Behind the scenes at the Beef Bowl

Kim Montuoro - The Sporting Tribune
The Sporting Tribune's Emily Van Buskirk and Kim Montuoro take you behind the scenes of Rose Bowl week in Southern California.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — We’re back again with another behind-the-scenes vibe check. Day 2 of Rose Bowl week events found us heading across town to break bread with Big Blue. Media was invited to attend Lawry’s Legendary 67th Annual Beef Bowl so we hustled down La Cienega to claim our seat at the table.

It was very much giving ‘dinner-with-the-wealthy-in-laws” vibes complete with costume-clad valet, red carpet lining the entrance, wine upon approach for the adults and a head table dad speech from Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. 

“I want to thank the chefs for this meal that we are about to have, it’s second-to none,” touted Harbaugh. “If you guys like it rare or bloody, I’ll give you a suggestion if I may – try the Prime Rib, eat the Prime Rib and if you like it a little more well done go for one of the end cuts.” 

After the blessing from our father, Honorary Salad Spinner and Michigan defensive lineman Kris Jenkins kicked off the evening with what some might refer to as an immaculate sensation, dressing the first salad like the Big Ten Champion he is. 

“That’s what I was saying to him, that’s him he’s a character – he looks like it was natural for him,” exclaimed one Michigan teammate after the salad spinning was complete. 

Then came the meat. Michigan outfitted the main dining room with 153 players, the most Lawry’s has ever hosted. For reference, that’s a minimum of 1,530 ounces of prime rib – not that anyone is counting…anymore. 

“For many, many years we used to weigh the Prime Rib and it used to be an unpublished little bit of rivalry between the two teams,” shared Lawry’s CEO Ryan Wilson. “And remember, I think today it’s so separate but the identity of the Pac-10 at the time and the Big Ten was really strong and there was a strong rivalry and that was a big moment…that tradition stopped before I became involved in about 2008 – around roughly the 2000’s is when everything started to change.” 

Thanks a lot conference realignment – another tradition dismantled due to unnecessary change. Maybe that’s premature and rearrangement was just a twinkle in the Power Five’s eye, but I said what I said. 

Thankfully tradition is alive and well at Lawry’s. 

“Of course we track it, we’re restauranters and outside of our labor cost, this is the number one cost in our business, the prime rib,” explained Wilson. “On an hourly basis, we know how much prime rib is being consumed in the restaurant. So of course, we can pull that up. But I think the end of the story was that coaches eventually got into the middle of this and said ‘no more’ because these young men were coming out and eating five or six pounds of beef.” 

Wilson did mention that if coaches wanted to make the Beef Bowl competitive again, that was entirely up to them. We also asked him who has been the most impressive over the years of hosting this event. 

“There’s something about the Big Ten teams – they come in and they eat a lot,” exclaimed Wilson. “And those are schools that I feel have a deeper tradition and they come in and they are well dressed, they are on point, they are well-behaved – I think that’s a big piece of being a college athlete and some of the context of what we are celebrating is college athletics and bringing great opportunity to great athletes and young men.” 

Lawry’s knows something about excellence, sporting a staff as Harbaugh would say, is “second-to-none.” The service was impeccable, the people were incredible and honestly the best vibes were all in-house. And the food – we need a moment for the amazing three-course meal: Lawry’s Famous Spinning Bowl Salad, roasted prime ribs of beef, whipped cream horseradish, mashed potatoes, creamed corn (which was in fact the best side) and apple pie a la mode to top it all off.  

As the team headed back to the bus after dinner and we sat enjoying the last delicious bites of our apple pie, we found ourselves thinking… who’s got it better than us? 

Day 2 vibes were strong. Friday, we will run it back for Alabama’s Beef Bowl and see what kind of energy the Crimson Tide rolls in.