How a game show appearance fueled this Long Island man’s fried chicken biz


Josh Gatewood, the founder of Yankee Doodle’s Dandy’s fried chicken, had moved to New York City for a finance job that later fell through.

That’s where he dreamed up a restaurant concept centered around the fried chicken he had come to love at the University of Tennessee.

The chicken there was like nothing he had ever tasted growing up in Connecticut.

But there was one major problem.

He was sorely lacking in funds. Yet he was confident.

So to bankroll the restaurant he envisioned, Gatewood tried and tried again to land a spot on the hit TV game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” For him, fourth time was a charm.

That’s when his number was called.

Yankee Doodle Dandy founder Josh Gatewood with former ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ host Meredith Vieira. (courtesy)

When Gatewood appeared on the show in 2012, he was asked what he would do with the million dollars — should he win. He didn’t even blink.

“I’m going to start Yankee Doodle Dandy’s in New York City,” he said.

Spoiler alert: Gatewood didn’t win the million dollars. But he did take home $25,000.

And that was enough for a food truck.

A year later he launched the instantly popular Yankee Doodle Dandy’s all-American food truck in New York City, which 10 years later he parlayed into an Islip location with a business partner, Anthony Mastrantonio. Now, the pair is getting set to open a second Yankee Doodle Dandy’s brick-and-mortar location on the Island — this time on Railroad Avenue in Babylon Village.

How Long Island happened

The American Club: hand-breaded chicken tenders served on Texas toast and more. (Facebook)

Along the way, Gatewood was offered the opportunity to set up his American food truck outside the Nassau Coliseum for Islanders games, back when the team was splitting time with Brooklyn.

The Coliseum gig was also a hit, but perhaps more importantly, it led to him to meet his future partner, Mastrantonio, a Long Islander who ran a different food truck at the games.

Together they opened the first Yankee Doodle Dandy’s shop at 454 Main Street in Islip. Now, it’s over to Babylon, where the second shop is set to open across from the LIRR station within weeks.

And the food truck is still in operation in the city.

“I love the idea of it being in Babylon because of the people who commute to New York City,” Gatewood said. “And doing the food truck in the city for [over] 10 years adds the brand value to the commuters who would recognize me from the food truck.” 

As the name, that dates back to 1600s, when his ancestors came to what is now the United States. The song Yankee Doodle was used by the British to mock how the Americans dressed. Eventually, the Americans embraced the song, giving it patriotic meaning. Naturally, with the type of food they specialize in, it felt like the perfect name.

“It’s such uniquely American, and we specialize in American food,” Gatewood said.

If you go

The second Long Island shop is set to open across from the LIRR station. (Credit: Nick Esposito)

The “Winner Winner” is the clear favorite among those who’ve had the pleasure of stopping at Yankee Doodle Dandy’s in Islip for a meal. It’s four-hand breaded chicken tenders, served with natural-cut fries, Texas toast, Spirit of ‘76 sauce (their signature sauce), and Gatewood’s mother’s homemade potato salad recipe. But you’ll also find a grilled cheese, chicken salad, club sandwich and more on the menu.

The Yankee Doodle Dandy’s food truck on the streets of Manhattan. (courtesy)

Top: Josh Gatewood of Yankee Doodle Dandy eating off his own food truck in midtown Manhattan in 2020. (Credit: Yankee Doodle Dandy on Facebook)

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