Former Miami Dolphins All-Pro Linebacker John Offerdahl and his wife Lynn Offerdahl are hitting the line hard with their newly expanded weekend-long Walgreens Gridiron Grill-Off Food, Wine and Music Festival at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater on November 9, 10 & 11. South Florida’s highly anticipated grilling competition, teams up chefs from high-end restaurants with Miami Dolphin legends to tackle the grill, serving deliciously creative food perfectly paired with wine or a signature cocktail for a cause.
All the proceeds will go to support the couple’s passion of “feeding the needs of those in crisis” through the Offerdahl’s Hand-Off Foundation and its subsidiary Home Team Advantage Restorative Housing. John and Lynn share their enthusiasm for helping the broken, homeless and hungry. “We looked at what God gave us as experiences and talents and considered how do we develop that to glorify Him? For us, it was food and football,” said John.
“Since 2010 the Gridiron Grill-Off has experienced tremendous success, continuing to surpass our expectations,” he added. “This year, we have really turned up the heat, adding new entertainment leading up to the grand event and other fun surprises. This will no doubt be our biggest and best event yet.”
The three-day Walgreens Gridiron Grill-Off Food, Wine and Music Festival now has five key elements:
*A three-night live Gridiron Grill-Off Concert Series kicks off at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater on Friday, November 9 with Vince Gill, followed by Sister Hazel and Barenaked Ladies on Saturday, November 10, and closes with Chris Daughtry performing on Sunday, November 11. The series is sponsored by the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and powered by the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB’s Underground Music in Partnership with AEG Presents.
*The main event is the Grand Grill-Off on Saturday, November 10, from 1 – 5 p.m. where 22 celebrity chefs from South Florida’s finest restaurants team up with 22 legendary NFL athletes to vie for fans’ vote on their favorite signature grill-off recipe. Modeled after the 22 players on a football team – 11 offense and 11 defense – it just so happens that 22 teams do a good job of feeding 3,000 attendees, which is as big as they want for this VIP, all-inclusive and highly exclusive event.
*A family-friendly Pit Masters BBQ Competition, sanctioned by the Florida BBQ Association, has been added this year from 12 – 5 p.m. on Saturday, showcasing the talent and passion of 40 pit masters who will bring their rigs and smokers from across the Southeast to compete for a grand champion trophy and more than $10,000 in cash prizes. For a $10 ticket, attendees can sample delicious BBQ hot off the grill and vote in the People’s Choice BBQ competition for winners in four categories: chicken, pork, brisket and ribs, with additional food and beverage available for purchase. There will also be live entertainment and a family-friendly Kid-Zone for adults and children of all ages.
*The Cornhole Competition is another big part of the event. Social ”pickup-game” tournaments will be happening all day long and will be open to attendees from 1 – 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Toyota Cornhole Stadium and Festival Stage. On Sunday, the competition heats up with an American Cornhole League (ACL) Cornhole Tournament in which 128 doubles teams competing for cash and fame.
*Professional Tailgaters will serve up culinary creations on Saturday in Tito’s Tailgate Zone, presented by Smithfield where they can enjoy Tito’s cocktails and practice their cornhole toss. Judges will select one lucky tailgater to win a $1,000 cash prize in this Toyota Tailgate Challenge. And on Sunday, November 11, fans can cheer for their favorite team during the Dolphins vs. Packers pre game while tailgating with DRAFT (Dynamic Restaurant Aboard Fire Truck) – a fire truck turned kitchen on wheels, with two southern pride smokers, six Samsung 55” LED large format displays and two Sony home theater systems.
People can purchase combo passes or pick up tickets for individual concerts and events at www.gridirongrill-off.com.
A secular event rooted in faith
The story behind this Gridiron Grill-Off is rooted in the faith of its founders, John and Lynn Offerdahl, who are active participants at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale.
Drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 1986, Offerdahl played inside linebacker. “One of my greatest claims to fame was that I was coached by Don Shula and captained alongside Dan Marino for my entire 8-year career.”
He fondly remembers, “There’s a quote from Teddy Roosevelt that hung on my bedroom wall and it says, ‘In life as in football, hit the line hard. Don’t foul. Don’t shirk. Hit the line hard.’ I love that because I had four sisters and I played the French horn. Who would have thought that little football picture I saw when I went to bed every night would become not only my dream at the time but a reality of my life. It’s just a great motto in life.”
