2 weeks ago in Atlanta. NFL tends to be a 6-hour venture. On average in past years, 30 or so tailgaters on average; 5 courses scattered over 5 hours; upper crust menu…around $15 per head; plenty of Crown Royal; combination of young/old/male/female/big/small/seafood allergic/lactose-intolerant/gastro-intestinally challenged; we have lots of gameday fantasy league talk, gaming; overall, a great dynamic.
“Keep the drinks cold, the grill hot, and we’ll see you in the parking lot.
That wraps-up our first installment of Q & A with the Gridiron Chef. Next weekend’s topic: Choosing the Perfect Barbecue. If you have any questions for the Gridiron Chef, please leave them below and we’ll do our best to get answers for you. Happy ‘gating!
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