Super Bowl partying reached its peak on Saturday night with events like Taylor Swift's concert at Club Nomadic, Taste of the NFL, and the Playboy party, but those who are actually going to the game had their own high roller affair Sunday afternoon when The Players Tailgate took over Mike Calvert Toyota for a bash that featured all-you-can-eat food, plenty of beer and alcohol, and, true to its name, lots of current NFL players.
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri worked with his friend chef Aaron May and the Bullseye Event Group to create a culinary experience worthy of the event's $700 tickets. Offerings ranged from classic tailgate fare like barbecue and burgers to Tex-Mex and an extensive raw bar. The sold out crowd of 2,000 people waited in long lines, but the attendees, roughly two-thirds Patriots fans to Falcons fans judging by jerseys, looked to be enjoying every bite.
Fieri tells CultureMap that he first became involved with the event a couple years ago, and he quickly realized the potential for an event that takes a classic tailgate and gives it some Flavortown magic. The event draws visitors from out of town who otherwise wouldn't have anywhere to party before attending the game.
“Most people just sit in the lobby bar,” Fieri said. “I said, ‘I want to create a kickoff that really goes to the next level.’”
In addition to the food and drinks, the players tailgate featured music by DJ Irie, an extensive memorabilia auction — items ranged from the expected signed jerseys and helmets to pop culture items signed by actors and musicians — and the opportunity to buy official game merchandise. Attending players included New York Giants All-Pro Landon Collins, Seattle wide receiver Tyler Lockett, Kansas City running back Spencer Ware, and Houston Texans players including Kenny Hilliard and Jeff Allen.
Fieri also shed some light on how he picked the six Houston restaurants he visited last month for upcoming episodes of his signature television series, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
“Lot of research. Lot of advice,” Fieri said. “We went to the Triple D joints that we had done back in the day and asked their advice. There’s a certain thing about a Triple D spot. It’s not just, hey, everybody likes it. It’s got to have all the right pieces.”
Told that a CultureMap article about his visit had inspired a tremendous response, Fieri described the show’s ability to motivate viewers to support the restaurants that are featured.
“Being a chef and a restaurant owner myself, what the show does for people, it changes lives. We call it the Triple D effect,” Fieri said. “I’m just a dude going to cool joints. They make it easy on me. All I do is shine the light. I appreciate all the accolades, but it’s not about me at all. It’s really about these amazing places. We need to support these mom and pop joints.”