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RBR Tailgating: Eat Like You’ve Been There Before

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Want to know what it’s like to eat like a member of the Tide football team? We asked the chef who used to feed them. 

Upgrading in the off-season.

As of this writing it is officially no longer the off-season. I know there were games last Saturday but watching the antipodeans wonder why Stanford and Rice kept throwing the rugby ball forward didn’t stoke the same fire in my belly as what I’m watching right now.

Maybe it’s that I’ve grown used to the anticipation of the first Thursday games of the year. I suppose I’ve mentally allowed them to become a harbinger of our debut. Right now I’m watching Oklahoma State thrash Tulsa 21 - 0 late in the first quarter and my heart is aflutter with the arrival of another glorious advent. Also, I’ve quietly supported the Cowboys since 2011’s 4th quarter oops in Ames. They really did us a solid.

To kick off this year in tailgating I’ve got a bit of a treat for you. Chef Dale Parker was showing me a surprisingly hearty breakfast spread at an event when it came out in conversation that he… Well, he graciously agreed to an interview so I’ll let him tell it in his own words.

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RBR: You were the chef in charge of feeding the Alabama football team from 2012 to 2016. How did you get that gig?

“I was Chef de Cuisine at UA and the Catering Chef. Part of my responsibility was feeding the football team from August until the football team left for the bowl game.”

I said you fed the team. What does that mean exactly? Did you feed only the football team? If not, did the football team eat separately from the rest of the athletic department? Were scout players, training staff, coaching staff, and even athletic department personnel feeding at your trough?

“Feeding the team was an event in itself. The team nutritionist and I worked together to prepare menus that were healthy and balanced based on the players. We fed all those involved in the football program, from Coach Saban, coaching staff, players and all support staff.”

I’m assuming that the strength and conditioning staff and various nutritionists had a say in the daily menu. Were there situations where they focused on individuals and their specific weight loss or gain needs? Did you ever have to tell a player to eat more or less of something?

“The team nutritionist would walk the buffet line with those players that needed to eat more and those that needed to lose weight.”

Imagine an average mid-week lunch for the team. What options would be laid out? How many stations would, say a four star freshman cornerback, be able to navigate?

“The buffet included a garden salad, fresh fruit salad, 3 different proteins, 5 vegetables and starches, two action stations, sandwich bar, yogurt parfait bar, dessert station, toaster station. Generally, the buffet consisted of 45 items.”

I’m granting you invocation of the non-existent Chef/Client privilege should you wish, but if you’re willing, who was the biggest eater during your tenure? Along the same lines, I’m assuming that the offensive and defensive line guys ate more than the rest, but was there a group that surprised you by how much they tucked in - a punter with a bottomless stomach or some such?

“Actually, the perception of players eating anything and everything they want is untrue. The players are true specimens, no one ever "pigged out." However, there was a former player that would eat a seven egg omelette with all the toppings, twelve of them, so his omelette weighed so much I had to double plate it.”

The average tailgater is not burning calories at an Alabama athlete rate. If someone called Yellow Bicycle Catering and wanted a team meal game day experience, what would you serve up to give them a reasonable facsimile?

“Garden Salad, Fruit Salad, Ribeye Steak, Grilled Chicken, Steamed Shrimp, Baked Potato, Mac and Cheese, Brown Rice, Green Beans, Collard Greens, Sweet Potato Casserole, Grilled Corn, Cornbread, Dinner Rolls.”

Finally, given that Florida State is obviously the lesser team and you would be loath to pick them over a clearly superior Alabama team in Saturday’s game, who do you think is going to win by at least two touchdowns and why do you think that the running game is key?

“While I attended Florida State and worked at UA, it is a tough choice for me, but my heart tells me Alabama. ROLL TIDE!! The running game is key as it relates to ball control, as well as, clock management.”

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I’m trying to imagine the depth of the food coma I would have slipped into had I finished even half of a seven egg omelette with twelve toppings.

Our full and unmitigated thanks to Chef Parker for his time. I should also point out that in addition to the fact that he makes a damn fine meatball, under his tenure the team he fed won two national championships. Without doing any research whatsoever (Erik’s food related research budget could be described as austere at best) I’m pretty confident that he is the winningest, as it relates to college football, chef still actively plying his trade. Keep him in mind.

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We are about to play in the biggest opening in the history of ever. Recognizing this, I didn’t want to leave you without something to nosh on during the game.

When we were in Destin a month or so ago, a friend made these really simple but incredibly tasty ham and cheese sliders. It’s so easy that I’m not even going to bother with the traditional RBR Tailgating recipe format.

Start with a bag of sweet Hawaiian dinner rolls. Cut them in half without separating the individual rolls thusly:

Cover with sliced ham,

sliced cheddar,

and more ham.

Put the top halves of the rolls back where you would expect to put them were you making a sandwich and then melt half a stick of butter (4 tbsp.) and whisk in about three fourths a packet of Italian salad dressing seasoning.

Brush the butter mixture on top of the sliders. If your brush isn’t picking up gritty bits of spices use a spoon. Those spices are key and need to be atop the rolls. Cover in foil, and cook in an oven heated to 350˚ for twenty minutes, remove the cover, and then back in the oven for five more minutes.

Let cool and slice.

That’s got to be the simplest recipe I’ve ever posted on these electronic pages. I didn’t even insist on fresh herbs, which was hard for me. There are very few non-religious reasons not to try it. You’ll be happy you did.

Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.