For the last 12 years, Tuesdays to Saturdays, rain or shine, Daniel Priester (Dan), has been selling his popular, char-grilled hot dogs outside Carmondean Library.
Dan’s hard to miss as he serves up a treat for all the senses – there’s his colourful, Canadian logo T-shirt and trademark, bright orange braces, the distinctive, Canadian accent and the tempting, mouth-watering smell from his grill.
Sheltered by a blue windbreak behind the hot dog cart, and surrounded by bottles of mustard and tomato ketchup and supplies of sausages and buns, Dan and I chat as he greets and serves his hungry customers.
He grew up near Niagara Falls in Canada, and at 17 years old, moved to Toronto where he spent the next 28 years living in and around the city. Back in Canada, Dan tells me, he had lengthy spells doing a variety of jobs. After college he worked in a bank, a job in office management came next, followed by work as a warehouse supervisor before he took on a gas station franchise. This turned out to be Dan’s kind of job. He talked to customers as he filled up their cars and washed the windscreens and loved it because, “I like people,” he says. “I like talking to them, and I like the outdoors.”
Then fate took a hand in October 1995 when Dan went on a well-earned holiday to the Dominican Republic and met Elaine, a Glaswegian from Livingston, also on holiday. This meeting blossomed into a holiday romance, and Dan, as love-struck as a teenager, flew back and forth between Canada and Scotland for 3 years, finally moving here in March 1999 and marrying Elaine a couple of months later. “A holiday romance that went badly wrong,” jokes Dan, “I ended up marrying her!”
Getting married and moving to a different country weren’t the only momentous decisions Dan made that year. Looking to find a way of earning a living and, ideally, a job that involved meeting people and working outside, selling hot dogs, he felt, ticked all the boxes. The purpose-built hot dog cart was shipped out from Canada and soon he was in business. Dan settled on the Carmondean pitch – he lives in the area too - after short spells selling hot dogs at Bathgate Market and a couple of other venues.
Building the business has taken time and patience, he says. Dan feels about 95% of his customer base are regulars. Some people stop just to have a chat and, he says, “It’s a good way of catching up with the neighbours.” When it’s quiet he likes doing the crossword in the paper.
And the secret of a good hot dog? “You have to have a good product,” says Dan. “I use 70% beef, the rest is good quality filler. Char-grilling the hot dog is a must for flavour too.” He makes three cuts in each sausage and explains that, “It stops the sausage spitting hot juices when the customer bites into it, and the cut edges get crispy and take on more flavour.”
Asked what he likes most about Scotland, Dan says, “This might surprise you – the weather – it’s never too hot or cold, and you can’t shovel rain!” His memories of Canadian winters are three long months of snow – and that’s a lot of shovelling.
Dan’s Christian faith is very important to him and it was his church he missed most when he moved to Scotland. Now, he attends the Lutheran Church in East Kilbride where he is an elder. Away from work, he enjoys playing poker and pool and a friend gives him a helping hand with his Facebook page. Dan tells me this was his third interview. He was interviewed a year or so ago for a Canadian magazine, and earlier this year for a Norwegian newspaper - he’s trying not to let it go to his head though!
Thanking Dan, I’m just about to leave, when Ryan, Michael and Steven, in their late teens and regular customers, stop for hot dogs. So what about the taste? I ask what they think of Dan’s hot dogs and, like an X Factor judge, Michael says, “11 out of 10.” Mouths full, Ryan and Steven nod in agreement and get on with their lunch.
Published in Konect March 2012
Author: Yvonne MacMillan