- Patriots legend Vince Wilfork has traded in the pigskin for pig roasts.
- Wilfork is one of the hosts of “NFL Tailgate Takedown” on the Food Network, pitting NFL fans against each other as they create gameday cuisine.
- Wilfork said the show came to him almost as a coincidence, and shared his strategy for winning should he ever pick up the tongs.
Vince Wilfork knows a thing or two about NFL tailgates.
Through 13 seasons of professional football, the majority of which were spent with the New England Patriots, the defensive big man spent plenty of time on the field entertaining those who had just spent hours partying in the parking lot.
Now retired from the NFL, Wilfork is putting that knowledge to use, as co-host of Food Network’s “NFL Tailgate Takedown,” a show that pits tailgating fans of different teams against each other to see who can make the best gameday cuisine.
For Wilfork, the job offer was a moment of serendipity.
“During COVID, I was doing a lot of brainstorming of what I want to do in retirement,” Wilfork told Insider. “One of the things I wanted to do was a tailgate show with the NFL, because I had never seen something like that.”
Apparently, the NFL had a similar idea and reached out to Wilfork with an idea already in progress, thinking that he’d be a good fit for the show.
“I was like, Man, I was thinking of the same thing!” Wilfork said. “I thought that it must mean that we are on the right track.”
While COVID delayed the show’s initial production, things got rolling for the 2022 NFL season.
The show consists of three timed rounds, pitting two pairs of tailgaters against each other to create three items: a bite-sized snack, a sandwich/handheld food, and a main course, complete with sides.
—Food Network (@FoodNetwork) January 18, 2023
The show will feel immediately familiar to any fans of “Chopped,” and carries a similar manic cooking energy throughout the process.
The format has benefits and drawbacks. The time limits create tension and add a bit of chaos to the proceedings: small mistakes can compound into big ones; ingredients can be forgotten; Meats can fail to reach their ideal temperature.
That said, the short rounds also prevent some staples of good, old-fashioned tailgate cuisine from being highlighted. It’s impossible, for instance, to produce a slow-roasted pork shoulder when you only have 30 minutes to cook.
According to Wilfork, it’s one place where the show has an opportunity to grow.
“In the future, there’s so many different legs. There’s so many different ways you can go,” Wilfork said. “If somebody excels at barbecue, I want to give them the time to give the best barbecue they have. If you tell me that’s your staple, that’s your staple. I think in the future, that’s something we want to talk about and be able to try to put it in.”
For now, “NFL Tailgate Takedown” still brings plenty to the table, with fans showing off their hometown favorites as best they can inside the limits of the show. In the series premiere, Cowboys fans brought some hot BBQ to their dishes, while Giants supporters turned standard Italian fare into parking-lot-friendly offerings.
—Food Network (@FoodNetwork) January 5, 2023
Wilfork’s strategy, should he ever be put to the test of his own show, would be to stick to what he knows.
“If I was competing, I would speak to my roots,” Wilfork said.
His plans? Chicken wings or a shrimp fritter in the first round, fish tacos in the second, and capping off with a porterhouse platter.
“NFL Tailgate Takedown” airs new episodes on Wednesday nights through the Super Bowl.