"How many condom jokes have you had to bear while making sausages?"
I'm standing directly in front of Adam Gertler in the kitchen of DogHaus's Green Street location in Pasadena. He is gingerly pumping his Magnum-sized vertical sausage stuffer as the water-balloon-like lamb casing attached to it increases in length and width. I'm dodging blood or ground beef projectiles from landing on my camera, my shirt, or my Vans.
"Oh, it is insane," he answers back without even cracking a smile. "Also, since pretty much nobody under 50 makes their own sausages, the other part you should be careful about is when you go out to meet a girl or something. I never, ever open with, 'Hi, I make sausages for a living,' because I've learned that could go either way."
If Gertler's face looks familiar, it is probably because you probably saw him cooking his ass off on season four of The Next Food Network Star. He was the runner-up contestant. He also is the host of FX Movie Download and FX Eats. Still, he didn't really let this brush with fame sway him from his real passion: sausage-making.
I was invited to learn how his "Little Leaguer Haus Dog" is made. It is a beast of a hot dog that I'm told takes approximately 31 hours, 4 minutes, and 37 seconds to make. Like any other good Los Angeles born-and-raised person, I grew up on chili-cheese everything: fries, burgers, and dogs. However, the gloppy, neon-orange stuff at places like Jim's Burger's or The Hat I had growing up all pale in comparison when placed next to this version. It involves 22 different ingredients and a heady blend of 18 spices. "It is kind of like the seasonings used to make pastrami or pickle something—mostly black pepper," Gertler tells me as he lays out the spices for me to get a whiff.
The playful banter suddenly stops when it comes time for Gertler to slip on another lamb casing on the stuffer's rod. "This is the tricky part. The casing can easily tear and it could be a pain in the ass." The middle school-level dick jokes and double entendres could probably go on for at least another hour, but Gertler and I choose to stay on track and focus on the fleshy art of classic sausage-making. Gertler is the würstmacher at DogHaus, a locally based, casual sausage concept that has recently expanded throughout the West Coast. "When I probably should have been working on my abs as an actor, I would rather just cook for people since I saw that as just another type of performance."
Several years ago, he opened a barbecue restaurant in Brooklyn, but it was a trip to Texas that made him decide to balance his acting career with good ol' tube steaks. It started out as a hobby that made its way into an illegal business—making sausages at home and selling them to bars by his house. That business evolved into an online sausage business that ultimately failed, and now he is seemingly happy getting ground meat all over his forearms at DogHaus. His sausage passion appears to be is as burning as ever.
While he preps his manual sausage stuffer for service, he starts talking about it as if it were a human being. "The stuffer is probably thinking, What are the fuck are you doing to me in front of this dude right now, Adam?"
After he is done stuffing and twisting his sausages, Gertler goes on to show me a few examples of the different ground meat textures inside of sausages, and how that ultimately affects the juiciness of each sausage. His Thai red curry wurst stands out with its little green flecks of makrut lime, basil, and cilantro. It smells faintly fishy, too, thanks to the fish sauce (in a good way). A few minutes later, the final sausage is placed in front my eyes and my mouth starts to water. There is a bit of TV magic involved since the real process of making this pastrami-flavored sausage requires it to be cured, smoked, steamed, chilled out, and then grilled up—not to mention the extra four hours that the chili laddled on top of this dog takes to simmer.
It is definitely not easy to eat, as it is placed on three split-cut King's Hawaiian buns, and you will probably feel incapacitated for an hour or two after eating it because it is quite the gut bomb. Nonetheless, I respect the art behind it. There are a few things in this world that involve that many ingredients and that much time to prepare. Mole immediately comes to mind, but I've never thought a hot dog would fall into that list. Why the hell not?
As Gertler starts to wrap everything up after the demonstration, I ask him how an actor got into the messy world of sausage-making. He takes the opportunity to romanticize about sausages even more: "Nobody ever questions how a sausage is made. It is one of those things that people just accept as-is. I'm drawn to these type of foods because I am a naturally curious person and I hate accepting things at face value. Though, I love eating the end result of it all, too."