Wednesday, June 01, 2011

What’s On Your Hot Dog?

Everyone knows that a hot dog isn’t complete without the perfect condiment. This year’s Hot Dog Condiment Contest takes dressing up a dog beyond mustard and relish and raises the bar to a whole new level. Students are challenged to flex their culinary muscles and bring their own original condiment recipes to the table. Five recipe finalists will be selected to prepare and present their condiments to a panel of some of NYC’s top chefs. The winner will receive free enrollment in FCI’s celebrated three-day charcuterie class!

Choosing a winner will certainly be a difficult task, as there are probably a hundred different ways of eating a hot dog! I interviewed a few of the judges to find out some of their ideas on what makes for a winning condiment.


Chef Tony Liu, Executive Chef of August located in Greenwich Village

What inspired you to become a chef?
Food! I love to eat. I was also inspired by the the many aspects of the trade. To be a chef you need to be able to do some math, chemistry, history, geography, and sports. I can relate running a restaurant to team sports.

What criteria are you looking for in this competition?
First and foremost, taste is the main criterion that holds the most weight. I think texture should also be included with taste, because it is a part of taste reception. A diced onion tastes differently than a pureed onion. Next in importance is presentation, and then creativity.

What is your favorite way to eat a hot dog?
I really like Chicago—style dogs because there is so much going on. I also like currywurst. Two great things taste great together.

Chef Candy Argondizza, Director of Culinary Arts at The FCI

What are the main influences in your cooking style?
My style reflects food that is accessible and has lots of flavor. Seasonality is a huge influence in what I choose to make. I love to make food that is tasty and unfussy.

What criteria are you looking for in this competition?
The criteria are mostly about flavor and balance. Hot dogs tend to be a little salty, so I’m looking for something with a little sweetness, vinegary, sweet-and-sour, and, of course, texture is important, too. Presentation and creativity also play a role. It’s all important. My colleagues and myself will taste everything, and judge them as fairly as possible.

What is your favorite way to eat a hot dog?
I’m a purist. I like a dog with just a good mustard and a beer.

Chef Karen Bornarth, Production, Training, and Quality Manager at Le Pain Quotidien

What inspired you to become a chef?
I was inspired by food (and particularly bread baking) at a pretty young age—my Italian grandmother was a great home cook and baker. I was always fascinated by the bread she made. It seemed like such a mysterious thing—bread baking.

What criteria are you looking for in this competition?
For the condiment competition, I’ll judge first with my eyes—the hot dog in its bun is such a perfect blank canvas. Then I’ll taste for texture and flavor, but especially texture. Flavor is important, but the wrong texture can ruin everything.

What is your favorite way to eat a hot dog?
My favorite way to eat a hot dog is with mustard and sauerkraut, on a hot summer day at Coney Island.

Thanks to Chefs Tony, Candy, and Karen for your insights! I can’t wait to see what our contestants come up with. I’m definitely looking forward to tasting the winning condiment! As for me, I like to eat my hot dogs like a little kid—smothered in ketchup!

Melissa McAllister is a Classic Culinary Arts student graduating in February 2012. She hopes to pursue a career in food journalism or test kitchens. Her favorite way to eat a hot dog is smothered in ketchup at a baseball game with her Dad.

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