Selling hot dogs gives former chef his 'best job ever'

By Megan Steelman

Arizona Summer Wildcat

You see them all around campus, and you even have conversations with them but do you really know the many food vendors sprinkled around the University of Arizona campus?

One of these very busy people, Rick Drake, took time out to talk about his road to the UA campus from New York, and why he wants to keep this job "forever".

Drake, whose cart is located between the Modern Languages and Psychology buildings, has been selling everything from hot dogs to Snapple ever since he answered an ad in the paper two years ago, and he plans on doing it for many years to come. He only wishes he had started sooner.

After receiving his degree in restaurant management from Alford State in upstate New York, Drake held jobs all around the country. His occupations have ranged from managing several Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants to being a chef in Santa Fe, N.M.

Although he was successful at all of them, he wasn't satisfied. He says his previous jobs, many of which required much traveling, were "too stressful". Eventually, Drake moved to Tucson and discovered the job that he describes as "the best job I've ever had."

"I remember when I was the head chef in a restaurant in New York. There was this waitress, she must have been about 60 years-old, Ruthie. Whenever the weather was bad, or we were stressed out, she would say, 'Hey Rick, let's pack it in, buy a hot dog cart and take it to the beach.' I guess in my own way, that's what I did," said Drake.

Though many would consider a 45-hour work week stressful, Drake calls his job "laid back" and "cool", and the atmosphere he works in "like a carnival".

During the school year Drake's mornings begin with a 6 a.m. trip to the commissary to get his supplies for the day. After setting up the cart, which is owned by Dawg Daze Inc., Drake is hard at work until 3 p.m.

"This job keeps me so busy, I'm never bored," said Drake, who was proud to note that he has always received "either 99 or 100" on his Health Department inspections.

"The most important things in food preparation are a good product, good atmosphere and sanitation. I've got all of them," said Drake.

At 35, Drake is older then the majority of his customers, but that does not stop him from enjoying the atmosphere.

"A lot of times I'll be at a club and someone will say, 'Hey, that's the hot dog guy,' that's cool," said Drake, who also said that he thinks UA students are some of the most "laid back," and honest students around.

"I've fronted people cash several times and I have yet to be burned," said Drake. "They always come back the next day with my money." Drake can also thank students for helping him to nab some young thieves.

"I've had students help me catch thieves. One even helped me hold a guy down until the police came," said Drake. "Mostly, though, the ones who steal are the high school kids. I rarely have any problems with the college kids."

His lack of problems may be due to the fact that he is always trying to get to know his customers, to better serve them. "I know these kids only have a limited amount of time between classes and I try to get them their food as quickly as possible by remembering their orders from the day before," said Drake. "Word of mouth is important in this business, I try to keep my customers happy."

For those who have yet to meet Drake, but would like to, he does offer this one piece of advice.

"There is a ledge right over there (in front of the Psychology building steps). People never really see it and they are always tripping on it. I don't even have to look, I can hear them stumbling," he said. "Whenever I'm just sitting here, I watch people trip on it all day. There is rarely a dull moment here."

During the summer Drake works until around 2 p.m., but he's been known to stay longer if he's "having fun". He welcomes new customers, just be sure to watch your step.

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