Not every chef begins his or her career as a culinary student. Case in point, Chris Stockdale, who up until just a few years ago spent less time in the kitchen and more as a high-level corporate executive. In 2008, after a prosperous career running several businesses, Stockdale found his true calling: serving hot dogs. It was around that time that he opened up the first location of Mighty Dogs in his hometown of Crawfordsville, Indiana. More recently, as KVUE reported, Stockdale has opened up shop in Austin, and he’s giving back big time to the community he now calls home.
A tale of hot dogs
On the Mighty Dogs website, Stockdale outlines his journey from an oil and gas executive to a purveyor of fresh organic hot dogs. As noted, the first Mighty Dogs started up in his Indiana hometown back in 2008. However, that restaurant only opened after Stockdale visited home following a brief stint in Austin. Returning to the Midwest, he noted a frightening loss of local culture, with good wholesome family restaurants taken over by a slew of fast food chains. Fearing his beloved small town had lost its way, Stockdale moved back home and opened up Mighty Dogs. After a successful run, Stockdale began missing the unique culture of Austin, finding that city’s free-wheeling vibes almost irresistible. So, he made the decision to move back and opened up Mighty Dogs Austin. Renting out a 1930s bungalow just a few blocks from Downtown, Stockdale immediately established a new identity for this second location, using only fresh, locally-sourced meat and other ingredients.
Giving back in a big way
Mighty Dog Austin differs in another substantial way as well: the restaurant is Stockdale’s chance to work with the city’s homeless population. Speaking to KVUE, he said that he first noticed the problem outside his home on Eighth and Brazos, which rests right near a church and homeless shelter. Before Mighty Dogs Austin officially opened in April 2015, Stockdale would bring meals across the street, helping out as many people as he could. Once the restaurant opened up, though, he made a different commitment – for every meal he sold to a customer, he’d give away a second to a homeless person. He also donates any remaining ingredients from Mighty Dogs at the close of business each night. Stockdale takes it one step further, accepting no nperishable food at Mighty Dogs that he then distributes to various nearby shelters. At the end of the day, Stockdale said that whether he feeds 100 people or just one, he feels optimistic about the role he plays in the community.
Even if he wasn’t giving back to the local homeless population, Stockdale stills play a vital role in Austin’s greater culinary scene. Though he’s just schlepping hot dogs, Stockdale’s commitment to 100 percent all-natural ingredients in as commendable as his social work. Perhaps just as noteworthy is the level of innovation he brings to the classic hot dog recipe, offering fresh and exciting tweaks to an old classic. The Mighty Dogs menu serves up a series of hot dogs inspired by various cities across the globe. There is the Athens, a dog served on Greek pita and garnished with spinach, cucumbers, feta and tzatziki sauce. Or, go for the Seattle, which features cream cheese, sauerkraut and onions. And, of course Stockdale serves a dog named after Austin, a Mexican-inspired blend of jalapeno ranch, nacho cheese and black beans. No matter what you order, though, you can leave Mighty Dogs knowing you’ve helped a chef better the surrounding community via the power of food.