Top Chef Finalist Dale Levitski At Hank's Haute Dogs

Top Chef Finalist Dale Levitski At Hank's Haute Dogs

We made a trip over to Kakaako's newest eatery, Hank's Haute Dogs, to meet Top Chef Season 3 finalist Dale Levitski. The TV chef known for his red bandana and Mohawk hairdo was the former chef d cuisine at Henry Adaniya's Chicago haunt, Trio Atelier -- which closed when Adaniya opted to move back to paradise and put up a "haute dog" shop.

To be frank (Be warned: the puns are endless), this was our first time at the "gourmet" weenie joint. Although the name and concept attracted our attention when it opened mid-summer, the idea of getting in the car and driving to a hot dog destination was a task slightly leaning towards the daunting. As a native New Yorker, I consider hot dogs an impulse buy – something you grab after a concert on a street corner, or while waiting for a juicy burger at a Sunday BBQ.

However, Adaniya, a native Oahuan that has spent the better part of his life in the windy climes of Chicago, has a different take on the All-American food item. On his web site, Adaniya claims that Hawaii's limited exposure to progressive, global cuisine has left Hawaii in the dark where mainland food trends are concerned. While I'm sure there are plenty of Hawaii-based chefs who might beg to differ, these islands certainly are overdue for a new wave of affordable eats that cater to the surf-culture. That said, a handful of B on Hawaii loyalists have emailed us to say that Hank's has indeed been packed (much like a sausage, I have no doubt) during the weekday lunch hour, which is a good sign they're doing something right.

A little bit about the food: At press time Hank's was offering nine varieties of dog. They include: Polish, Chili, Portuguese, Chicken, Andouille and Chorizo dogs, the signature "Hank's Frank" and a "No Dog" veggie concoction. Each day (Hank's is closed Mondays) there is a "Special dog", which ranges from rabbit to buffalo or duck and foie gras dogs with each passing day.

This week, Top Chef Dale's signature dog was added to the Sunday rotation -- a Kobe Beef Dog made with Australian Wagyu beef with a tangy ginger, hoisin and mustard sauce, followed with a drizzle of sesame oil, chopped cabbage, pickled diakon and carrots, then finished with a sprinkle of furikake We took a minute to chat with Chef Dale, to see what was shaking in the life of a celebrity chef, first-time Hawaii visitor, and signature weenie creator.

B on Hawaii: How did you end up on Bravo's Top Chef show"

Dale Levitski: I blindly applied. I found out later that almost everyone else on the show had been approached to be on the show, but I just filled out an application and was totally shocked when they called me for an interview. Next thing I know...

B: You're waking up with a camera in your face, every day?

Chef Levitski: Seriously. You go to sleep at night and there's a camera fixed on you. You wake up the same way. It's nuts.

B: Tell us about the experience of competing on TV, and how it's changed your life.

Chef Levitski: It was – and still is – crazy. You think it's going to be one thing, and the experience, it's like nothing I could have imagined. I actually went to school to work behind the camera, but got out and started cooking, and thought that would be the rest of my life. But when this opportunity came up, I snapped at it. Now, well, it changed things more than I ever dreamed. First of all, I can't walk down the street in Chicago – my hometown, mind you – without being totally accosted. But it's opened up doors as well, professionally. It really has catapulted my career – and I'm still on the show.

B: So what will you do now?

Chef Levitski: After the show wraps, I am going to open my own restaurant. I loved working at Trio – its what I was doing until the week Top Chef started shooting [Trio has since closed]. But I have wanted to open my own place forever, and now seems like the right time to do it. It will be an upscale diner of sorts. Comfort food in a real funky setting in downtown Chicago. I have the location, I'm just waiting for permitting and all that.

B: And how'd you fare in the show?

DL: I'm sworn to secrecy! Seriously, I can't say. But I'm in the final five contestants, and we go back to shooting next week. It should be really exciting.

B: What do you think of Hawaii?

DL: It's great, how could you not like it? But Henry is the only reason I've made it here. He's great. And this opportunity to make a signature dog for his restaurant here is great. It was like a Quick Fire challenge!

B: What do you think of the dining scene in Hawaii"

DL: Again, I know very little about it. But it's fun. We went to Town last night. The food was pretty good – the service wasn't. A lot of what I've heard, which makes sense with what I've seen, is that all the parts are here, but not a lot of places pull it all together. I'm sure it's getting better.

Hank's Haute Dogs is at 324 Coral Street Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays Visit www.hankshautedogs.com for more information.

"After the show wraps, I am going to open my own restaurant. It will be an upscale diner of sorts. Comfort food in a real funky setting in downtown Chicago." – Levitski