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Celeb Shot: Dom Tesoriero
An animated NYC native tells the story of how Saratoga Race Course's iconic Mac Truck came to be. PLUS: Croquet, Phish (?) and, at last, Chick-fil-A.
This is the story of a devout worshipper of the Spa—not necessarily the racing itself, but everything that comes with it. It’s the story of a young, talented chef whose humble food truck took him on a wild ride to the precipice of Food Network fame and beyond. And it’s the story of a beloved member of the Saratoga Race Course community who has taken it upon himself to mentor the next generation of Saratoga-lovers. This is the story of Dom Tesoriero.
Not yet acquainted with Dom? Then maybe you know his bright yellow mac and cheese truck at the track—even though it’s on wheels, it’s a bona fide landmark. For me, it’s how I locate my friend’s picnic table that he nabs pretty much every Saturday morning of racing season: Find the Mac Truck, and take a left. For other (non-vegan) track-goers, the unmoving food truck is a beacon for another reason: quality mac and cheese served by a familiar face.
While I’ve only been using it for navigational purposes for a few years now, the Mac Truck has been posting up in the track’s backyard for much longer—more than a decade. In fact, though the Mac Truck’s claim to fame is the fact that it was the first of its kind in New York City, it actually sold its first bowl of mac right here inside Saratoga Race Course’s hallowed grounds.
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But this isn’t a story only about mac and cheese.
SLAH: So, Dom, how did you come to own a mac and cheese truck?
DT: That’s a fun story. Let’s go back to 2011. Previously, I was a chef for the US Olympic team, and I did Torino, Beijing and Vancouver. One of the chefs that I worked with was the executive chef for Centerplate, the food and beverage company that did everything at the track before Sodexo. She asked me, “Do you want to come up to Saratoga and make Manhattan clam chowder?” And I was like, “Hey, sure—I’d love to go to Florida.” You know? I'd lived in the City my whole life. I’d never heard of it.
But you came anyway.
Apparently there was a chowder man here for 25 years who made this Manhattan clam chowder, and he was very famous. At the time I had a lot less gray hair—I was about 26 years old. I had a little backwards Yankees hat on and all the bosses here came to the chowder bar and were like “You’re making the chowder?” I looked like a kid. So, long and short of it, I make the chowder after chowder man retires and everyone loves it. And I become kind of indispensable to this racetrack.
Season ends, and a year later I had this idea for a macaroni and cheese food truck. I’m like, “What better place to try to launch than Saratoga?" So they asked me if I’d be willing to come back and make the soup again and I said the only way I’d come back and make the soup is if they let me bring my macaroni and cheese truck—which did not exist at the time. I had literally less than three weeks. I rented a pizza truck from some guy on Staten Island, me and my buddy came up with a brand, we had it wrapped and I drove it up here. I made the chowder in the morning, worked the mac and cheese truck all day, then made mac and cheese at night. Oh my god. It was a very challenging 40 days. I would be in the middle of the busiest part of the day at the truck and somebody from the chowder bar would come out and be like, “We’re running out of chowder!” There’d be like 40 people on line. I’d be like, “Hold up a minute,” and run and put together more chowder as quickly as I could and run out. I worked by myself because I couldn’t afford staff that first season. But people loved it. Needless to say, the following year I was invited back to Saratoga with the truck, and I didn’t have to make the chowder anymore. But I’ll never forget that I was literally called chowder boy for two summers.
How did your brand grow from there?
So I started the truck here in Saratoga, and then rolled into New York City. We were the first macaroni and cheese truck in the New York City area. To be the first person to do anything in New York City is kind of challenging. So we got a lot of press and people started coming to the truck to feature it on this show or that show. And then, as they got to know me, they realized I was a culinary school graduate and had worked for some great chefs and traveled around the world, so they’re like how about you for a certain show? So I was on a show called Food Network Star, which was hosted by Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis. The premise was you go on and if you win the show, you get your own Food Network show. Rachel Ray directed my pilot for that series. I made it all the way to the end and came up as a finalist. The show aired during track season so here at Saratoga people were coming up, taking pictures—it was the craziest. We had our finale party at the Horseshoe.
What was the upshot?
