The lowly hot dog — it's kinda the Homer Simpson of the entrée world. And you probably wouldn't think of that particular food item in the same breadth as say, an award-winning chef or James Beard Foundation-recognized culinary expert. And yet, the lowly little chunk of meat is at the center of affection for one such chef, and he's not afraid to tell the world. It's the kind of goofy food-scene happening that is emblematic of the environment that restaurants occupy today, where anyone and everyone can and will "stoop to the level" of the lowliest foods even in the finest settings in a spirit of fun and flavor exploration.
And after all, this is National Hot Dog Month, and well, we should all just show the little cylindrical fella some respect, don't you think? Chef Eric LeVine sure does. That's why the renowned wizard of the professional kitchen and restaurateur is out to make the hot dog the star of the month at his gastropub-influenced restaurants, Paragon Tap & Table and Morris Tap & Grill.
What, you may ask, can a world-renowned chef do with a hot dog? Well, Mr. and Mrs. Hoity-toity, we're glad you asked. Here are some of the fabulous weiner-based concoctions Chef Eric has in store for his customers:
• Chicken and Waffle "Hotdog" – This variation has the dog surrounded by country gravy and maple mustard.
• Pig on Pig – In this seemingly redundant menu item, customers get a bacon-wrapped hot dog with a slab of bacon, bacon slaw and bacon jam (along with, we assume, a list of cardiologists in the area).
• Waygu Dog – This is a true HOT dog, featuring a tempura Waygu hot dog topped with Kimchi, wasabi, and we hope, served with a barnyard-sized trough of beer.
• Taco Dog – This spicy fellow comes with equally spicy cheese sauce, jalapeño, shredded cabbage and Pico.
Chef Eric has worked with some of the world's best chefs, including Jean-Louis Le Massion from Le Petite Café in France, Giovanni Brunell at Il Tratattoire da Familia in Italy, and Lee Ho of Otani from Japan. The James Beard Foundation recognized Chef Eric for his contributions to the gastronomic culinary scene in the U.S. and nominated him for Outstanding Chef of Year. The International Chef’s Association named him Creative Caterer of the Year and Chef of the Year – the only American chef to receive that distinction.
But, apparently, Chef Eric also knows a beloved favorite, even when it does not fall within the realm of the most esteemed foods available. After all, it's estimated that Americans alone eat some 7 billion hot dogs between Memorial and Labor Day every year.
You can't argue with that, Dog.