After making a name for himself with the Dolphins, the couple decided to open a restaurant.
Considering John Offerdahl’s background as a linebacker with a biomedical degree and Lynn’s fine arts degree, John laughed as he admitted, “We didn’t exactly have the ingredients to be successful in the restaurant business.”
Lynn explained, “It was totally a God thing. I love to cook – cooking is creative. I thought about going to chef school then ended up getting married. Deciding to put their own high-end gourmet twist on making bagels, John and Lynn opened Offerdahl’s Bagel Gourmet. “Ultimately it’s the grit that makes people successful,” said John. “We didn’t have any pedigree to be in the bagel business, but we opened up and we worked our hearts off.” Then in 2000 they opened Offerdahl’s Off the Grill, a quick-casual restaurant specializing in just-grilled steak, chicken, salmon and shrimp on salads, sandwiches and entrees topped with signature dressings and sauces. “That’s when I went from the Bagel Boy to Grill Guy,” John chimed in.
As they were developing these concepts, the Offerdahl family was going through their own “spiritual walk.” John went through Lifework Leadership in 2004 and served as Board Chairman for the National Christian Foundation from 2009 – 2014. “This planted a seed that was probably sprouting in 2008,” said John. Lynn has since gone through the Lifework Leadership class.
Meanwhile, their son, Drew, had also became involved in a ministry called LoveBags that developed relationships with homeless people in Fort Lauderdale by bringing them sandwich bags of snacks and hygiene essentials as an icebreaker for conversation and prayer. “It’s founder, Bob Denison, a strong believer, was a huge mentor in my son’s life,” said John. “And as he was out there serving the homeless, I think God really put it on our hearts to find out philanthropically how we were going to put football and food together in the South Florida market for good.”
Marrying their love for Football and Food, the first Gridiron Grill-Off was held in 2009 in the parking lot of their Weston restaurant, initially benefitting foster care and family homelessness – 4KIDS and Hope South Florida. They established Offerdahl’s Hand Off-Foundation (OHOF), which raises funds and hands them off to “feed the needs of those in crisis” in partnership with business, government, civic and faith-based organizations. Over the years the foundation has also given funding to the Miami Dolphins Foundation, Here’s Help, and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Educational Fund. However, the primary beneficiary this year will be Home Team Advantage Restorative Housing (HTA), a Handoff Foundation subsidiary begun by John and Lynn that seeks homeownership victory through relational restoration. They will also donate the first $50,000 to the Broward College Foundation to support its Offerdahl Scholarship Fund.
Home Team Advantage
John and Lynn started Home Team Advantage to address the low-income housing crisis through a unique approach that brings together community and church partners to provide the services and relationship support some families need to achieve self-sufficiency and homeownership. They do this by taking advantage of unique government incentives to donate and rehab low-income housing.
“We really liked the model Drew was using of leading and helping through genuine relationships” said Lynn. “We began to see that homelessness, hunger and brokenness is a big problem, and it’s not just about throwing money or things at people which often ends up hurting them.”
John emphasized, “The secret sauce is relationship. We provide homes, but our goal is restoring lives. We bring the support community of the faith-based community alongside private case management to incentivize self-sufficiency and homeownership victory independent of government subsidy.
This year, we’re working with Broward College to offer $50,000 in scholarships to develop people educationally and lift their incomes towards self-sufficiency and homeownership victory.
You can learn more about the charities benefitting from the Gridiron Grill-Off at handofffoundation.org or htadvantage.org.
Attend the Grill-Off
If you are planning to attend the Grand Grill-Off, here is Saturday’s Event Schedule at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater: BBQ Pit Masters 12 – 5 p.m., Grand Grill-Off 1 – 4 p.m., Closing Ceremonies and Cornhole Finals 4 – 5:30 p.m.
Tickets are now on sale at www.gridirongrilloff.com. General admission for the Gridiron Grill-Off is $85 per person, including all food and beverages at the Saturday event. Tickets to the BBQ Pit Masters event are $10 for adults and free for kids 4 and under, which includes (10) 1oz. samples of BBQ for voting (All other food and drinks are available for purchase and does not include access to the Grill-Off). VIP tickets, which include a gift bag and access to a private tent on-site with seating, shade, food and beverages, are $125 per person.