From that opportunity I met my current business partner and that’s when things really just took off. The Mac Truck as a business was established. Fast forward all these years later—I’m glad that I’m not on TV but at the same time I’m glad that I had that opportunity. I’m more of an “in the truck” guy than an “out in front” kind of person.
We’re here right now with Adrian Alvarado—the son of jockey Junior Alvarado—who’s working for you this summer. Are there a lot of jockeys and other track personalities who frequent the Mac Truck?
I can tell you one right now. Since Adrian was in a stroller his family has been coming here. All these years later, he’s my best employee and his dad’s having a great season. It’s his first job. Now more people come to see him than me. He’s now the food celebrity at the racetrack. And I’m just getting gray hair and hanging out inside.
[At this point, I asked Adrian how Dom is as a boss, to which he replied “Amazing.”]
Good answer. He’s getting a raise.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out, like you 12 years ago?
When you come into this place, people might look at you as a fly by night. But if you have it in you to gut it out and stick it out and establish yourself here? There’s not a more welcoming community in the world.
What do you love about Saratoga?
We do New York City Comic Con. We do Governor’s Ball Music Festival. I’ve done big events all over the country with this business, but nothing is quite like Saratoga. Saratoga is one of those places that, even after all these years, every time I drive into this racetrack or come into town, I get that certain type of feeling—that “home” feeling.”
What has Mac Truck grown into?
We now manufacture and distribute nationwide. We’re in Cisco, PFG, US Foods, Cheney Brothers in Florida. We have a location at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and they buy our products and run the stands for us. We have four locations at US Bank Stadium with the Minnesota Vikings. We’re crushing it.
And not to digress, but when I opened this, I had no money. Centerplate laid out the money for all my ingredients up front and then took it off at the end to give me a shot. So to be here all these years later? I would never miss it. I don’t care if we sell a billion dollars’ worth of macaroni and cheese or not. I’m always going to be here at Saratoga. I’m always going to be here at this truck.
Save the Date
AIM Services’ Croquet on the Green fundraiser returns to Gavin Park on the afternoon of August 1! Watch representatives from local companies battle it out in the annual croquet tournament while enjoying food by Wandering Food Dude, beverages by Saratoga Eagle and live music by Jeff Brisbin. There will also be yard games, a silent auction, and a raffle for a glamping getaway. If you’ve never been to this event before, check out our Vibe Check from 2022.
Rumor Has It
Is Saratoga’s favorite jam band really coming to SPAC to play a two-night benefit concert to raise funds for Vermonters affected by this month’s historic flooding? It’s not confirmed, but that’s the word on the street. Phish has performed at SPAC 22 times, but hasn’t played the venue since 2019, so a return visit would definitely draw a crowd. Oh, and did we mention that the purported dates are August 25 and 26—aka Travers weekend—when there are essentially no hotel rooms available? Two Round Lake–based Phish fans are already scheming to set up an impromptu campground on their property for the weekend.
The Other Cide
Funny Cide was famous throughout the horse racing world when he won the Kentucky Derby at 12-1 odds and then went on to win the Preakness as well. But in Saratoga, Funny Cide is a local legend. The New York-bred gelding, owned by Saratoga-based Sackatoga Stable, passed away on Sunday at the age of 23. “He changed my life,” said Sackatoga managing partner Jack Knowlton after hearing the news.
Send a bit of Saratoga history to your out-of-town friends and family! This season, Annie Johnson of the Turf History Times has released a series of four postcards featuring stories from the earliest Saratoga race meets entitled "Saratoga Horse Racing History: The John Morrissey Years, 1863-1877." Order them on Etsy or pick one up downtown at The Dark Horse Mercantile.
At Long Last
[Click on the sky in the above Instagram post to see the long line of cars at the Clifton Park locatoin on Opening Day.]
After years of pining for a Chick-fil-A to open in the Spa City, Saratogians finally got their wish. Well, sort of. The new franchise opened in Clifton Park (it’s Saratoga County, so we’ll count it) on Thursday, the same day another Chick-fil-A location opened in North Greenbush. And Capital Regionites came out in full force to celebrate with a chicken sandwich.
From the Mag
On Wednesday, we published our annual Opening Weekend Report, highlighting what’s new, what’s hot and what to do at the track this year. Hint: It involves IV therapy and a 3,800-pound Secretariat statue.