Q+A: Lisa Hennessy Cooks For Modern Wolves aka. DOGS!

Lisa Hennessy is the personal chef for a special and picky at times client list: doggies! The furry things love her food as much as their parents, though, and with her cookbooks, you too can cook her awesome recipes at home…


How exactly does cooking versus buying dog food save money?

Making your own dog food can save you money in a couple of ways. First, by selecting your own ingredients, you can take advantage of sale items at the local supermarket. Not only does this help save money, but it gives your dog variety in the meals you will prepare. Second, by feeding your dog a natural, non-processed diet, you are not introducing the chemicals used in commercial dog food into their system. This will allow them to live a longer, healthier life with fewer visits to the veterinarian.

When you host demonstrations, what do most people want to know?

They want to see exactly how I make the food which includes. Most people think it’s an overwhelming process and I try to break it down into simple steps that anyone can do. It’s very rewarding to me when I see people’s faces and the light bulb goes on – they get it!  You can see them thinking “I can do this!” I love that part!

You’re a big fan of fish oil tablets. Not everyone has access to these pills. Is it ever OK to use fish oil in the actual oil form, like the kind used for Asian cooking? How much is enough oil?

Fish oil is a fabulous supplement for dogs. It acts like a lubricant for joints, keeps the skin and coat soft, and helps keep eyes healthy. Capsules or pills are the easiest way to add these to your dog’s diet, but liquid form is also great.  I would recommend a daily dosage of a teaspoon for dogs weighing 40 pounds (approximately 18 kilograms) or less and a tablespoon for dogs weighing 41 pounds or more.

I love the recipes in your book and know they would work well because my family for generations cooked for the dogs. This was long before Iams came along. Everyone did it back then. While they used organs, much like you, I would feel uncomfortable cooking with animal organs. What can I substitute instead of things like hearts or liver? A chicken fillet?

Organ meat is a crucial component in any properly prepared homemade meal for your dog. Think about it like this. When you watch National Geographic and lions are hunting, the top members of the pride eat first and what do they eat? The organs. They do this because the organs contain critical minerals that are essential for good health. For example, beef liver contains copper, iron, and zinc. Chicken hearts contain vitamins B6 and B12. Pork kidneys contain selenium, thiamin, and riboflavin. Most people dislike this part of the process the most. Here’s a helpful hint. When making food with odorous organs, pour in some blueberries or a banana in the food processor. This will help eliminate some of the unpleasant odor and it adds additional vitamins and antioxidants to your dog’s food. Everybody wins!

When we see things like cookies for dogs and cats, are these foods too processed for a healthy diet? Like the pet version of Oreos?

Most treats these days are overly processed with a lot of unnecessary chemicals and additives. It’s very easy to make healthy treats at home. Try this super simple one: Take a sweet potato or rutabaga, slice to about 1/8” thick, brush with some olive oil or fish oil and bake in the oven at 250 degrees for about 3 hours. These treats are very easy to cut up into small pieces for training or in large pieces as a chew. Your dog will love them!

How can humans match a special dinner with their dogs’ food? You have holiday cookbooks. What are good meal companions?

It’s very easy to make a good meal companion. I would recommend looking at the ingredients used remove any that might be either harmful or difficult to digest. This list would include grains, onions and grapes. If you’re making breakfast, it’s easy to share an omelette with your dog. Make your dog’s omelette with eggs, a protein like ham, peppers and cheese and he’ll be happy and feel full all day long! If you’re making dinner, a one pot stew with beef or pork, potatoes and vegetables will make a great special doggy meal. Make one bowl for you and one bowl for your dog. It’s as easy as that!

There’s a big cat whisker on my iPad. Don’t ask me what the cat did, but it’s there. What funny things do your pets do that made you want to be a pet gourmet chef?

My dogs love that I’m a gourmet pet chef for many reasons. First, they get to eat all of the left overs we have when we make our customer’s food. Second, they get to eat our “test kitchen” samples. While writing our cookbooks, we perfect our recipes by making them a few times each. My dogs are lucky recipients of these tests. In their opinion, they all taste great! We have a ritual when it comes to feeding time in our house. Each dog has a specific place they sit while we get the food assembled in their bowls. We then say “Who’s ready?” and they all run to their crates or places and eagerly wait for their bowls.  It’s the quietest 2 minutes in our house all day!

I originally started making food for my dogs when my rough collie Shelby was diagnosed with a degenerative disease. From there, I started to make food for my other dogs and now 5 years later, I make food for about 100 different dogs and that number grows every day. I love to deliver our food and see how happy it makes the dogs and their owners. I have the best job in the world!

This article originally appeared en español on my ELLE Spain blog.

ELLE Spain discontinued their freelance blog journalism program in 2016. I have republished it on NicoleRussinMcFarland.com once again so my journalism may live on. I am grateful for the experiences I had from 2011-2016 writing for my personal Spanish language blog, revista ELLE for providing the blog, and the time from all of my interviewees.