Sweet Success

By+Kathe Brunton



It’s a recipe for success. Take one of the most popular football traditions – tailgating at Notre Dame – gather prized recipes from enthusiastic fans, compile them into a cookbook, mix well and sell the books to raise funds.

Diana Dolde, program director of the not-for-profit organization, Corvilla, Inc., explains that when one of her volunteers cooked up this idea, she immediately liked it. After all, Notre Dame is a neighbor to one of Corvilla’s group homes for the developmentally disabled. Six Saturdays every fall, the Bulla Road home’s spacious yard turns into a 200-car parking lot for football fans, helping to raise money and engage the residents.

Dolde admits, however, “We had no idea how much work would be involved in creating a cookbook from scratch.”

First, they obtained written permission from Notre Dame to solicit recipes during home games. Then they organized three-person teams who walked among the tailgaters and asked the “blacktop chefs” about their best dishes. Over the next few months, they spent hours and hours following up with tailgaters and reviewing each recipe for completeness. In the meantime, they researched potential publishers. They also designed and laid out the cookbook and decided on chapter names – which, by the way, are wonderfully clever: First Downs (appetizers and snacks), Half-Time Show (main dishes), Extra-Points (side dishes), Touchdowns (meats) and Penalties (desserts and drinks).

All of this work took place in the fall of 2007 and continued through the summer of 2008. Diana recalls the moment when the first shipment of Blacktop Chef – Tailgating in the Shadow of the Golden Dome arrived at Corvilla’s office.

“We couldn’t wait to open the box and see what the cookbook actually looked like,” she says. “We thought, ‘Wow! We did this!’”

Soon, they weren’t the only ones saying “wow!” The initial print run of 3,000 copies sold out over the first home game weekend of 2008. Was Diana surprised?

“Very!” she says. Sales that weekend and in the coming months were boosted by the cookbook’s exposure on local TV shows. Copies were also sold at Martin’s Super Markets, and local chefs whose recipes were featured touted the book.

Today, after selling 6,000 copies of Blacktop Chef, Diana and her volunteers are ready to once again harvest the best tailgating recipes and serve up a second edition, which will be available in the fall of 2012. (Anyone can submit a recipe. Visit www.blacktopchef.com to learn more.)




Sprinkled throughout Blacktop Chef are stories of traditions and good times.

Maryann Lawhorn, whose recipe for Chili Cheese Dip opens the collection, notes that she and her family – “serious Notre Dame fans” – travel from St. Louis and Canada each year. “We’ve been tailgating since the ‘60s and haven’t missed a game since 1964,” she says in the book.

The Putt Family (Mrs. Johnson’s Spicy Sausage Dip) shares that a high point of their tailgating party is a competitive game of Twister. They write, “The most memorable game to date involved a couple of Naval Academy Midshipmen in full uniform taking on a pair of doggedly determined Irish fans.”

Steeped in spirit, Irish tailgaters evince a passion hotter than a flaming grill.

“After having been around the country to other tailgates, I have to say that the fervor and dedication of Notre Dame fans is second to none,” says Lee Rodenbeck (Beer Dip).

Sharon and Jim Turley (Quick, Easy and Skinny Vegetable Dip) concur: “A friend, a (Holy Cross) priest, once told us that he believed tailgate parties at Notre Dame football games were more often community than most churches. After spending over 44 years tailgating, I believe him.”

For Stephanie and Corey Swartz (Carolina Style Pulled Pork BBQ), tailgating became the perfect locale to start their life together. Since they consider Notre Dame the “best place to be on a Saturday,” they thought, “Why not!” So with the Notre Dame flag flying high, the two diehard Irish fans tied the knot before a large group of tailgating family and friends.

Blacktop Chef also displays the wide range of tailgating styles among fans. For example, in 2007, Rick Meece (Cioppino) brought in a full-size motorhome and set up “tables covered with lace cloths and the official Notre Dame insignias” as well as blue and gold cups, plates and napkins.

At the other extreme, Tim McVicker and Kevin Driscoll arrived with the bare essentials – two lawn chairs, a cooler, a small grill, and cans of Hormel chili and brats. Their contribution to the cookbook? Beans and Franks in a Can, of course.




Founded in 1959, Corvilla, Inc., is a not-for-profit organization that provides homes for 28 residents with developmental disabilities in the South Bend/Mishawaka area. Each of Corvilla’s four “Homes with a Heart” is a caring, supportive environment that helps residents lead fulfilling, productive and fun lives.

“All proceeds from Blacktop Chef go directly to things that Medicaid doesn’t cover,” Diana explains, “such as wheelchairs, special beds, dentures, resident activities, winter coats…so many things, even funerals because everyone deserves dignity.”

Diana adds that with the state Medicaid budget cuts, “It is even more important that we find new ways of funding. After all, washers and vans and TVs break down. A roof may need replacing. There’s always something.”

