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It’s a dog’s life for Claire and Euan

By Fiona Reid
It’s a dog’s life for Claire and Euan

HOT dogs have been around since the 1860s when German immigrants sold them out of food carts in New York.

They were immediately popular then and continue to be so today and one couple from the region are hoping their version will also go down in history.

Claire Drysdale and Euan Macgregor, from Milton near Castle Douglas, are the founders of Brigston and Co, an artisan hot dog producer. They launched in 2017 after spotting a gap in the market for a ‘really good quality’ hot dog.

And last year they were delighted to pick up a coveted Great Taste Award, with the judges raving about their ‘good meaty flavour’ and pronouncing it ‘a hot dog for grown ups’. Claire said: “We were over the moon to win the award after all the passion that has gone into creating our beloved handmade craft smoked hot dog. We aim to create great tasting, fresh produce using the finest locally sourced ingredients and have worked so hard to create a real depth of flavour with our very secret spice mix.”

Their ‘dogs’ are made from quality cuts of beef flank and pork shoulder, ground to create the perfect texture. That high quality is hugely important to them and Claire said: “We have selected good cuts to use, we are not an emulsified product. The meat is smoked, cured and cooked which makes it a hot dog. We use Scottish beef and try and use as much Scottish assured pork as we can too.”

Despite having run a restaurant in Dumfries for 18 years, food production was brand new to her and husband Euan, a firefighter who was previously in the army. She said: “I was not enjoying the restaurant as I had done previously and you have to love what you’re doing. We saw a gap in the market. Hot dogs are something that are becoming really fashionable, they have really taken off in London. We could see that trend coming up.

“Similar to the drinks industry, people are looking for handcrafted products so we thought about trying hot dogs and elevating it to a quality product. We wanted to change the perception. Plus, no-one else seemed to be doing it in Scotland with Scottish provenance.”

Overcoming breast cancer was another catalyst for change and so the couple took a leap of faith and invested in a food truck. The hot dogs were made in the kitchen at home with a hand grinder and after trials to get the recipe right, they were finally ready to unleash them on the public. For the initial year they ran both businesses and were ‘flat out’ but needed to build up the truck trade before they could close the restaurant.

“We started by selling it out of the truck at festivals and shows and got an amazing response,” recalls Claire. “I got some advice too from James McSween, of the haggis firm, about getting the brand out there as it was a steep learning curve for us, even just trying to find distributors.”

Production has been scaled up since those early days and now they use a production team at Glasgow, who follows their spec and recipe and Claire spends a lot of time up there and still tastes about 80 per cent of everything made. “I have eaten a lot of hot dogs over last few years,” she laughs. “Luckily I still like it!”

Getting the branding right was another key consideration and they went for Brigston, the old name of the village they live in, and have taken out an IP to protect it. Development continues apace and for Burns Night they brought out the limited edition Scottie Dog, with haggis folded in, which was well received. A vegan hot dog will follow next month and Claire is considering a range of condiments in the future as she already makes all her own for the food truck. It continues to be in demand as well and they now attend a steady repeat schedule of events around the country.

However, the idea of having more free time (as opposed to her previous life when she spent 70 hours a week in the restaurant) has not yet materialised. “I am full time at Brigston and Euan is a full time firefighter but he helps when he can. It is still quite manic because I am trying to do everything, there is the social media aspect to business now and that is new from when I opened the restaurant in 1997,” she said. “I am hoping in the future to take staff on and I have a home office now but we will need new premises too.”

However, she wouldn’t have it any other way as she can see the potential of their much loved business and said: “The food truck gets so much work because it’s different to other offerings. We were at the Scottish Open last year and GlasGLOW and lots of other events. As for the hot dogs, we are in pubs and restaurants in the cities, the distributors in the Central Belt and Highlands and Islands are doing really well and they can be bought online too. Dumfries and Galloway is a wee bit behind but will filter through eventually and my plan is to push more out with retail and try and find a distributor in England and break into England.”

She added: “Having breast cancer in 2013 made me reassess life and take stock. I am absolutely fine now but it jolted me to change life a bit. My work life balance was too much and I could not take much time off. The plan was let’s get this little food truck and drive about a bit and it will be great, but it’s got busy!”

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