The nickname "YaYa" has always been a blessing and a curse for VaLorie Fogle.
Well, "curse" might be a strong word, but having the name does require a lot of work. It was given to her by her grandmother when her parents took a long time to give her a name. It means "young artist" in the region of Louisiana where her grandmother is from, and she's always felt the need to live up to that reputation.
There's no doubt she's done that.
Fogle has been in the arts for about as long as she can remember -- about as long as she's been a fan of the Washington Football Team. She even got a full scholarship in dance, but her main specialty has been in the culinary world. And now that she's the culinary captain of the Fan Ambassador Network (FAN), Fogle is able to combine her love of football and food to help shape a more unique gameday experience at FedExField.
"It brings the family feeling," Fogle said on what food brings to gamedays. "Even if it's just plain hotdogs, ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, chili. It brings all those good, warm feelings."
It's important to Fogle that a family atmosphere is injected into the experience at FedExField, because most people's first experience with football was watching it on TV in their living rooms. Fogle's family was divided; her dad and grandfather were diehard Washington fans, but her uncle loved the Cowboys, and as a result, the Thanksgiving matchups between the two teams were always a big event in their household.
Fogle has a simple reason why she was attracted to the culinary field: she loves to eat, and she likes to dabble in fusion cuisines from different regions. She grew up on Creole and Cajun food, but she also has a sweet tooth, so desserts are her specialty. She loves finding ways to feed people, too; what started as simply inviting people over to her house for gamedays turned into full-on tailgating parties at her house.
"I definitely think that food, family and football go hand-in-hand," she said.
Her passion took her down exciting paths, too. Fogle became the first woman to own and operate a restaurant -- N Good Taste Events And Catering -- in the Smithsonian Museum. She's been a chef for about two decades and is currently a personality and chef for TMZ among a bevy of other roles, and that includes being a producer for GameDayDolls.
Fogle already has an idea of what football fans love to eat. She catered one of Magic Johnson's Super Bowl parties and was the personal chef for the Houston Texans vice president of communications. She also interned at Fox Sports DC, where she conducted several food demonstrations.
Now being a captain of FAN has been added to her plate, and she has a list of things she wants to accomplish with her new responsibilities. For starters, she wants to bring more love and happiness to the experience at FedExField through food. Whether it's serving up some street tacos, which are her favorite for gamedays, or some other cuisine, she wants to bring all the joyful experiences that football represents to the stadium.
The go-to foods like hamburgers and hot dogs are great, but Fogle also wants to bring in some more diversity to the gameday experience. She likes thinking outside the box when preparing her dishes, and that includes bringing together different flavors from regions all over the world in unique ways.
"I think that's exactly what the fan base is all about here," Fogle said. "It's such a diverse background of people in this area. So we're going to just bring it. Bring all the goodness."
Fogle has already played a small part in bringing those different backgrounds to FedExField. She and the rest of the culinary ambassadors were at the "Flavors of the DMV" Showcase, which featured several local restaurants making their case to be one of the vendors at FedExField for the 2021 season.
And with "Chef Yaya" leading the FAN culinary category, you can expect whatever is served up at the stadium to be distinct and, more importantly, delicious.
"You can always expect me to be smiling," Fogle said, "and trying to feed you something that you wouldn't expect."