Early morning cooking on campus: A day in the life of an LSU tailgater

On football game days at LSU, fans crowd around the stadium and under their purple and gold tents. The scents of different foods fill the air: gumbo, chicken, sausage and pork.

Tailgating is a time-honored tradition here, and some are lucky enough to have a spot set in stone.

When he graduated in 2012, Zach Rau took over his friend’s tailgating spot near the LSU Campus Mounds. His tailgating group, DVA Tailgating, has become one of the most widely recognized on campus. DVA stands for “Dimanche Viant Apres,” French for “Sunday comes after.”

Because he was a member of Tiger Band, he was unable to tailgate while at LSU. But his post-grad experience introduced him to a whole new side of game day. For the first few years, Rau and his friends Adam Henderson, Joey Vinning and John Guyotte only served Raising Cane’s chicken fingers.

“I didn’t really cook the first couple of years. I just kind of used it as an excuse to kind of get out, drink before the game and hang out a little bit,” Rau says.

That all changed when he got his first smoker. Someone suggested Rau cook up some pulled pork and the menu has grown from there.

Today, Rau and his friends now regularly serve smoked macaroni and cheese, jambalaya, sauce piquant and gumbo. His just-for-fun activity has turned into a full-scale operation that gets him out of bed by 4 a.m. for a 6 p.m. game. So rushed to get out of the door in the morning, Rau brings a toothbrush with him to the tailgate spot.

“The menu varies week to week now. We don’t like to be pigeonholed. We don’t really like to do just one thing. We try to vary it. We try to make everything different, and we also try to get some consistency where it’s quality every time,” Rau says.

For the LSU versus Arkansas game, Rau experimented with a Mexican-themed menu. But it’s not just about the food for Rau, it’s about the community and the experience.

“You’re going to get something you’re going to like; you’re going to get some drinks and meet new people and you get to kind of commune and share a part of the college football experience that is often overlooked,” Rau says.

For a taste of what DVA has to offer, meet them at the next LSU home game between the Campus Mounds and Peabody Parking Lot. Rau says all they ask for is a small donation to keep the lights on.

“I promise with that five to 10 bucks,” he says, “you’re going to get a quality meal of some sort.”

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