Last Saturday, I was invited to the Gapers Block 3rd Annual Charity Hot Dog Cookoff to compete as a chef. They called me a “chef.” That’s the first time anyone has called me that. Most of the time, people call me “assbag.” I have never competed for anything food related in my life, so naturally, I shit my pants a few times, but I thought, “Dannis, this is a once in a lifetime experience. You are going to regret it if you say no. How can you think of something edible so that people will not punch you in the yarbles?”
I fretted and stressed for weeks, because I was up against actual restaurants, and I didn’t want to fall flat on my face. I’m still stressed out thinking about it.
Now, I wasn’t about to cook bull penises for an anticipated group of 300 people, so I had to think of something silly yet good to eat. I came up with something good — which I’ll show you in a bit.
The event was held in the parking lot at legendary Chicago music venue, Schuba’s. Another thing I have never done is cook in a parking lot before. So many new experiences. If you have not cooked in a parking lot, I highly recommend it for absolutely no reason.
But first of all, we were cooking for a charity event. The charity is called Reach Out and Read Illinois, a children’s literacy advocacy group that people should support. I support it so that children can read my website and turn into miserable human beings like me. Reading good, children. Reading real good.
My setup was very simple: I used a Sterno heating tray to steam the hot dogs and a Crock-Pot to keep my toppings hot. I was terrified I’d be serving lukewarm food that would kill people. One interesting challenge is that Sterno heating cans suck donkey balls and are inconsistent. Don’t use them to cook anything. Just use them to keep food hot.
My sister was my lovely assistant, and she was charming. I mean, look at that cute apron! Turns out she is a fantastic helper and she is good at putting together delicious hot dogs.
I was responsible for the ingredients other than the Vienna Beef hot dogs that were donated to us, so I had to think fast. I still don’t have a job, so spending a lot of money on food is a really scary idea. Thankfully, S. Rosen’s was more than happy to help, and they donated the poppy seed hot dog buns I asked for. Susanna at S. Rosen’s is really sweet and helpful, so here’s my shoutout to her!
I was up against some pretty stiff (heh heh) competition, including Monti’s, a Philly cheesesteak restaurant. They make very good cheesesteaks and you should go. They are also very nice people.
Another competitor was Wiener and Still Champion, located in Evanston, Illinois. Not only do they have the best name ever, Gus makes a ton of cool sauces to eat with your burger and fries, and he even makes country-fried bacon. Let that sink into your arteries for a minute.
Manbque is a group of dudes that get together and cook lots and lots of meat. These guys won two years in a row, so I was pretty sure they’d hand my ass to me. They have been on things like The Today Show so I knew I was up for an ass beating from them.
The last crew was from Harmony Grill, the restaurant attached to Schuba’s music venue. Everyone I know who has been there says their food rocks, so you should go and eat there too before you see a music show.
But let’s get to the food, clowns!
My creation was called The Kimchizzle. You can roll your eyes at me for putting kimchi on a hot dog, because right now it is extremely cool to put kimchi on everything for some silly reason. But kimchi is a taste of my heritage, so you’re not allowed to make fun of me. The Kimchizzle consists of kimchi and pork belly relish, Easy Cheese, and crumbled shrimp chips.
Most people put kimchi on things as-is, but a cool thing most non-Koreans don’t know is that kimchi cooks down very well while still retaining its crunchiness and flavor. I slow-roasted pork belly, chopped it up, and cooked the kimchi down with it. I added a touch of sugar and some sesame oil to finish it off. When I told my friends about the Easy Cheese, they almost gave my balls an uppercut, but I assured them that it would be delicious. Shrimp chips come from a bag and are a popular Korean snack — they don’t taste too much like shrimp, but they are salty, and good to eat.
Altogether, The Kimchizzle is delicious. All of its bits and pieces are extremely savory and addictive; the Vienna Beef hot dog is in natural-casing and has a snap to it, the Easy Cheese is processed and hilarious, the kimchi has a lot of vinegary spicy flavor, and the shrimp chips add crunch and flavor. I am proud of my creation, and many people told me it was their favorite of the bunch, which made me feel very good about myself even though your mother still calls me an extremely sexual piece of shit sometimes.
Gus’ fried up some of the best corn dogs I’ve ever eaten. The batter was sweet and crisp, full of cornmeal flavor, and the sweet bacon mustard put the whole thing over the top.
Monti’s made my favorite out of the bunch, which was a hot dog egg roll stuffed with chili, topped with Chinese spicy mustard, and accompanied by a spicy carrot salad. Holy crap, was it good. Not only was the whole thing fried, the chili was delicious, the hot dog was excellent, and the fresh vegetables made me feel better about eating a hot dog and chili egg roll. Your mother loves my egg roll better, however.
Manbque made a Mother-in-Law tamale with a hot dog stuffed inside, topped with hot dog and beef chili, along with traditional Chicago-style hot dog toppings. A Mother-in-Law is a dish local to Chicago, where a factory-made tamale is stuffed into a hot dog bun, topped with chili, and then garnished with Chicago-style hot dog toppings. Even many people in Chicago still don’t know what a Mother-in-Law is since they aren’t often served on the north side of the city.
Manbque’s was delicious and easier to eat, since you could eat it with a fork. I love tamales and hot dogs, so it was a perfect match for me.
Harmony Grill fooled around with the hot dogs and made a Hush Doggie, which was a hushpuppy (ball of deep-fried cornmeal) with bits of hot dogs mixed into it. Turns out hot dogs are a good thing to put inside a hushpuppy. Plus they called it a doggie. Doggie doggie doggie doggie.
Lots of people came to eat hot dogs and they had a good summer afternoon munching on our food. Many folks asked me if I had a restaurant, and I laughed. Nobody would eat at my restaurant if I had one, mostly because I would serve garbage to people and they would say mean things about me on Yelp. But they seemed shocked that I didn’t have a restaurant, which means they mistook me as a real chef. I was very delighted at that fact.
The judges included Bruce Kraig (author of Man Bites Dog, about hot dog culture in America), Doug Sohn of Hot Doug’s, David “Food Dude” Lissner, chef Alan Lake and Time Out Chicago editor Lisa White. They were all very nice to me.
In the end, Monti’s won both People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice, because their hot dog egg roll was just so good.
However, guess what? I came in second place! How cool is that? I was up against real chefs and real restaurants, and the judges liked my food! It is a very good feeling knowing that I was able to keep up. I am proud of myself and my sister for doing a good job.
Of course, I had Harvey and Mr. Bee with me, who everyone loved because they are adorable, and they gave me good luck while silently judging me for being a culinary jackass. But they supported me anyhow. I’m sure it is really sad seeing a man carry around stuffed animals and nobody would flirt with me while I was there.
In the end, I had a great time, even though I was scared. I held my own, I beat some ass, and had a good time. When I came home I was exhausted, but for once I didn’t fall asleep in the closet crying.