It’s not unusual for John Richardson to feed 400 to 500 mouths on game day.
It’s been 35 years since he started tailgating at LSU, and every season brings new opportunities to try something fresh. Richardson is the lead cook in the famed Moore family tailgate, a 50-year gathering at the LSU Parade Grounds organized by the family of East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III, his siblings and their many friends.
Richardson, who also competes every year at the Memphis in May barbecue cookoff, starts planning home game menus in the late summer.
The lineup is influenced by each game’s opponent and the time of the year. But no matter what the main course is, festivities begin with a big breakfast.
“We’ll do 10 to 20 pounds of bacon; at least 10 or so dozen eggs; toast or beignets; and all different kinds of sausage,” Richardson says.
Throughout the day, Richardson cooks steadily, sometimes with chef friends Tyler Shannon from Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Roberto Sandoval from Roberto’s on the River. He’s constantly pulling different grilled meats, from chicken wings to ribs to pulled pork, off multiple charcoal pits and smokers.
Richardson says the last few years have seen more wild game on the menu.
“A lot of our guys, I guess because their kids are older, are hunting more,” he says. “So we do a lot of venison, and we’ll have duck later in the season.”
On the Southern University campus, longtime tailgater Eroll Mencer will be setting up this season with the same group he’s cooked with for about 25 years. They plant stakes on a grassy area near the F. G. Clark Activity Center, otherwise known as the Southern mini-dome.
“Each couple takes a game, and that couple is responsible for the meat,” Mencer says. “It works out good that way.”
The eight couples rotate cooking with providing side dishes, plates, utensils, drinks and other tailgate necessities.
Mencer says hamburgers and barbecue chicken are common staples, but his specialty is pork chops. He says he buys a rack of pork chops the day before and slices them up to marinate overnight.
On game day, he cooks them over charcoal and pairs them with his friends’ potato salad, mac and cheese, and baked beans. Someone in the group always makes homemade desserts, which usually include peach cobbler and lemon cake.
“Everybody on both sides of us knows everybody,” Mencer says “If I’m not there, they call me to say, ‘Where you at?’ It’s just a fun day to get together.”
In a shady spot off Dalrymple Drive near the LSU Indian Mounds, Zach Rau and the DVA tailgaters feed from 40 to 100. Crowds depend on the opponent, but the years LSU plays Alabama at home yield the biggest turnouts.
DVA stands for Dimanche Viant Apres—French for “Sundays come after.” Its creative, detailed menus have earned the group mentions in the likes of Sports Illustrated and The Athletic.
Rau says this year’s Arkansas game has inspired him not to just cook pork, but to prepare carnitas served with street corn salad and red rice. It’s a riff on a Mexican-themed menu he rolled out last year. And he’ll be making alligator sauce piquant for the Florida game.
For Georgia State, predicted to be a less well-attended game, Rau is planning to try a new dish. That’s when his friends can sample poutine, Quebecois French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.
“It’s going to be cooler, and a smaller crowd,” Rau says. “And in the past, those are games that I think, ‘Let’s just be as weird as possible.’”
This article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of 225 magazine.