Most chefs would be offended to have their cuisine compared to dog food. But that didn’t stop acclaimed chef Billy Ngo of Kru and Fish Face Poke Bar from jumping into the fast-growing premium pet food business.
Healthy Hound Kitchen, which is slated to open this spring in East Sacramento, will sell fresh-cooked dog food to pet owners who “want to cook for their dogs but don’t have the time or don’t know how to formulate their own recipes,” says Joanne Tu, one of the venture’s four business partners.
“If you know Billy as a chef, he’s kind of a perfectionist. So he’s really concerned with quality,” says Tu. “For his own dog, he prefers to feed him a more nutritious diet.”
How does one know what flavors appeal to a dog? Trial and error, says Tu. “We try out recipes and feed them to our dogs,” including Ngo’s Lab mix, Butters. “We’ve also done research that has shown which foods are better for dogs in terms of vitamins and nutrients.”
The idea for Healthy Hound Kitchen came from a partner whose pet was suffering from cancer. “He started cooking food for his dog because he felt like her diet could affect her recovery,” explains Tu. “It’s a big change from eating kibble to the kind of dog food that we’re making. We personally just feel better feeding it to our dogs.”
Healthy Hound Kitchen will have an open-format kitchen so that pet owners can “gain a level of comfort that everything we’re preparing is fresh and healthy,” says Tu, a Sacramento native who recently moved back from the Bay Area to be closer to family. “We are using the same kinds of ingredients that you could pick up at a grocery store, ingredients that you will recognize.”
All of the contents are human grade. (Not that you’d want to share a plate with your furry friend—this is still pet food, after all.) Each recipe is based on a single protein—beef, lamb, chicken, turkey or fish—combined with grains, fruits and vegetables. The ingredients will be minimally cooked to eliminate bacteria and “because dogs have a difficult time processing raw vegetables,” explains Tu. No preservatives or artificial ingredients will be added.
The food, which will be sold fresh or frozen in vacuum packs, is expected to be “competitively priced and in line with premium kibble on the market,” says Tu, who doesn’t have a dog in her life currently but is “definitely looking for one.” When she finds one, you can bet that pooch will be eating well. 3608 McKinley Blvd.; (916) 541-6139; healthyhounds.com