We in the great U.S. of A. do not hold a monopoly on crazy sports fans. It’s absolutely undeniable that millions of diehards tailgate in other countries as well.

Sure, old-fashioned pickup trucks aren’t real popular with Europeans, but they can set up a little table behind their toy-sized cars and call it a tailgate party. Have you ever considered tailgate parties before the running of the bulls in Pamplona? They must be epic! The motivation needed to get in front of a bunch of stampeding bulls must come from something more exciting than sangria alone.

As a food-obsessed chef, I’d like to think that the little extra something comes from food. Spanish, Portuguese and Basque cuisines are some of my favorites at the moment and they lend themselves quite well to sporting events.

Who said you have to limit yourself to classic tailgate fare? Why not Chef Up your tailgating with some out-of-the-ordinary fare? Remember, tailgate food shouldn’t be as predictable as the outcome of a Jags game.

Imagine transforming your little piece of the parking lot into a Tapas Bar! Way cool and totally appropriate. The flavor profiles and ingredients for traditional tapas are actually quite similar to what we expect from tailgate food here in the 904. The logistics are no different than those of a standard tailgate: have some made-ahead tidbits, slow-cooked victuals simmering away and make other goodies à la minute.

Imagine, if you will, making a classic Spanish tortilla with roasted peppers and chorizo the day before. How about using Mayport shrimp for Gambas al Ajillo? Just have a cast-iron pan hot on your grill and you can do small batches as needed. As long as you have that hot olive oil and garlic going, pan-fry some (par-cooked) potatoes for patatas bravas and have a nice roasted garlic aioli for dipping.

For a slow-cooked item, try a Portuguese pork-and-clam stew: Think surf-and-turf meets chili. Awesome! You can offer a bunch of finger foods, like Spanish chorizo braised in Rioja wine, or little toasted baguette medallions with Serrano, olives and oranges nestled on top. Smoked almonds make for scrumptious grazing along with a bowl of marinated olives. I could go on and on but I’m outta space.

Try this roasted garlic aioli to get you started and don’t forget the sangria. Just add a generous dose of locally distilled booze for a little extra motivation.


Chef Bill’s Roasted Garlic Aioli


  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. roasted garlic
  • 1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon
  • 4 oz. blended oil
  • 2 oz. roasted garlic oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place the egg yolk, lemon juice and zest, roasted garlic, Dijon, rice vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bain-marie. Begin to blend with the emersion blender.
  2. With the blender running, slowly emulsify in the blended oil. If the mix gets too thick, thin with a little warm water. Continue to blend in both of the oils.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasonings.


Until we cook again,


Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Amelia Island Culinary Academy in Historic Fernandina Beach, with your recipes or questions at [email protected], for inspiration to get you Cheffed Up!