On The Line: Joe Vieyra of Pee-Wee's Famous Hot Dogs and Hamburgers, Part One
Photo by Dustin Ames
With a name like Pee-Wee's, you sort of expect some tongue-in-cheek humor. What we got was a Joe Vieyra, a man with some serious work ethic. His schooling included endless hours with the family businesses, plus influences from a some well-established brands. Of course, you'll still find some humor. But that's served alongside his comfort food.
Who is Pee-Wee? Actually, they are the collective "Pee Wee's", five cousins that are the grandchildren of the owner. They all grew up locally in OC.
You've been catering since age 11. What were you allowed to do in the kitchen? Besides washing dishes there wasn't much; often sitting for hours on a bench wrapping a fork and knife with a napkin and rubber band. Being in the moment with my grandfather, uncles and my parents really made me aware of all the details to pay attention to.
Most undervalued ingredient. Italian parsley-- adds a great freshness and enhancement to any dish.
What do you recommend for first-timers? (I) Truly believe any reputable hot dog joint is judged by its chili cheese dog-- ours is tops!
Your best recent food find. Variety of Spanish chorizo at the Great Park Farmer's Market.
Favorite meal growing up: My grandfather's skirt steak. He developed a special recipe that the meat marinated in for three days - my cousins and I would have eaten this 24/7!
When you worked as a training manager for El Pollo Loco, what was most challenging? Wow - that was some time ago. I do recall chopping chicken with a cleaver to be quite therapeutic.
Tell us about your work ethic at In-N-Out University? Everybody had your back. At the time, there were less than 30 stores. We knew we were a part of something getting ready to explode. If you didn't carry your weight, forget it.
Favorite chef. Alton Brown. Besides his quirky humor that my sons despise when I watch his show, I like his approach to cooking. He explains the science and origin of many familiar (and some not) dishes and techniques.
Best culinary tip for the home cook: Keep a decent olive oil on hand-- works on more than you might think.
One food you can't live without. Ketchup! Ha-- just kidding. I'd have to say butter. Love creamy butter on fresh bread, baking butter, sauteing in butter, etc.
Is there a dish that you'd like to learn how to make? Wish I was a better baker. I'm always so impressed with pastry chefs and confectioners.
You're making breakfast. What are you having? Oh, yeah! Breakfast potatoes, over easy eggs, thick bacon, homemade salsa. Then back to bed for a nap!
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?). Always amusing when someone orders a vegetarian burger without veggies, no pickles, no tomato, etc . . . some will even add bacon strips!
Favorite places to eat (besides your own). Philippe's for a double-dipped lamb sandwich with hot mustard. And for a special night out, Dal Rae in Pico Rivera.
Strangest thing you've ever eaten: Escargot, chocolate covered insects, dog biscuits, goldfish (not the cracker). Open to just about anything.
Your earliest food memory: Popsicles with my Dad-- Big Sticks, 50/50 Bars, Fudgesicles. All the great ones!
What is your beverage of choice? I'm very fortunate to have great friends that remember my birthday with a bottle of single malt. Every Spring my den looks like the back room of Hi-Times.
Where was your most recent meal? Actually, "Chefs for Scholarships", a taste event at Goldenwest College. Great stuff from Lazy Dog, McKenna's, Red Table, RA Sushi and many others. Love these events. I try everything!
Your grandfather also made you work in a meatpacking house. What did you do? In addition to the meat side, he had a kitchen that produced pickled products. All day long, during my summer breaks, I was pouring the pickling juice into containers. I felt pickled at the end of each day. Mom made me roll my window down and practically hung me out as we drove home.
When you worked for McKee Foods you won Distributor of the Year THREE TIMES! What was the secret to being so successful at that job? Listening and responding to customer needs. Knowing that I understood what they wanted, managers would offer me prime spots that would boost sales for both of us.
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