Business & Real Estate

Chef Bill Ngo of Kru fame branches out into premium food for dogs

Bill Ngo sits at the sushi bar at his restaurant Kru on July 11, 2013 in Sacramento, Calif.
Bill Ngo sits at the sushi bar at his restaurant Kru on July 11, 2013 in Sacramento, Calif.

One of Sacramento’s top culinary talents could soon inspire plenty of drooling and wagging among the canine contingent.

Bill Ngo, owner/chef of Kru and, more recently, Fish Face Poke Bar, is branching out into the premium dog food business.

Healthy Hound Kitchen has already started construction at the site of the former Queen of Tarts Bakery Cafe, 3608 McKinley Blvd., in Sacramento. Ngo will partner with three others, all former classmates from Rio Americano High School.

The concept will feature an open kitchen and the fresh-cooked recipes will use all human-grade ingredients, though the nutrition requirements will be geared toward dogs.

“We have a bunch of friends who cook for their dogs,” said Ngo, who is widely respected for his creative take on sushi and related Japanese cooking. “If you knew what is considered protein in most (commercial) dog food, it’s terrible.”

Ngo is already helping develop recipes for the business. The fresh-cooked concept reflects a national trend that may have trickled down from the so-called slow food movement – a deep concern about quality ingredients and local sourcing.

“All of our ingredients will be USDA-certified,” said Joanne Tu, one of the Healthy Hound partners. “Any of the meat, produce and starches will all be suitable for human consumption.”

Tu, 32, who worked as a financial consultant in San Francisco and recently moved back to Sacramento, said the business will target “anybody who wants to feed their dog in the same quality manner they would feed themselves.”

The food will be available to take home and will be priced to compete with premium kibble, which is generally $30 to $75 for a 30-pound bag.

“We’ve been working on some recipes and Billy has been an incredible resource as far as helping us find suppliers and getting the level of quality we want,” Tu said. The working menu of recipes include beef and pumpkin, lamb and rice, chicken and potato and fish and potato.

The other Healthy Hound partners are Tim Tseng and Chris Ouchida. All are self-described dog lovers and foodies. Indeed, the design of the new space will look and feel much like a food business for dog’s best friend.

“It’s an open-kitchen concept. You walk into the storefront and you can see all of the ingredients,” Tu said. “You can see us cooking everything. We wanted to have that open kitchen so our customers can feel comfortable there are no preservatives and no artificial ingredients.”

Healthy Hound Kitchen is planning to open in April.

While the idea is to start small and focus on customers in and around dog-friendly McKinley Park, “we will see how the reception is,” Tu said. “Obviously, we would love to expand.”

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob