It seems like traditional staples are going through a “revolution” with grilled cheese, mac and cheese, hot dogs and other childhood favorites finding themselves with gourmet touches. One Sunday afternoon, we decided to visit Village Dog, a new spot in Tarrytown, NY to try out their homemade artisan hot dogs where the sausages and toppings are made fresh from local and seasonal ingredients. We started with the Veggie Dog and The Classic. With each bite, you can taste the difference between a regular hot dog and a Village Dog hot dog. Craving a different taste, we ordered the Seoul Dog. This was not your ordinary dog for sure as the Kimchi and Plum Ketchup blended in perfectly to give an unique taste you will not find at a ordinary hot dog stand or your favorite ball park.
After enjoying his house-made creations, we reached out to Owner and Chef Carl Van Dekker, to learn more about him and his inspiration for Village Dog.
FP: How did you get your start with cooking? When did you decide you wanted to be a chef? What do you enjoy most about cooking?
CVD: I grew up around food. My father was a chef who left the business to be able to spend more time with his family, and it was something I always had an interest in and wanted to get involved in ‘later on.’ The later on bit changed when a friend offered to introduce me to the team behind Blue Hill at Stone Barns in 2004. I was given an opportunity to stage in the kitchen there during their first summer, and I absolutely fell in love with the business. I haven’t looked back since.
FP: Name some of your favorite chefs (if any) and why.
CVD: Dan Barber will always hold a special place in my heart for giving me my first chance. I am forever in his debt, and think he is one of the most incredible restaurateurs I have ever come across. Eric Ripert, who taught me that great chef’s are humble, and willing to learn from anyone. Thomas Keller, who reminds me to always strive for perfection, especially in understanding the dining experience as a whole. Even if it is unattainable, we always have to strive to be better.
And Michael Anthony. His food is truly incredible, with a sense of balance that I find awe-inspiring. His abilities in the kitchen are only surpassed by his character. He has been a friend and true mentor for every step of the journey that I have been on. I wouldn’t be here without him.
FP: We love your concept of Village Dog and are so glad we stopped in to eat. Share with us how the idea came about. What’s been the biggest surprise in the two months you’ve been open?
CVD: Honestly, it was an accident. I walked into the space to grab lunch one day when it was still Mint, and Hassan, the owner, told me that he was getting ready to put it on the market. I spent about three days with this nagging feeling that there was a concept that was just meant for that location, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. That weekend, I was doing a barbeque with some friends, and I was preparing what would become our Seoul Dog, the heritage pork dog with Kimchi and plum ketchup… and it hit me… that was what I wanted to do there.
The biggest surprise for me has been the reception we’ve received. Tarrytown, Westchester in general, but Tarrytown specifically is a tremendous community filled with people who go out of their way to support small businesses. We have a tremendous group of regulars that not only stop on more frequently than I would have believed, but also go out of their way to talk about us, through social media, or at events… I’ve been blown away by the support we’ve received.
FP: We had the Seoul Dog and would recommend it to anyone!
When you are home, what are some of your favorite meals to cook? If you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in NYC, Westchester or other places you’ve visited.
CVD: I’m a sucker for brunch… anything with great, bright orange yolked eggs… it’s my favorite meal to cook at home, and the best part of a day off. Other than that, I tend to go back to my Italian roots… hand made pastas with homemade ricotta and whatever is in season at the market… rustic pizzas… and salads salads salads! Cooking at home is about love, and to me, that means simple dishes that are really inspired by the freshest ingredients… and it’s more about getting out of the way of the flavors that are already there than about trying to do any one specific thing.
As far as eating out goes, Gramercy Tavern and Franny’s in Brooklyn are always at the top of my list. Incredible food, warm service… they love what they do, and you can feel it when you walk in the door at either place.
FP: What are some of your guilty pleasures (if any)? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name :)
CVD: Kimchi Quesadillas from the Kogi truck in LA.
FP: In three words, how would your friends and family describe you?
CVD: Passionate, stubborn, and loyal. (not necessarily in that order)
FP: Any tips for novice chefs?
CVD: Find a restaurant that inspires you and offer to stage there (essentially an unpaid apprenticeship). There is no better way to learn the business, and the experience will help keep you humble for the rest of your life. Even if, ultimately, the restaurant life isn’t for you, it will change who you are as a person.
FP: If you hadn’t become a chef, what would you be doing? Any non-cooking hobbies?
CVD: My brother maintains I would be a carpenter, after the work we put into the space, something that was entirely new to me at the time, but I would most likely pursue writing. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a story teller, something that is very much a part of my cooking, and I can’t imagine a career that didn’t in some way bring out that side of my personality.
FP: Thanks, Chef Carl, for your time and inspired dogs! We can’t wait to see what’s in store for Village Dog.
Readers, if you can get to Tarrytown, we urge you to give Village Dog a try. The combination of creative dogs and personal service is sure to excite your taste buds!