Proud Alum: Josh Capon On Hammering Bushels Of Crabs At University Of Maryland

College football kicked off in a big way last weekend. What should you eat while watching your school's team? In Proud Alum, we talk with a chef about their memories of tailgates past, and ask for their best parking lot recipe.

"LET'S GOOOOO MARYLAND!!!" thunders Josh Capon while seated at his NYC restaurant Lure Fishbar, aggressively pounding on the table. The chef rattles off some of his favorite game day traditions from his time at the University of Maryland before revealing that he only studied there for two years. But, boy, did he make the most out of his days in College Park. "I had a hell of a time. In fact, I had too good of a time. That's why I didn't finish up there." The exuberant chef behind what just may be the best burger in the country filled us in on his tailgating tips and college days, just in time for Saturday's matchup between the 1-0 Terrapins and 0-1 Old Dominion Monarchs.

Can you tell me about your football memories Maryland?

Maryland was always a big basketball school, but football was more fun in a way. With no disrespect to my Terrapins, they weren't very good, so we didn't have to take it too seriously. It was an opportunity to go hang out and tailgate in big parking lots. Eventually, I found my true calling and transferred to Johnson & Wales for culinary school.

How did you decide that cooking was your true calling?

My culinary skills really developed at Maryland. I was living in a house with about seven guys and I started cooking – everyone would give me $20 and I'd go to the local supermarket and come back with a bunch of stuff. One of my classic meals was Caesar salad with chicken parm and baked ziti with mini meatballs. It became a signature Sunday supper and more and more people started coming.

What were the tailgates like?

The tailgates were pretty massive. There would be a lot of grilling — racks of ribs and chicken wings were big. Usually by halftime, we were pretty much out of the game and would go back to tailgate in the parking lot during the second half.

What about crabs?

Of course, it was crab town! We'd get bushels of crabs at people's houses and watch football all day. We'd bring out the newspapers, the hammers and the Old Bay seasoning and go to town on those things.

What are your go-to tailgating tips?

With racks of ribs, make them ahead of time and finish them on the grill. The same thing with chicken wings – bake them ahead of time and season them so they're fully cooked in sauce, then throw them on the grill. Also, it's tough to eat with a fork and knife in a parking lot, so I think skewers are a lot of fun for tailgating — sausage, peppers and onion or steak and scallion or grilled shrimp. Dips and hoagies are great, too. You have to have a good balance between hot and cold.

Any final words about the Maryland football season this year?

Yeah, I think they're going to win it all, man. BCS and what's that other poll? Well, that one too. I predict the Rose Bowl.

Josh Capon gives us his favorite places to eat and drink in College Park:

RJ Bentley's

"This was one of the most consistent places to go on game day. You could go out and get a few drinks, but also eat well and be social. They have really great wings and good sandwiches. It has stood the test of time." 7323 Baltimore Avenue, College Park, MD 20740,

Marathon Deli

"This place is a total hole in the wall but it has amazing gyros." 4429 Lehigh Road, College Park, MD 20740

Capon recalls Sante Fe and The Rendezvous Inn as being the best spots to watch a game during his college days, but both venues have closed in the past couple of years.

Josh Capon's Baby Back Ribs Recipe

Nothing says tailgating food more than a full rack of ribs. Capon uses a number of evenly proportioned spices — along with a half-portion of cayenne pepper — to make up his dry rub, which he recommends marinating the ribs in overnight. "The longer the better, but a few hours is more than enough. And don't be afraid to get in there — to work and massage it." You heard the man. There will be leftover rub with this recipe, which should be tightly sealed in a container or jar.

Servings: 2


1 full rack baby back ribs

For the dry rub:

1/2 cup paprika

1/2 cup cumin

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar in the raw or brown sugar

1/4 cup cayenne pepper

1/2 cup onion powder

1/2 cup garlic powder

1/2 cup dried thyme

For the sauce:

2 cups of your favorite BBQ sauce

1/2 cup aged sherry vinegar

Mix together both ingredients.


  1. Evenly coat the ribs with the dry rub and let marinate for 2-3 hours or overnight in the fridge. Bake in a 275 degree oven on a roasting rack for approximately an hour an a half, turning every half hour. You can also cook them on a BBQ at a low heat, but you will need to a very good eye on them to avoid them from burning.
  2. Shut the oven off when ribs are cooked and tender and let sit in oven while oven cools for another 20-30 minutes.
  3. Remove and coat all sides with the BBQ sauce. Serve immediately or wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge until ready to eat. This can be made 2-3 days ahead of time.
  4. When ready to serve either heat up in oven or on the grill, slice and serve with the relish.