Tailgate Like a Celebrity Chef

Man Griling at Football Tailgate
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

We both call it football. We both play four quarters and move an elliptical-shaped ball down a field. That’s about where the similarities end between Australian footy and American football. I’m pretty biased toward my home sport, but the American version has one brilliant thing we lack: tailgating. Nothing makes a game more memorable; do it right, and make it legendary.

Set the scene. Setting the scene is a huge part of getting people in the mood to have fun. Make it festive. Wear the jersey, fly the flag, learn your team’s fight song, and sing it—loudly. Start everyone off with the same cocktail—it fosters solidarity.

Use simple touches. If you’re serving any kind of meat, condiments like chutney, relish, and mustard can bring even the simplest foods to life. Go all-out and fire up the grill, or simply bring along a rotisserie chicken; you can tear pieces over a salad, slice it onto a sandwich, or just eat it as is, caveman style.

Get creative with side dishes. Coleslaw tastes amazing in a burger, and three-bean salad is hearty enough to satisfy vegetarians. And since you’re literally surrounding yourself with food, keep some healthy dips—like hummus and Greek tzatziki, which can double as spreads for sandwiches and burgers—on hand to prevent overindulging elsewhere.

Pay attention to your serving dishes. If you have the space, choose serving dishes over plastic containers—wrap plastic wrap around dishes multiple times, starting underneath and stretching over the top, to prevent leaking—and use ceramic plates and stainless flatware; it’s amazing how much better it feels to eat off a plate with real cutlery. And no matter what, invest in a quality cooler and pack plenty of ice.

Just like a football game, a successful tailgate party takes preparation. You may not be able to control what happens on the field, but you can still be the MVP of the parking lot.

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