The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all. ~Frederick Buechner

King of the Grill

Every second, five hundred and fifty hot dogs are eaten in the United States.

According to Pete Sawallisch, a good amount of them are consumed at Lakefront Supply between 10:30 and one p.m. That’s because every Wednesday is Wiener Wednesday and Pete is the top dog.

He’s the man behind the grill, serving up two hundred hot dogs to hungry customers and vendors alike. I had a lot of questions to ask Pete about this midweek tradition.

Wiener Wednesday started as a way for Lakefront to thank customers for their business as well as for vendors to advertise their products. They network over the relish jar, pass business cards while passing the mustard, and grill each other about product details over grilled onions. But Pete never criticizes them for putting ketchup on their dog—a no-no according to the National Hot Dog Council.

Pete, a resident of JPUSA for over twenty-six years, was drafted into Wiener Wednesday without knowing everything it entailed or entrailed, from roasting to perfection to grilling the onions, the number one topping of the big beefy customers.

“Quite frankly, the hardest thing is when people demand more dogs. I want to say, ‘Dude, you just ate six.’” Pete chuckled. But instead, he’ll figure out how to share his faith or just say something nice.

Good thing Matt Stonie isn’t a customer of Lakefront. He’s the 2015 champion of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, gulping down sixty-two in sixty seconds.

But Pete doesn’t do this job alone. Carl Szafraniec is his hot dog wing man. Carl buys the food on Tuesday and arranges it in a shopping cart. He makes sure Pete has everything he needs, including a cuppa joe.

So what’s Pete’s favorite part of the job?

“It’s nice to feel that you are giving something forward. And our customers and vendors feel it, too.”

Pete had to stop and think what Bible character is the most cut out to help on Wiener Wednesday. He thought it would probably be the nameless servants who said something profound just doing their job, like the one who suggested to Saul to travel to a small village and meet a guy named Samuel. It changed the course of his life.

Good thing I didn’t ask him why there are usually ten hot dogs in a package but only eight hot dog buns. Not even King Solomon could answer that.

Pete has had multiple jobs at JPUSA over the years, starting in the dish room, then driver, and finally at Lakefront.

Wiener Wednesday will continue throughout the winter, but inside the warehouse and not on the picnic area.

Other Hot Dog Trivia:

The average hot dog is consumed in 6.1 bites (average sized mouth tested).

An average baseball hot dog vendor sells an about one hundred and fifty hot dogs per game, the hot dog hot box weighing about forty pounds when full.

A Wrigley Field Dog and bun has two hundred and seventy calories.

Across the major leagues, fans are expected to eat 21.4 million hot dogs in 2014. Our friends at the friendly confines donate the extras to Jesus People where they are distributed to the area homeless. This is made possible thanks to Stewart Brown, who helps pick up the hot dogs.

Ginger MacDonald
Latest posts by Ginger MacDonald (see all)