Dan Hultquist is the man behind the trailer cooking up delicious comfort food for Ogie’s Trailer Park. He’s been in the restaurant biz since he was 15, bussing tables at Applebee's. Since then he’s worked his way up in various restaurants learning the trade from patient and well-trained chefs. We talked about what comfort food means to him and how tater tots ended up on the Ogie’s menu.
Tell me about where your passion for cooking began.
I suppose my passion for cooking started out as a passion for the restaurant industry as a whole. I love the pace of the work, the strange hours and the awesomely animated and interesting people you tend to find working in restaurants everywhere. I consider the kitchen to be the real ‘blood and guts’ of any restaurant, and in that, it’s the place I want to be.
Everyone has his or her own version of comfort food. What is it to you?
Comfort food should be something that alters your state of mind in such way that while you’re eating it, nothing else matters. It’s just you, and your meal. No thinking about your bills, your job or anything else that may be causing you stress. It should be cuisine that invokes powerful feelings of nostalgia, perhaps reminding you of a simpler time, a meal your mother cooked for you 30 years ago or a flavor you experienced while traveling that you had all but forgotten. A sort of pseudo-meditative experience.
How would you describe the trailer park-themed menu at Ogie’s?
At face value? Simple. Nothing on the menu is especially outlandish or complex in terms of what that would normally mean. Behind the veil however, a lot of work goes into what we do here. Every detail behind every component of every dish has something special about it. We don’t buy sauces. Our Sriracha, for example, takes a minimum of ten days to complete. We bring in whole, cured pork bellies and slice them almost a whole quarter inch thick before cooking them to order for bacon. Even our sandwich tomatoes take a full day of marinating to be ready. I suppose I got sick of going out to eat and getting the same mayonnaise, the same bland tomatoes, the same bacon that was cooked in an oven six hours prior to me eating it. So yes, “Simple, yet highly polished and detailed” would be the way I describe it. Take Granny Boo’s Bacon Burger, for example. It’s a fresh ground beef patty cooked medium, then topped with thick cut slab bacon, super sharp American cheese, house-made Ogie’s sauce, lettuce, shaved red onion and marinated tomato, all on a sesame seed bun.
How did tater tots end up as a vessel for so many dishes at Ogie’s?
Honestly, I had never used tater tots for anything before. I think the last time I had one before opening Ogie’s may have been in high school. They’re perfectly themed for a trailer park setting however, and upon actually evaluating them as a canvas, the awesome power of the tater tot became quickly apparent to me. They have a great texture, superb flavor absorbency qualities (just try the truffle tots), and almost everyone who has them is reminded of another era in their life when they had them before. Our Tots All the Way are inspired by Olneyville NY System: they’re seasoned with adobo, then topped with our ten-hour chili, a caramelized onion-cheese béchamel sauce, diced white onion and spicy brown mustard.
What is your favorite item currently on the menu at Ogie’s?
Hands down, the Southern Fried Rhody chicken sandwich. It’s one I dreamt up years ago and never had the chance to execute at the more “upscale” places I had been cooking at. It’s a lemon-honey brined chicken breast with a Dorito crumb crust, our own bacon, that same American cheese, marinated tomato and a pickled red onion gastrique. It’s got every element of flavor and texture I want in a sandwich and as soon as I’m done here, I’m probably going to go make one for myself.
I hear you have some nontraditional dessert items.
We almost always have a delicious pie or cupcakes on hand from (our sister restaurant) The Duck & Bunny for sale at Ogie’s. If you’re looking for something made here that I always eat as a dessert item, it would be the grilled PB&J with chunky peanut butter, Nutella and rum flambé bananas.
If there were a must try food and beverage pairing, what would you recommend?
In my opinion, either the Chicken Sandwich or the Burger with a Schlitz tallboy.
Ogie’s Trailer Park
1155 Westminster St, Providence