Iron Bowl Tailgating Tips from Chefs Jeremy Downey and David Bancroft

This Saturday is the final on-campus tailgate of the college football season. So we decided to call in a couple of professionals to help make this your best tailgate of the year.

Chef David Bancroft is an Auburn graduate and owner of Acre in Auburn. Chef Jeremy Downey is an Alabama graduate (and former player) and owner of Bistro V in Birmingham.

It’s safe to say these two know a bit about tailgating with Alabama Gulf Seafood. We’ll let them tell it in their own words.

How important is the food to your tailgating experience?

David: Tailgate food is just as important as being a Tiger or a Bammer or being a Republican or a Democrat. The right selection of firewood, the perfect combination of spices, the layers of a low country boil…these can make or break the quality and spirit of a tailgate!

Jeremy: It’s added pressure on you, just being in this field. I take it pretty seriously. But you gotta remember not to go over the heads of anybody—it’s for fun, too. Most people want really good, cool food that matches what’s gonna be happening. I grew up in Mobile, so it’s very important to have Gulf seafood in there too.

What sort of Alabama Gulf Seafood would we find on a typical home game Saturday at your tailgate?

David: The aromas of a spicy slow simmering low country boil can be a luring attractant for a tailgate. To prepare this responsibly, you must source out the freshest Royal Reds from Alabama’s coastline. Bayou La Batre provides, in my opinion, the sweetest and finest quality shrimp on earth. You MUST leave the heads and shells on to develop maximum flavor!

Jeremy: We’ll usually have raw oysters. We’ll get a sack from Bayou La Batre and then shuck ‘em there. And if we’re lucky, somebody will shuck ‘em for us. We’ll also have two different gumbos usually, either a seafood or chicken and oyster gumbo. My dad makes crab pies with crabmeat, three different cheeses, and put ‘em in a pie shell. They’re delicious. My mom usually makes fried shrimp on the side also.

For someone who hasn’t tried Gulf seafood at their tailgate, what recipes would you recommend?

David: Every Southerner becomes a bit guarded when asked to share recipes from their heritage. However, being a Southerner, we enjoy boasting more than remaining silent. Our fried green tomatoes at Acre are dipped in buttermilk and seasoned Oakview Farms cornmeal and fried crispy in peanut oil. We top them with pimento cheese and fresh picked Gulf blue crab. They have become our gameday specialty!

_Jeremy: _I’d do a jambalaya. It’s great, great tailgating food. Red beans and rice is good too. I do both of those at the restaurant. Especially this time of year—it’s like soul food. They’ll warm your body, especially if you’re outside tailgating. And it’s a bulk food item, so you can feed 30 or 40 people if you made a big enough pot.

When it comes to tailgating, especially during the warmer months, seafood dishes can spoil quickly. What are some tips to remember for preserving your leftovers?

_David: _SEC fans become a bit nomadic after a few “gameday”-size beverages. I always prefer to start my tailgate off with the most expensive and impressive dishes to make sure I maximize quality time with family & friends. Hit ‘em early and hope for no leftovers to have to lug back to the truck!

Jeremy: In the hotter months, we’ll do stuff like West Indies Salad, so you gotta get a cooler. Keep it full of ice. Anything that’s gonna be perishable needs to be completely iced, with plastic wrap on it. Put it in a good cooler, too. The coolers they’ve got these days, the ice won’t even melt.

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