Doug Sohn celebrates the hot dog

2013-10-09T00:00:00Z 2013-10-16T15:36:07Z Doug Sohn celebrates the hot dogEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

As culinary experts go, Doug Sohn has treated the most simplistic of foods as a science.

If you want to know anything about the humble but satisfying hot dog, talk to Sohn. He's pushed the hot dog, one of America's favorite foods, to flavorful heights.

As the owner of Chicago's Hot Doug's, you might say Sohn is an iconic figure in culinary circles for his knowledge of hot dog and sausage lore, his creativity with blending standout ingredients and his respect for the simple American food.

Now Sohn, chef and restaurant proprietor, is sharing his knowledge and also the history of his Windy City emporium in  "Hot Doug's The Book."

The hot dog king, who wrote the book with Kate DeVivo, said it was released in June and feedback has been good.

"I'm thrilled with it. The feedback was much better than I expected," said Sohn, a former cookbook editor.

Sohn's Hot Doug's eatery opened in 2001 and actually grew from a fun hot dog rating project he and his friends/coworkers did over a two-year period. Their Hot Dog Club sought  to find the places that did hot dogs right.

"As we continued with the Hot Dog Club, the reviews would get longer and more detailed, and include more than just the food - we rated the ambiance, the service and so on. The Hot Dog Report grew to be several pages that recounted not only our thoughts on the food, but also anything that happened at lunch that day," Sohn writes.

The chef said although he didn't really set out to do a book, after talking to others, he thought it would be a good idea to get the history of the restaurant down.

"I wanted to get down on paper everything before I forgot it," Sohn said.

In the book, readers will find details about Sohn's beginnings, stories about the workings of the restaurant, stories from customers and comments from celebrity chefs who've visited the eatery and are fans. There are also many photos filling the book, featuring everything from the interior of the restaurant to a timeline and photo history of encased meat and even hot dog tattoos.

For Sohn, going into the hot dog business was a natural thing in a sense.

"One, I love hot dogs and sausages, and the other thing is I knew what my ability (as a chef) was. I was not going to do molecular gastronomy," he said.

He said whether one is operating a fine dining restaurant or a hot dog joint, at the end of the day, there's no difference in the idea that you want to make customers happy.

"It's about the same. You start with good ingredients, make sure you get the food to customers in a timely fashion and (ask yourself) does it taste good?," he said.

Sohn may be looked upon as a celebrity in the food world these days, but the humble chef doesn't view himself that way.

He's a worker, a cook, and someone who enjoys making customers smile.

"I take every order," Sohn said, adding he's open six days a week.

About hot dogs, Sohn said people love them because "they taste good, they're fun to eat and you can put all kinds of different condiments on them."

Sohn has experimented with various flavors in hot dogs and sausages and his menu regularly boasts an interesting collection of items. On the menu, customers will find everything from The Dog, a Chicago-style version to The Elvis (Polish sausage), the fiery Brigitte Bardot and more.

For Sohn, it's a great honor when people praise his restaurant and his creativity with the simple dog. But he said, when he received praise from one of his favorite chefs who's now a fan, he was ecstatic.

"If you're in this business, Anthony Bourdain is the guy," Sohn said. "He's been in here more than once."

About Hot Doug's, Bourdain called it "One of the 13 places to eat before you die," and Sohn has emblazoned the celebrity chef's quote on the cover of his book.

Sohn said when he travels to other cities he always tries to visit a hot dog joint and has tested hot dogs in cities across the U.S. to Europe. "I just love good food," he said. And in Sohn's book, it doesn't get any better than a great hot dog.

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