Sausage maker extraordinaire Adam Gertler is reinventing the wiener at Pasadena’s Dog Haus, where he crafts strikingly original offerings that appeal to both foodies and regular Joes (and Jills) alike.
The New York native first garnered national attention as a finalist in Season Four of The Next Food Network Star, before going on to star in Kid in a Candy Store, Will Work for Food, and The Best Thing I Ever Made.
His dynamic personality and culinary chops form a winning combo that we’ve certainly got no beef with. So we asked him about BBQ, TV and surprisingly awesome frankfurter ingredients.
“I started getting into different flavors and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’ll make a pastrami dog and then a Thai dog.’ I thought I should do things that people aren’t already doing, and it kind of snowballed.”
You began your culinary career barbecuing for family and friends while in college and then became executive chef of The Smoke Joint in Philadelphia. Have you always had a passion for cooking?
Yes. I always had a passion for food, even before I knew how to cook. I just always loved eating and had a passion for flavors. I was a little heavier as a child because I wasn’t a very good athlete. I loved food. And I was very curious. I always wanted to know how to cook. Then when I went to college, worked as a short-order cook and took food science classes. So yeah, I’ve been into food as long as I can remember.
So, why hotdogs? How did you end up at Dog Haus?
I was into barbeque and made one of those pilgrimages to Lockhart, Texas in 2001. Now, you’ve got to understand, that’s where a lot of the German immigrants moved to Texas and opened butcher shops. I tried these links and thought, WOW. I mean, I grew up Jewish and the only sausages I knew were hot dogs. Cut to a few years later when I was doing a show on Food Network called Will Work for Food, where I would do different food jobs. I was working at Louie Miller’s Barbeque in Tyler, Texas and made links with them, which is something I hadn’t done yet. So, when I came back to LA in 2009, I started making sausages for fun and they were terrible!
I realized there was a lot more to it than just grinding meat and stuffing it into a casing. I got a couple of books and started doing it as a hobby and then it became a thing where people were like, “Who the hell makes their own sausage?” And I’m like, “I do.” I started getting into different flavors and I’m like, “Oh, I’ll make a pastrami dog and then a Thai dog.” I thought I should do other things that people aren’t already doing, and it kind of snowballed.
So, how many varieties do you have?
Right now I have about eight to ten recipes that I love. We have classic recipes like bratwurst, Italian and Andouille. Then the ones that I make specifically, which are Spicy Thai Red Currywurst, Chicken Fontina Sausage and my signature Pastrami Dogs.
The Sooo Cali dog boasts lettuce, tomato, avocado, tempura-fried onion shards and zesty basil aioli. Oh snap.
Your hot dogs have been called “the hot dogs of the future.” What do you think that means?
I think it’s because Dog Haus is taking foodie culture and applying it to the oldest trick in the book, which is the hot dog stand. That means putting all kinds of different flavors into the sausage themselves and into the toppings. We make a spicy basil aioli in-house. Our corn dog is a root beer battered corn dog. Nobody’s doing that.
We only use King’s Hawaiian Bread for our buns, which gets crispy on the outside when grilled but stays incredibly supple and soft. It holds all the flavors and toppings without being sloppy. I think the biggest thing with any kind of sandwich is eat-ability. If it looks beautiful, but falls apart when I take a bite, I’m mad at it. But the King’s bread somehow manages to wrap around whatever we do like a blanket and nothing falls anywhere.
And we hear a huge expansion is happening?
Yes, over 90 franchises are in the works, starting with a bunch in California, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Texas. I’m excited to go to all these different regions and make sausages.
That’s huge. We know you’ve been on a bunch of Food Network shows, including The Best Thing I Ever Ate and The Best Thing I Ever Made. So, can you say off the top of your head, what is the best thing you ever made and ate?
I did the pastrami dog on The Best Thing I Ever Made and still think that’s the best thing I ever made. As far as the best thing I ever ate, I still have to go with barbecue from Lockhart, Texas, which is as good as it gets for me. Those places where you buy your meat by the pound and then you go and eat off of paper. It’s so elemental.
Last question. What is one of your favorite fall ingredients and recipes that you like to make with it?
I love duck. For some reason I associate duck with autumnal flavors because it picks up all those great fall spices. I love a good crispy skin, melting duck.
Are you going to use that in a hot dog?
Yeah, I might use it in a hot dog. In the fall we’re going to do one that we did last year for Thanksgivukkah, when Hanukah and Thanksgiving fell at the same time. So, this year we’re going to do it again even though it’s not Thanksgiving. It’s a turkey sausage with whiskey-soaked cranberries, sweet potatoes, sage and thyme in the dog. It’s a pretty awesome dog.