When you see it, you’ll understand why chef Tim Love just might possess the undisputed champion of tailgating rigs. His black monster of a 2010 Toyota Tundra is tricked out with not only a grilling station, a beer “kegerator,” and a cooling and warming station, but a flat-screen TV that rises to life after a hydraulic lift is activated (think DeLorean on steroids), plus a state-of-the-art sound system ... oh, we could go on, but we’ll let Love do that.
The chef has had a lot on his plate lately — not all of it great, what with the Aug. 20 fire that damaged part of his flagship restaurant, Lonesome Dove. But on Wednesday afternoon, he was kind enough to have us out to his Woodshed Smokehouse for a tour of the truck and a cooking demo. As Love discussed the finer points of tailgating, at one point — no joke — the country radio station on the truck’s sound system began to play Lee Brice’s Parking Lot Party. A great omen for our tailgate-ready questions.
So how did this truck come about?
I met the marketing guy from Toyota when I was doing the Austin City Limits music festival. And we started talking about tailgating, and I had a lot of great ideas, that apparently he liked. So we started talking more and more, and discovered we can do something really cool. So that’s what we did, and it just kind of started building on itself. You get enough crazy people in the same room, you end up with a rig that looks like this.
Give us a little tour?
Sure. It’s got a fully integrated grill controlled by a horizontal propane tank, a workstation. Another great thing is you gotta have a place for cool stuff. You gotta keep the cold stuff cold and the hot stuff hot — like the old McD.L.T. The entertainment system with music, DVD, subwoofers. And there are LED lights to keep the workstation lit — also underneath the grill. Inside is hand-tooled leather, and just to make it more interesting, we put some hand-tooled silver door handles, made by a local silversmith — they’re pretty awesome. The gearshift and cup-holders are all hand-tooled silver. I mean, you just don’t know where to stop sometimes. You always think you can add one more thing to it.
How much does something like this set you back?
I don’t know; I didn’t pay for it personally, but it’s probably a $115,000 rig — all in. But it’s cheaper than a new Range Rover, and you can cook in it. Toyota and I have talked about doing a version that’s “affordable,” where it’s just the tailgate with a grill that pulls out. I mean, I’ve got a lot of electronics and hydraulics in here that makes it pretty expensive. I could have a dance party outside of this thing. I use it for my son’s baseball games. We won district, we won sectionals and state, so we were traveling all around the state of Texas, and so I’d just pull up and feed the kids in between the games.
Guy Fieri is known for his red convertible. Is this going to be your signature ride?
You’re not comparing me to Guy Fieri, are you?
Hah. Well, do you actually drive this?
Oh, yeah. And we’ve actually got Version 2 coming out this fall. We’re working with Toyota to build another truck. The new one’s going to be customized by [TV personality] Jesse James in Austin. We’ve worked with this one for a year, and we’re going to take the new one to the next level, believe it or not.
What’s the next level?
It’s gonna have a canopy, and a section that will fold out like an “L,” where I can serve from. We’re not going to do a kegerator like this; we’ll have two wine taps. I tend to drink more wine and cocktails when I tailgate.
So what are you grilling up for us today?
This is a great dish, because it’s real simple. Chicken’s easy. We’re doing barbecue chicken thighs with grilled artichokes and grilled hearts of palm, with a balsamic mayonnaise. The first games of the season, you’re still cooking summer stuff, you know?
Do you still not have any chicken dishes in your restaurants?
That’s correct. Funny you say that, because I’m actually going to grill game hen [today], because I don’t like chicken.
Did you tailgate in college [at the University of Tennessee]?
Yeah, but not this well.
What’s the most ambitious thing you’ve made in the tailgate truck?
I’ve done dinner for 20 out here. But tailgating in general is about preparation. As much as everybody wants to be really cool and go out and cook everything in the parking lot, you can’t really do it. So if you want to cook something that’s adventurous or a little different, like a dish like this, you have to make sure you poach the artichokes first, make to it to where all you’re doin’ is grillin’, and finishing. If you try to get out here and do anything else, you’ll be out here cooking for an hour and a half, and then you won’t have time to eat and enjoy yourself. It’s like what I always say about having dinner parties at home. You’ve gotta make sure you have time to have a cocktail, and watch a little of the game, and throw the football around a little. So, plan your meal that way.
Plus, if you don’t have a rig like this that sets up in 10 minutes, it’ll take you an hour minimum to set up — and then someone doesn’t like where you’re sitting, so you’ve gotta move.
Have you ever been told to move this rig?
At Cowboys Stadium, their rule is you’ve gotta cook on the grass, right? Well, of course, I’m not cooking on the concrete, either [gestures to his suspended-above-ground tailgate grill]. I pulled up to this area and got a 45-minute dissertation of whether or not I could be there. There wasn’t a rule written for what I was doing, so they couldn’t really tell me no. It got to the point where we were talking just to see who would win the argument. They’re just doing they’re job.
So what happened?
They ended up moving us to a really nice spot. It’s the tailgater’s responsibility to figure out the closest spot to the stadium to tailgate, and it’s security’s responsibility to figure out how to get you as far away as possible. Where do the two meet?