Food & Drink

How to Win the Tailgate

One of the South’s top chefs shares his game-day secrets

Illustration: Tim Bower

“We live in a college town, so football season is our busy season,” says Vishwesh Bhatt of Oxford, Mississippi’s  Snackbar and this year’s James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: South. “That’s our time to show off.” When he can step away from the kitchen on a fall Saturday, he tailgates with friends and neighbors under the elms and oaks in the Grove at Ole Miss.


What’s on the grill?
VB: When I think of tailgating, I immediately think of grilling, but not hamburgers. I like meatballs, served on a skewer like a kebab. I do two types: One is Italian-ish with pork, Parmesan, garlic, and lots of parsley. The other is more in the style of Greek and Turkish köfte—beef and lamb with mint, onion, lemon, garlic, oregano, and a little bulgur for binding.


What fan favorite is a must?
VB: You can’t watch football without chicken wings. They just go hand in hand. I generally do a Korean-style wing—I use gochujang [a red chile paste], soy, and honey—and then
a super spicy classic hot wing.

Vishwesh Bhatt


Any old-school  Southern party eats?
VB: I love having muffulettas—that’s a great tailgating bite. And you always want to make sure you have some sort of cucumber or pimento cheese sandwich. I have a lot of friends who don’t eat meat, and they need something, too. Plus, a sandwich is easy to pick up and walk around with while you talk to people.


What’s your game-day thirst quencher?
VB: A nice, chilled Miller High Life.