• This is not your average hot dog. (Carlos Astudillo)Source: Carlos Astudillo
For chef Carlos Astudillo, the Chilean hot dog (completo) was a highlight at family gatherings. So he's serving it in Adelaide.
Elli Iacovou

2 Dec 2020 - 12:56 PM  UPDATED 25 Mar 2021 - 10:58 PM

Carlos Astudillo grew up just outside Santiago, Chile's capital city, and would always accompany his mother and grandmother to the travelling market to bargain for fresh produce. 

“The street vendors would rock up to the corner of where my grandmother lived every week and the whole neighbourhood would just walk around and do their grocery shopping, mostly of fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood,” Astudillo recalls.  

If the family ran out of perishables in between visits, they'd walk a few blocks to where the travelling market was rostered next or purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from their closest store.

“We always used fresh ingredients back in Chile. My mum, Aurora, and grandmama Eugenia were both fantastic cooks. They fed our family on a very tight budget [and the food was] always fresh, always delicious.” 

The market created a buzzing, but friendly atmosphere filled with street hawkers promoting their goods. “They would yell out to you, and back then [in] the late '80s, it was a little bit more 'acceptable' to say sweet words to ladies passing by to persuade them to come over to their store,” he says and laughs.  

On occasion, Astudillo would be treated to a sopaipilla, a deep-fried pumpkin pastry he'd devour while his mum and grandmother completed the shopping.

Upon returning home, the three of them would spend hours in the kitchen podding beans, chatting and drinking tea. “In winter, when the fresh beans came out, we'd buy large amounts and store them in the freezer to use throughout the warmer months,” he says.   

“Growing up, I really enjoyed being involved in the food preparations, even though in those initial years there were no thoughts of becoming a chef.”

In their home kitchen, Astudillo remembers smashing up avocados and cutting buns open and warming them to make his favourite food, a completo, a Chilean-style hot dog that also featured fresh tomato, pickled cabbage, tomato sauce, mustard and mayonnaise.

“It’s a bit of a street food in Chile: in Santiago, there’s a strip dedicated to recipe variations of completos where you can buy them for $4 with a beer. And at home, we had it once or twice a month, as it’s not exactly a healthy food,” he says.

In Chile, there’s a tradition of not eating dinner but instead having a big lunch feast, and enjoying an afternoon snack around 6pm. “The completo fits into any one of these times, either with a cup of tea or a beer with a splash of Fanta for more sweetness,” he says.  

“The reason I love the completo so much, beyond its taste, is because it’s linked to family time and there’s no formal dining arrangements. We just stand around, eat, drink and share stories.”  

Starting over in Australia

In 1990, when Astudillo had just turned six, his family migrated to Australia.

“We faced a lot of poverty in Chile due to political issues, so when my parents had the opportunity to migrate to Adelaide, where my uncle already lived, they took the leap of faith for a better life. We came over literally with nothing and not knowing a word of English,” he says.     

His father worked at the Holden factory, which employed a large portion of the Latin American community, and his mother (after raising her four children and gradually learning English) found financial independence employed as a cleaner.   

“The reason I love the completo so much, beyond its taste, is because it’s linked to family time and there’s no formal dining arrangements. We just stand around, eat, drink and share stories.” 

“When mum started working, I did a lot of the cooking for my siblings. I guess it was about helping around the house, cooking dinners and making school sandwiches.”

In Australia, Aurora would still make completo during family gatherings. “We didn’t have it as often as we would have liked – but with enough nagging, mum would make it for us over a weekend.”

More often the family would eat Chilean beef cazuela, a beef soup with whole pieces of corn, potatoes, rice, carrots and onions.

Completos, though, were always on the menu for Astudillo. As a young adult, he'd often make them when friends came over as a way to show them a bit of Chilean culture through food. 

A journey into professional cooking

By the time Astudillo finished high school, his father suddenly passed away – which was a bit of a shock.

“Feeling a bit lost at the time, I came across a woman who'd just done a chef course and when she told me about it, I thought it was worth a try. I used the bit of inheritance I received and enrolled in a six-month pre-apprenticeship cooking course and I fell in love with it,” Astudillo says.  

“It was exciting, interesting and complicated all at the same time. I didn’t know any chefs. I am the first professional cook in my circle of friends and family, but I was quite good. I finished top of the class and got my first set of professional knives as a prize.”

Chef Carlos Astudillo.

He had no idea how far he could go as a chef and scored his first job at a cafe.      

“After a few months, the chef at the cafe said: ‘If you don’t quit, I’m going to fire you. You need to go and do an apprenticeship, in different venues and learn different styles otherwise you’re going to spend the rest of your cooking career-making focaccias.’ I took that advice on board, quit and started an apprenticeship that lasted three years where I learned a bit of everything.”  

Astudillo’s 19-year journey as a professional chef saw him work at Hey Jupiter, Bird In Hand Winery, 2KW, Magill Estate. He also became the head chef at Georges on Waymouth.

For the last two years, he’s been running the catering department at Seymour College, an all-girls boarding and day school.

“I made the move for a better family life balance. I still have my finger on the pulse with some catering, occasional restaurant service and teaching cooking classes.”

Most recently he set up a stall at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, called Cuico & Co. 'Cuico' in Chilean slang translates as posh, and its menu included his much-loved completo, alongside 10 other Chilean street foods.

“The only thing that was different from the one I ate as a child was serving them in a normal bread bun, as it was hard to find a brioche,” he says. “But other than that, I made them with the best sausage available and focused on using the freshest produce including ripe tomatoes and delicious avocados.”

His dream is to one day open his own place and make Chilean food drawn from his family’s recipes and cooking practices. 

“My parents coming to Australia inspired me a lot because they took that leap of faith and tried to do better for themselves and for their family. Similarly, through food, I want to do better for myself and my family more than anything.”

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Carlos Astudillo's completo (Chilean hot dog)

Serves 4

This is the traditional recipe adapted to local ingredients.


  • 230 ml olive oil
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 100 ml white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 large tomato (around 200 g)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large avocado (or 2 small avocados)
  • 4 Vienna or American-style hot dog sausages
  • 4 brioche hot dog buns
  • Tomato sauce, to serve
  • American-style mustard, to serve
  • Mayonnaise, to serve

1. In a medium-size pot over low heat, add approximately 80 ml olive oil and sweat the cabbage for 1 minute. Add the vinegar and sugar. Cook for a further 4 minutes, stirring regularly. Place the cabbage mixture into a bowl and let cool.
2. Finely dice the tomato and transfer it into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and 100 ml of olive oil and set aside.
3. Cut open the avocado, scoop out the pulp and place into a bowl, discard the seed and skin. Using a whisk, fork or potato masher, smash the avocado till smooth, add 50 ml olive oil and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Heat sausages in simmering water in a wide pot until cooked, do not boil or it will split the sausage. Preheat the oven to 150˚C. Cut open the hot dog bun and warm in the oven for 7 minutes, until warm.
5. Strain each sausage and pat dry with a cloth or paper towel and place inside the bun.
6. To finish assembling each completo, add ¼ of the cooled braised cabbage on top of the sausage, then the diced tomato salsa, then the avocado and finally the sauces, as much or as little as you would like. I would also recommend some hot sauce to round it out.

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