It was probably a celebrity chef who gave the world "herb-encrusted meatloaf," so it was never going to be a good idea to let a bunch of celebrity chefs near the hot dog.

If you missed the story in Wednesday's Wisconsin State Journal, five big-name chefs out of Chicago were recently asked to "reinterpret" the classic hot dog.

One of them was UW-Madison graduate Charlie Trotter, who came up with an Asian-themed tuna hot dog.

Trotter was quoted: "If a cook can make a tuna burger, why not a tuna hot dog?"

Allow me to quote a true hot-dog lover who was once asked why it is wrong to put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog. His immortal response: "It is wrong because it is not right."

I have always felt like Madison residents have an inherent right and responsibility to preserve the integrity of the hot dog. Not only are we an easy drive from Chicago, arguably the hot-dog capital of the world, but we are home to Oscar Mayer, the company that first put the idea of eating a hot dog into the minds of multiple generations of kids.

Growing up in Madison, we routinely saw the Wienermobile on the street. Kids all over the world could sing the Oscar Mayer hot-dog jingle, but we knew it originated here.

In my 30 years as a professional journalist, there may have been no more thrilling moment than when I tracked down Richard Trentlage, the Chicago-area ad agency man who penned the winning entry in Oscar Mayer's hot-dog jingle-writing contest in the early 1960s.

We spoke in 2005. Trentlage was 76, living in Fox River Grove. He told me that the night before the contest deadline, he sat down at his typewriter and went to work.

"I wrote 10 ideas down, like I always do," Trentlage said. "That gets rid of the crap. Then I wrote 10 more ideas down."

Eventually he wrote: "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener."

Trentlage recalled: "Then I thought, 'Why? Why do I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener?'"

At which point he typed: "Because everyone would be in love with me."

The immortality of the Oscar Mayer wiener jingle is evidenced by the fact that a few days before we spoke, Trentlage had received a royalty check - nearly $2,800 - for the Oscar jingle, more than 40 years after he wrote it.

Another of the five "reinterpretations" of the hot dog printed last week in the State Journal was one from chef Shawn McClain of the Spring Restaurant Group. The name says it all: Hoisin and Hot Mustard Glazed Tofu Dog with Spicy Kimchi and Cucumber Salad.

Apart from the obvious deficiencies in this interpretation - tofu? - the recipe calls for preparation time of 15 minutes, standing time of two hours and 30 minutes, and cooking time of eight minutes.

One of the glories of the hot dog is that it can be eaten on the run. In fact, some experts insist it is better eaten on the run. The author Norb Blei, whom I wrote about Thursday, is a Chicago native who once noted that his problem with Lum's Famous Hot Dog in Des Plaines was its too fancy d e cor: "It's a little like eating a hot dog in the Pump Room. The table. It must be the table. Hot doggers are not table eaters. There's something sacrilegious about sitting down at a table and eating a hot dog."

When my favorite Madison hot-dog place, Mad Dog's Chicago Style Eatery on Henry Street, opened late last year, it had no tables. It has since added limited seating, but I prefer them on the move.

Another - unlikely - place worth trying is the hot-dog cart at both Madison Home Depot locations. There's a Web site,, operated in Madison by a couple of Chicago ex-pats. It raves about the Home Depot cart dogs: "This is probably one of Madison's best-kept secrets."

They are not, we can be certain, made from tuna or tofu, and they are not prepared by a chef who wants his own show on the Food Network.

It's like that old saying that there is no business butshow business. Pretense has certainly invaded former bastions of solid, no-frills eating like the ball park. I remember when Miller Park opened and the Brewers announced with great fanfare that food at the park would include coconut shrimp with teriyaki sauce and a balsamic-marinated portobello mushroom sandwich. What next - turkey brats? They had those, too.

I suppose there can be no real harm in allowing pretentious chefs to tinker with the hot dog, but I also know we must be vigilant.

I will give the celebrity chefs one thing. At least none of their hot-dog recipes included ketchup. Ginger root and pitted kalamata olives - but no ketchup.

Contact Doug Moe at 608-252-6446 or