Since she came on board in 1998, Diana has been open to unique ideas for fundraising. She laughs, saying, “We’re never afraid to try new things, even crazy stuff. We’ve been doing a ‘Glow in the Dark’ volleyball tournament at Outpost Sports for 11 years. We have a ‘Snowball Softball’ tournament with orange balls. We also have a ‘Shake Your Tail Feathers’ dance around Thanksgiving, with Martin’s giving turkey dinners to the winners.”

Diana especially loves fundraisers in which residents can participate. The football parking at the Bulla Road home is one example.
“Anna is a first-year resident at the Bulla Road home. She is 21 and loves helping out on Notre Dame weekends,” says Diana. “She has all the games marked on her calendar and her enthusiasm while we park cars is contagious. In fact, many of our home-game regulars call her ‘the boss.’ She loves it, but she’s come to me and whispered, ‘I know you’re the real boss.’”

If there’s one other thing Diana knows, it’s that Blacktop Chef has tapped into the awesome appetites and huge hearts of Irish fans, who are helping Corvilla residents realize how sweet life can be.

To purchase your copy of the cookbook, call 574.289.9779 or email Diana Dolde at ddolde@corvilla.org. And if you need close parking on Notre Dame home game weekends, there’s plenty of space at the Corvilla home at 18443 Bulla Road – great price, tailgating allowed, no cars get blocked in, and it benefits a good cause.



Maryann Lawhorn

You will need:
1 Lb. Velveeta Cheese - Cubed
2. Cans (16 oz.) Chili Without Beans
1 Small Can Chopped Green Chilies

Cube cheese and put into fondue pot or crock pot. 
Mix in chili and green chilies
Heat until melted. 
Serve warm with chips.

Our families come from St. Louis and Canada and have been tailgating since the 60’s. We haven’t missed a game since 1964.

We are serious Notre Dame fans. We were running late for a game one year because traffic was very bad and traffic lights were not working.  So Cousin Butch got out of the car and stopped traffic – so we could get through and make the kick-off on time!



Kim Zimmerman

You will need:
1 Lb. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts - Cut into ½-inch Cubes
1 Medium Onion - Chopped
1-1/2 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp.  Vegetable Oil
2 Cans (15-1/2 oz. each) Great Northern Beans - Rinsed and Drained
1 Can (14-1/2 oz.) Chicken Broth
2 Cans (4 oz. each) Chopped Green Chilies
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Ground Cumin
1 Tsp. Dried Oregano
½ Tsp. Pepper
¼ Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 Cup (8 oz.) Sour Cream
½ Cup Whipping Cream

In a large saucepan, sauté chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. 
Add beans, broth, chilies, and seasonings.  Bring to a boil. 
Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. 
Remove from heat.
Stir in sour cream and cream.
Serve immediately. 

Yield: 7 servings.

Sometimes when I have extra time, I name the various dishes I fix after the football players.  Then I use flags in the dish with the labeled names, such as Brady’s Bundles for brats and buns, Weis’s Winners for dessert bars, Quarterback Quiche, etc.  It makes everything fun!



Dixie Lawrence

You will need:
12 Hardboiled Eggs - Peeled
½ Cup Miracle Whip
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Mustard
1 Tbsp. Sugar

Cut eggs in half and put yolks in a bowl.  Mash yolks and add remaining ingredients.  Use electric mixer to whip. Adding air to yellows makes the mixture fluffy.

Then, using a pastry bag, pipe the mixture into the whites of the eggs.  Marvelous!

Dixie’s group loves tailgating before any ND game. They start the day off at their favorite joint, “Pat’s Bar” in Lakeville.  They have a morning eye-opener, get into the spirit of the game with friends, and head out the door with 50 of the best drummies East of the Mississippi to add to their tailgating foray.  They place their ND flag on the window and they’re off! Down Michigan, Sample, on towards the stadium. Once inside the parking area, they race to a parking place close to the porta-pots and some shade. They unload a fully packed truck, several cases of iced down beverages (beer) and start the party.  Thank God for cell phones; people can find them much easier. They love the Irish and Charlie!



Jana L. Lacera

You will need:
1 2-Layer Yellow Cake Mix
1 Package (4 oz.) Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix
4 Eggs
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
3/4 Cup Orange Juice
1/4 Cup Vodka
1/4 Cup Galliano Liqueur
1 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar - Sifted
Grated Rind of 1 Orange
1-1/2 Tbsp. Fresh Orange Juice

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs and oil in mixing bowl, beat well.
Add orange juice, vodka and liqueur.  Mix well.
Pour into greased and floured 10-inch tube pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until cake tests done.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes.
Invert onto serving plate.
Combine confectioner’s sugar and orange rind in bowl.
Add orange juice, mix well.  Drizzle over cake.  
Garnish with orange sections or additional grated orange rind. 

The Notre Dame Club of Northwest Indiana has requested this recipe year after year from the First Mother, Inga Henry. They think it would not be a proper tailgate without it.  There has never been a crumb left over. Inga has sent this recipe to guests from Arizona to New Jersey.


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