Yeah Dawg! Meet the Hot Dog Brand That Is Queering Capitalism

Yeah Dawg! Meet the Hot Dog Brand That Is Queering Capitalism

  • Drae Solberg
  • Drae Solberg

We are thrilled to announce Yeah Dawg as one of our eight 2022 ChooseVeg partners! Yeah Dawg skillfully crafts gourmet hot dogs and brats using only whole-food ingredients, like beets, sweet potatoes, and sunflower seeds. You’ve never had a dog like it!   

Yeah Dawg not only makes gluten- and soy-free vegan hot dogs but operates in a way that deviates from stereotypical expectations of the business world. Nonbinary founder Marino Benedetto is crafting foods with a conscience—flavorful products that align with their values of compassion and sustainability. 

To better understand the company and their dedication to social change, we interviewed Marino. This is what they had to say:

Tell us about your inspiration for creating vegan hot dogs.

In 2012, I had an awakening, and I realized I really wanted to work for myself. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, so I knew it was time to start a business. I had been cooking vegan food for youth at a drop-in and really got to experiment cooking plant-based comfort food for teenagers, so I knew I wanted to start a food company. I was passionate about cooking delicious food and that being a way to help people make the transition to more plant-based foods. I was left with the question of what food. I reflected on being inspired by these hot-dog carts in Toronto that had 12 toppings you could get on them. Being a Gemini, I loved the variety and the options! I was thinking I could reinvent this idea but do it completely out of veggies and do it without all the preservatives and processed ingredients. So I set out to make a hot dog out of vegetables, and Yeah Dawg was born in 2013! We also make a ton of fun toppings all out of plants as well!

Yeah Dawg also sells a holiday roast and bacon. Are you considering expanding your plant-based offerings in the future?

We also have our CHX & SHROOM brats available in addition to what you mentioned. For right now, I am thinking about throwing more curated dinner events with a wider-variety menu beyond hot dogs. Stay tuned!

In addition to delicious vegan options, Yeah Dawg is known for operating outside the gender binary and status quo. What barriers and challenges have you encountered as a queer and trans entrepreneur?

In the beginning I had a hard time finding others like me, but it didn’t stop me. I knew someone needed to be there for others to see! The main issue has always been the patriarchal and hierarchical culture of the kitchen and restaurant industry. In my early years working in restaurants, discrimination and harassment were common. In starting a business, the hardest part I faced was in our first commercial kitchen, where I was harassed by cis kitchen men, who I shared space with, for being gender nonconforming. Luckily, where we produce now is a lot better, and we are respected there. Beyond the kitchen, some challenges of being nonbinary have always been the bathrooms at festivals or business programs. There are only two options, male and female, and sometimes I’m not even sure which one to choose, especially if I’m not sure how I am being read by customers, other vendors, or organizers. There are also some difficulties in accessing a lot of the grants and programs centered and geared for women entrepreneurs that have a girl-boss tone. I don’t feel comfortable accessing this help but definitely still need this access as a nonbinary and gender-nonconforming entrepreneur. As of right now, though, I try to not let it seep in too much, as I have done lots of spiritual work and healing around these things. My sparkly rainbow prism of aura protection is extra strong now after these past eight and a half years in the game.

How does Yeah Dawg stay involved in the queer community?

I like to hire queer chefs and queer entrepreneurs as much as possible, as we know working in the kitchen as a queer person and gender-nonconforming person is not easy. Also, pre-pandemic, we were offering a market for queer vendors called Queering Capitalism to help encourage and promote queer makers. I’ve also held meetings for queer entrepreneurs in my backyard to offer support for people who needed community in business. I always encourage budding queer entrepreneurs to message us on Instagram as well!

You realized at a very young age that you were eating someone rather than something when you sat down for a meal. How has your relationship with animals and vegan eating changed since then?

My relationship to animals has only strengthened since then. As a quiet kid, I connected to animals more than people. Currently, I have a dog (our brand mascot, Kush) and two cats, and I spend lots of time tuning in, observing, and connecting to them. I have been adopting dogs and cats since I was 17 and firmly believe “adopt, don’t shop,” obviously! Being vegan has only deepened my connection. I believe the connection to animals is very spiritual, and they are the best teachers and help connect us to nature. As of right now, I’m doing a lot of research and finding out more information on whales, dolphins, and manatees and conservation efforts. I want to work deeper on this, as we are losing many species and intelligent, amazing marine life to commercial fishing, pollution, habitat degradation, and climate change. These creatures hold so many keys to the universe and need to be protected. I am very drawn to Sea Shepherd and their work.

Do you have any recommendations for queer and transgender entrepreneurs breaking into the vegan food market?

Be yourself, and be authentic. Have fun, do business differently, and don’t feel the need to compare yourselves to how others do it. Invest your energy in making sure your business aligns with you and your values! As queers, we are creating new business models and queering capitalism. It’s a magical place of transformation! Also try and connect and collaborate with other queers. Help lift each other up. Organize queer business meetings with your community!

Do you have any favorite vegan brands you wish more people knew about?

The future is going to be vibrant, colorful, and full of fresh, delicious food thanks to entrepreneurs like Marino Benedetto! Whether you are vegan or just want to try something new, head to Yeah Dawg’s website to order some of their revolutionary hot dogs for yourself. To stay up to date on Yeah Dawg’s plant-based offerings, follow them on Instagram. Want more delicious plant-based food ideas? Sign up for our newsletter to discover more brands like Yeah Dawg!

In 2021, our ChooseVeg Partners program spotlighted seven Black-owned businesses that are disrupting the food system, building influential brands, and producing delicious vegan foods. This year, we are featuring founders who are queer, Black, Latinx, and Asian American and Pacific Islander to celebrate the powerful impact these communities are making for farmed animals through innovative vegan foods. Keep an eye out for “behind the brand” interviews and tasty food giveaways with our 2022 ChooseVeg partners, like Yeah Dawg!