Dream Guest is a dineLA series that asks chefs and bartenders who they'd most like to see walk into their restaurant or bar, and what they'd serve this special guest.
Chef Neal Fraser, a Los Angeles native (and Fairfax High grad) has been a fixture on the local dining scene since the early ’90s. He currently owns BLD in Mid-City and just opened Fritzi Dog at The Original Farmers Market. Looking ahead to next year, he is planning to open The Rectory in downtown's historic Vibiana cathedral and has big plans for an ice cream and donut concept called ICDC as well.
Q: If you were to have any guest come into your restaurant who would it be?
A: If I had to pick one person I had to cook for (at the Rectory), it’d probably be my friend, Paul Kahan, a chef at Blackbird and The Publican in Chicago. I’ve eaten at a lot of his restaurants, and he’s only eaten at BLD once or twice. He’s a big eater, eats everything, and enjoys everything. He enjoys the "foofy" stuff and the "not-so-foofy" stuff. It could be just a grilled piece of fish on a plate with some olive oil and he would appreciate it just as much as some molecular gastronomy dish. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s fun to cook for.
Q: What would you make for Paul Kahan at The Rectory?
A: I would make him some piece of meat off an animal that I hunted myself. Something I hunted with a crossbow and had to drag through the bushes for five miles, cart down Los Angeles and cook for him, something that would have a great story behind it - Grilled loin of venison with huckleberries, chestnuts, wild rice, and demi-glace.
Q: You just opened Fritzi Dog, what’s the concept?
A: Fritzi Dog is brand new; it’s been a lot of fun to reverse engineer everything I’ve ever done. I don’t want to say that there are 20 components in all my plates, but there are usually more than 2. And when you only have two things on a plate you really have to make sure that they’re perfect. It’s been as challenging to get that done as to do other things. I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how to make, not even the hot dog, but trying to make the hot dog hot and moist, and the bun hot and moist, and the condiments tasty. It seems like a no-brainer but it has been challenging and gotten the best of me. It’s frustrating and rewarding and it makes me realize that I still have a lot to learn. I’m learning a lot right now and that’ll help me in other aspects of my career and in my life. The better rounded you are in everything, makes life more fun and challenging.
Q: What was the inspiration behind Fritzi Dog?
A: I met a guy in Vietnam four years ago on a bicycle tour. He had all these crazy ideas and we started talking about doing a fast-casual, quick service restaurant. We landed on hot dogs. He’s a big hot dog aficionado. Something he always wanted to do. We came out with the idea together. We had similar idea of what we wanted to do and what we didn’t want to do. Condiments- we’re not going to go out and make our own ketchup and mustard, but we’re going to go and buy good quality stuff, but stuff that people want. We want to focus on the bun and the dog, having it be unique without people walking in and saying “Well, I like hot dogs, but all your hot dogs are too esoteric for me”. We have a Stadium Dog and a Deli Dog, dogs that you would eat. And they taste great but they’re not kimchi-black truffles with fermented black garlic, stuffed inside of a cow’s utter, deep fried, cooked sous-vide. It’s a hot dog in a bun, and hopefully it’s a great a hot dog and a great bun. We’re not re-inventing the wheel; we’re just making the wheel taste better.