LSU Tailgate

It all started with a tailgate request

Our daughter called to check in with her mom her Freshman year at LSU. The first home football game was a week away and she wanted to know if we would mind putting together a tailgate for her new friends in the dorm. You can’t say no to that.

So what do you do? We had a propane burner and “Camp” cooking gear. We needed a tailgate tent. I found a tent and complete LSU tailgate accessories at Sam’s. We were ready.

On Saturday we showed up with out pickup truck and gear. I can’t remember what we cooked but the drinks were cold and we all had a good time.

The next week we had two tents and two propane burners. The invited guest list doubled. A tradition was born.

Vickie’s family and my family have a wonderful south Louisiana food culture. Vickie loves to feed people, especially our children and their friends. As the tradition grew, we added equipment and cooked bigger as the gatherings grew. My dad gave us a Cajun Microwave so we started cooking “whole hog” for the Arkansas game. We added a twenty gallon Jambalaya pot. For the Florida game we decided to roast a four foot alligator stuffed with Boudin Dressing.

After a year or two the bigger games would draw near a hundred hungry and thirsty pre game revelers. By now we were producing a full pop up kitchen serviced out of our extremely well stocked tailgate trailer. The trailer came complete with full audio and video systems. It got the thumbs up from the girls because it also has an onboard bathroom.

To keep the fun going during the summer months, we cooked for the Delgado Baseball Team and the UNO Baseball Team. Our next adventure was a rode trip to Lexington, KY. We hauled the trailer to Keeneland Race Course. We brought Gumbo, Red Beans, a gallon of Oysters to fry and the big Jambalaya pot. We set up at our friend Neil Pessin’s barn and started serving about dawn and finished around 11:00 AM, just in time to get back for the races.

By now we had a group of family and friends who had serious skills in festival style cooking, catering or just cooked for big families. This formed the nucleus of what happened next.

Hogs For The Cause is a New Orleans based charity raising funds to support families who have children afflicted with Pediatric Brain Cancer. It also produced an event at the end of March every year, which is part Barbecue Contest and part entertainment event. After a one year assessment to develop a plan of organization, Tailgate Tigers was born.

Our initial embers of interest in the Barbecue contest were fanned into a full flame when we placed fourth of nearly ninety teams in the Whole Hog category in our first year. In later years we have placed second and third respectively in the Boston Butt category. Our other scores are usually top twenty and our fundraising effort has produced $10,000 to $15,000 a year for the Hogs cause.

Our signature sale item for our booth has become fresh fried Cracklins. This is a legacy of my dad’s family and a tradition he wanted to pass to my brother and I.

I don’t remember where I saw the advertisement for the Boudin Class but it seemed like a logical next step for us. There were other Hogs teams represented in the thirty or so attendees. Dan made the class entertaining and the process was not a high degree of difficulty.

Dan’s classes became a way to expand our food horizons and he entertained as well as he shared his knowledge. For those not immersed in Cajun culture, there are different types of Cajuns. Dan is a “Bayou” Cajun. He’s from Thibodaux and a fourth generation butcher. My roots are “Prairie Cajun.” My family hails from the Imperial Parish of St. Landry. For most of my life, I was involved in our family business at Jefferson Downs and Fair Grounds. The food and beverage components of both tracks were substantial. Dan and I both have Cajun roots and share a lot of similar experiences growing up in South Louisiana. The food culture was a fast track to friendship.

Covid has dominated all of our lives the last two years. It has completely disrupted how we use to see normalcy. Tailgate Tigers could not fundraise and we have not been able to enjoy our social outlet of gathering for events under our Tailgate Tigers banner. We started to do other types of events. Grab and Go events for the weekend holidays were good for us last year. Barbecue, Cracklins and Jambalaya were good sellers. We added the Boudin and then something else began to happen. Why not other sausage? Breakfast, Italian, Andouille sausages were things we learned from Dan.

As Dan and I got to know each other, we started to discuss the specialty meat products business and what was going on in our area. Most of the sausage plants are old and the ownership is aging without apparent younger generations to step in and continue the business. We talked about equipment and potential markets. We took some field trips to see plants in other areas of Louisiana and Mississippi. Eventually we decided to form a collaboration.

Our new venture is Louisiana Craft Butchers. We hope you enjoy the artisan craft products we produce. Our roots demand all the local Cajun and New Orleans area products you would expect from a south Louisiana meat market but we will also do deli style products for your Charcuterie Board and specialty sausages.

Here we are at the beginning of what we both hope is a promising new chapter in the evolution of the one tent tailgate on LSU’s campus.