Though the end result was not what Wisconsin Badgers fans wanted last Saturday night with the 35-17 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide at AT&T Stadium, some fans across the street had a chance to dine on food from a world champion pitmaster.
B5Q had a chance to stop by the Tailgate Tavern directly across from AT&T Stadium Saturday afternoon, as Kingsford charcoal sponsored #BBQDiplomacy, an initiative to encourage fans from opposing teams to set aside their differences and gather round the grill.
Putting together the food was World Champion pitmaster Chris Lilly, who helps run Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Ala., and was recently grand champion in the pork category for the 2014 Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Cook-off.
B5Q sat down with Lilly after stuffing our faces with pulled pork, chicken, coleslaw and loaded potato salad to talk about the event and the great food consumed by many.
How did the idea come to be?
CL: There's so much rivalry and so much competition, a lot of bad blood and bad words between the SEC and the Big Ten, so we feel thataround the charcoal grill, at the tailgate, there's no rivalry. It's a time to get together, everybody and friends, to have fun, to celebrate, eat some good food, and then go into the game and have a great time. We're actually trying to pull back on the bad words. We're trying to actually pull back on the rivalries between the SEC and the Big Ten, and really get together and have a good time. That's what it's all about -- #BBQDiplomacy -- this weekend. It's all about menus that really bring the best of Wisconsin and the best of Alabama together. It's about coming together.
What was the inspiration for the menu? How did you come up with the items that you made for the barbeque?
CL: That was so cool and so fun to work with. So I looked at Wisconsin and took a lot of the great things about Wisconsin food and cuisine, and some things about Alabama and tried to join them together. Take for example the coleslaw. I took red bell pepper, cranberries, red onions, red cabbage, a little white cabbage and a vinegarette dressing and mixed it up so I could emulate the colors from both schools. Then also, we took what north Alabama is famous for, and that's a barbecue white sauce. We've been doing that in north Alabama since 1925 at Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q. But instead of doing a vinegar/mayonnaise-based sauce, we did a cheese/buttermilk-based white sauce. So we did a smoked barbecue chicken with a Wisconsin white sauce.
What time did you start this, and how long did the process take to get that great meat you guys had?
CL: [laughs] I tell ya, if I ever invite you to a tailgate in Alabama, you better bring your sleeping bag -- because for us, tailgating is all about the camaraderie. It's all about getting together and the fun you have before the game around the charcoal grill. That's tailgating for us. We started this morning, and I've just had a super time out here. The best part about coming to a game on-site to an actual stadium is the tailgating prior to the game -- the build. We've had such a fun time. I bet we're 50 percent Alabama, 50 percent Wisconsin fans at this tailgate and just having a good time.
How many more tailgates will you be doing? Is this just the big one?
CL: You know what, I'm going to be doing more throughout, whether we're doing it through Kingsford or just doing it on my own personal time. Tailgating for me, it's a lifestyle. I have three kids that go to the University of Alabama, so I'm going to be traveling. I'm going to be tailgating whether in Alabama or wherever we land across the country -- whether I'm hanging out with my good friends at Kingsford Charcoal or hanging out at home. We're going to be tailgating -- backyards, stadiums, it really doesn't matter -- as long as you have good friends and family to hang out with around the charcoal grill.