rowing up in Wisconsin, the youngest of 4 older sisters, five-time All-Pro Miami Dolphins Linebacker John Offerdahl realized that football was a perfect fit for him at a young age… as he much preferred a football uniform over his sisters’ hand-me-downs. Playing college football at Western Michigan University for Coach Jack Harbaugh (father to NFL coaches John and Jim), John was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the second-round, 53rd overall, of the 1986 NFL Draft and played for the legendary Coach Don Shula for 8 years.
He was named NFL Rookie-of-the-Year in 1986 and was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first five seasons in the league. A powerful quote by Teddy Roosevelt, “In life as in football, hit the line hard; don’t foul, don’t shirk, hit the line hard” has stayed with John since he was young. He kept it by his bed and would dream about it. Ultimately, he used those words of determination and character to turn his dreams into reality personally and professionally.
John started a successful chain of bagel shops in 1990 grew the concept to 10 stores before joining three other bagel entrepreneurs in March of 1995 to form Einstein Bros. Bagels, a national bagel retailer. For the past decade, John has operated the ever-popular South Florida chain, Offerdahl’s Café Grill, a quick-casual restaurant specializing in just-grilled steak, chicken, salmon & shrimp on salads, sandwiches and entrees topped with John’s signature dressings & sauces. Though he started out the bagel boy, he’s built a new reputation as the grill guy to most. From football to food, gridiron to grill, John is savoring every minute of serving his South Florida fans.
In 2010, John created The Gridiron Grill-Off Food, Wine & Tailgate Festival – a nonprofit outdoor event that collides his love for the gridiron and the grill. What sets this event apart from other food and wine festivals is the fan’s ability to interact with Miami Dolphins legends, who are paired with South Florida’s top chefs. It is an intimate event where fans can talk to the players, get autographs and pictures, and even quiz the chefs about their grilling techniques.
“Being coached by some of the best and playing with amazing players will forever be a special part of my life”
> John offerdahl
These highly competitive player/chef teams turn up the heat and create winning gourmet recipes to eat such as last year’s “Judge’s Choice” recipe, Santorini Grilled Octopus, prepared by Miami Dolphins “Undefeated Team” Guard #64 Ed Newman and Chef Peter Boulukus of YOLO Restaurant and the “People’s Choice” award-winning dish, Bacon and Bleu Rib-Eye, created by Dolphins legend Safety #47 Glenn Blackwood and Chef Victor Franco of Oceans 234.
“We are now in our fifth year as a major culinary charity event”, says John, “We are very proud of our fundraising efforts to support programs that make a difference. We will continue to combine food, football and fun with help from our generous sponsors like Broward Health® and Walgreens®, and the participation of the players and chefs to support programs that help our kids. There’s nothing better than bringing the intimacy of the football legends and great chefs together for a grill-off frenzy!”
The event is a family production with John’s wife Lynn, and children, Ali, Drew and Jameson, working together to give 100% of event net proceeds to benefit Offerdahl’s Hand-Off Foundation and its mission to “Feed the Needs of Kids in Crisis” including 4KIDS of South Florida, HOPE South Florida, Here’s Help, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, Miami Dolphins Foundation and Taste of the NFL.
The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Educational Foundation, an organization which funds programs to increase the quality and employability of high school graduates by providing training and higher education and career opportunities, has been one of the beneficiaries of Grill-Off Festival.
During this year’s Gridiron Grill-Off, several Miami Dolphins legends, including Zach Thomas, Dwight Stephenson, Larry Little, and Eugene “Mercury” Morris, will team up with South Florida’s top chefs from restaurants like Café Maxx, Truluck’s and 13 American Table, Hollywood Prime and Red, the Steakhouse. Each celebrity team will prepare signature grilled culinary masterpieces, which will be paired with premium wines from the Gallo Wine portfolio. One winning team will be recognized with the People’s Choice Award, while a team will be selected by a panel of esteemed judges to receive the coveted Judge’s Choice Championship! Grill-Off attendees will be able to eat, drink and vote for their favorite grill recipe.
Another unique element to the event is a regulation size cornhole field with stadium seating sponsored by Southeast Toyota, where guests can toss bags for charity and win the chance to compete alongside of Pro Football Legends for prizes and prestige. “This year we’ve also added new opportunities to elevate the guest experience, including The Jack Daniel’s® Tennessee Honey Tailgate Challenge, Guy Harvey’s Sustainable Seafood Village and Chef Allen Susser’s VIP Culinary Exhibition”, said Johnny Williams, event executive director. “We’ve also carved out a tailgate area where hand-picked tailgaters will be grilling Omaha Steaks® for a $1000 prize from Jack Daniel’s®”.