Proud Alum: Stephanie Izard Went To More Football Games Than Classes At Michigan

In Proud Alum, we talk with a chef about their memories of tailgates past, and ask for their best parking lot recipe.

Stephanie Izard certainly needs little introduction. She was the first female victor of Top Chef, having taken home the top prize in Season Four. The Connecticut native went on to open Girl & the Goat in Chicago, a James Beard Award-nominated restaurant that was given the title of "America's Best New Restaurant" by Saveur. Izard was also named one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs in 2011 — and holds the distinction of having the best wedding cake basically ever. Yes, the accolades have quickly piled up for the chef who has since opened a second restaurant, called Little Goat, in the Windy City. Lesser known, however, are her days as a hard partying college co-ed. We caught up to talk about her time at the University of Michigan, football game days, tailgating recipes and a little "bad idea" tradition called Kegs and Eggs. Go Blue!

What were game days like at Michigan?

I went to every home game during my four years at Michigan...much better than my class attendance! We always did a little pre-partying whether at a bar (kegs and eggs stands out in my memory as an early morning bad idea) or we tailgated at a house on campus. It was always fun – although the days we won were much better! I even made it to the Rose Bowl my senior year, which was amazing.

What were you eating at the tailgate?

Our college tailgate parties were not known for great food. I remember being at a friend's house for burgers one game when my Dad was in town attempting to eat the burgers that were cooked on a mini grill with LOTS of lighter fluid!

Ew, nasty. But so it goes. What is your go-to tailgating tip?

Nowadays I think I would go for some braised or smoked meat sliders. It's pretty easy to get some Sloppy Joe, BBQ pork or braised beef hot in the parking lot, then just have a variety of pickles and some nice slider buns.

When did you realize that cooking was your true calling? 

I cooked with my Mom growing up and always loved it, but thought I was supposed to go to college and then work in an office. After spending more time at football games than class I decided I should go to culinary school. And my first day of culinary school was when I knew. I had never felt more in the right place!

Do you ever go back to Ann Arbor for games?

Unfortunately, the restaurant business and football Saturdays do not mix well, but I am trying to at least get to the Northwestern game this year since Evanston is a bit closer!

What's your evaluation for this year's team?

I'm just hoping for no more four overtime games! I had to close my eyes during the Penn State game, but I have faith the season will turn around!

Stephanie gives us her favorite places to eat and drink on game day in Ann Arbor:

Good Time Charley's and Scorekeepers

"These are great on-campus bars and about a mile away is Fraser's – a small, local bar that has great tailgating." 1140 S. University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, and 310 Maynard Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Ann Arbor Golf & Outing Club

"They have outrageous tailgating parties in their parking lot, where people bring TVs to watch the game if they don't have tickets." 400 E. Stadium Boulevard, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, 734-663-4044,

Sloppy Joe Goat Sliders Recipe

3 1/2 cups roughly chopped onions

1/3 cup tomato paste

8 cloves roughly chopped garlic

2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate

3 tablespoons yellow mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons malt vinegar

2 1/4 teaspoons soy sauce

2 1/2 pounds canned diced tomatoes, with juice

3 tablespoons miso

a splash of hot sauce

5 pounds ground goat

4 cups shredded cabbage

1 cup rosemary aioli

2 dozen soft dinner/slider rolls


  1. In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook them until soft and translucent, taking care not to brown them, about 10 minutes.

  2. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook for two minutes. Add the tamarind, yellow mustard, dark brown sugar, malt vinegar, soy sauce, tomatoes, miso and hot sauce and simmer for 60 minutes. In batches, transfer mixture to a blender and process until very smooth.

  3. Working in batches, brown the goat meat in a large skillet. Transfer goat meat to a pot and cover with the sauce. Heat over medium low heat and keep warm.

  4. Mix the cabbage and aioli in a bowl and season with salt. Toast the buns. Scoop 8 ounces of sloppy goat into the bottom buns. Top with a handful of the rosemary cabbage slaw and cover with the top bun.

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