CHESTER, Vt. – Despite the overcast weather and the first hour of rain, Stone Hearth Inn’s 7th annual hot dog cook-off drew in crowds for an afternoon of music, raffles, a silent auction, and of course, the tasting and judging of seven unique hot dogs.
Seven chefs from area businesses, community groups, and families participated this year. With a few first-time entrants – and the absence of Billy, who won Best in Show two years in a row – this year guaranteed two new chefs would be awarded Best in Show and Top Dog.
Team one, Stone Hearth Inn, was the dynamic duo of Chef Ben and Sous Chef Damien. Their hot dog was dressed in buffalo blue cheese with Fritos on top for a nice crunch. Their dressing was made by scratch in house, as are all their dressings and sauces, which are also showcased at Sunday wing nights. Many hot dog fans returned to their table for seconds, thirds, and fourths! Halfway through the event, they had to run back to the store for more dogs.
Next team was Chester Andover Recreation, represented by Matt, Shanna, Kaiden, and Dylan McCarthy, and their friend Tanner Swisher. Kaiden and Tanner were the team’s “eaters” according to Matt McCarthy. Their team was returning for the fifth year and this year drew their inspiration from summer freshness. The hot dog was topped with a pesto mayo, diced tomatoes, shredded Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil, all in a garlic butter roll.
The third team was Southern Pie Co. Leslie and Scott Blair were showcasing their southern dog – a hog dog with pulled pork and Carolina coleslaw. Leslie is originally from South Carolina and decided that their first-ever entry into the hot dog cook-off would have a southern twist.
Team four was Stampede, the local basketball club, represented by Chef Justin Anderson. The local basketball club operates during the spring and summer months following the GMUHS school team’s winter season. They’ve also participated in the hot dog cook-off “since day one” says Anderson. His hot dog this year was a sweet and salty fusion of sweet caramelized onion barbecue sauce and Funyuns.
Team five was a family with a house just down the street from the Stone Hearth Inn, and they loved to cook. Lisa, Garrison, Mason, and Chec Smith knew all about serving hot dogs. Having operated a concession stand in Massachusetts for five years, they were well seasoned with getting food out fast to participants. Their hot dog was an all-beef dog stuffed with Gouda cheese, covered in barbecue sauce and bacon, with a mango pineapple salsa on the side. Jalapeno and Serrano pepper completed the dog.
Echo Lake Inn brought a three-man team of Innkeeper Tom Gianola, Executive Chef Phil Lewis, and Kyle Barnes. According to Lewis, they were the “new guys on the block,” but were excited to participate. They had previously competed in a chili cook-off at Killington Resort. Their unique hot dog was served in a tortilla instead of a bun. It was topped with Cuban refried beans, a pineapple relish with peppers and cilantro, cheese, Mexican crème, and a papaya and mango salsa.
The final team was G Fraser Excavating, represented by Greg and Jennifer Fraser and friends Katherine and Clifford Shaw. This was their second year in the cook-off contest and they decided to go all out. Their hot dog was topped with a lobster mac and cheese with bacon and jalapeno on a garlic-buttered roll.
Participants spent the afternoon going for seconds from their favorite teams, trying their chance at the basket raffle and the silent auction, and sitting outside talking with friends. The crowd included one hot dog fan, Bruno, who wore a hot dog hat on a bet with his wife and her friend. It felt like wearing the big cheese hats in Wisconsin, he explained. After receiving many compliments, he decided he’d wear it again next year.
At 3:30 p.m., the votes were gathered and this year’s winners were announced. The Smith family won Top Dog and Echo Lake Inn won Best in Show. Congratulations to both teams. The proceeds for the Hot Dog Cook-off, silent auction, and basket raffle will go to the Chester-Andover Family Center Food Shelf.