In the kitchen with Daniel Wright: Self-professed 'pusher of street food' cooks up next chapter

CINCINNATI - We invite you to dig into our column spotlighting different chefs from the Greater Cincinnati area. Each Sunday, WCPO Contributor Grace Yek takes you into their kitchens and talks to them about their food. The chefs reveal their inspirations, philosophies, and provide a glimpse of their authentic selves.

This self-professed "pusher of gourmet street food," has won more accolades than you can shake a hot dog at.  His culinary chops have snapped foodies into an upright position, and his tongue-in-cheek brand of upscale hot dogs has earned him frequent spreads in national media like Food and Wine magazine.

Wright, the chef and owner of Senate and Abigail Street in Over-the-Rhine, began cooking out of necessity. 

“My parents divorced when I was eight. When my mother went back to work, my brother and I were left to fend for ourselves,” he said.

Wright remembers his freewheeling experiments in the kitchen, especially with chop suey-style Chinese food. 

“My poor family braved their way through some really bad meals,” he said. 

Fortunately, the Chicago native, grew up around skillful cooks. He makes no bones about preferring to hang out with the women in his family, especially during hunting season. 

“I come from a big hunting family. The men would go hunting, while the women would stay at home and cook,” Wright said. “I didn’t want to go freeze my ass off at 5 in the morning to go hunting. It wasn’t my thing,” he said. 

Wright stayed warm with his mother, grandmother and aunts, who taught him how to cook. At the hands of his Irish and Polish relatives he learned to make pierogi and other dishes.

In high school, Wright played football and served as the captain of the wrestling team. However, sports could not keep him away from the draw of home economics. 

“I dropped out of wrestling, and got into home economics. I really liked the aspect of cooking,” Wright said. 

Become a WCPO Insider to learn about Wright's essential kitchen tools, get a recipe for homemade tacos (and tortillas) and learn about his new cookbook and upcoming restaurant.

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