Note to self: Think twice before putting Chicken & Waffles on the menu!!
This post is a bit belated, as Chicken & Waffles have been off the menu for about a month now, but I was reminded of this sentiment when I ate at Boiler Room the other night and spoke to the chef, Cody, about how much Amish Chicken they were going through a week.
Cody told me they were going through about 3 cases a week. When we ran Chicken & Waffles, we went through 6 cases.
To put this in context:
Boiler Room seats at least twice as many people as Ruxbin, is incredibly busy and successful, and is open for lunch and dinner, whereas Ruxbin is only open for dinner. For the amount of services we’re open and the size of our space, that’s an insane amount of chicken.
It all started when I got the idea to do a riff on Chicken & Waffles for our fall menu. The dish consisted of a pan roasted chicken breast, a cumin and cheddar waffle that was split, then stuffed with the leg and thigh which we would confit, shred, and make nice and crispy in a saute pan, apple and red onion compote, and a savory citrus gravy. We thought it would be fun and playful, and our fingers were crossed that people would like it.
People loved the dish, and it quickly became the crowd favorite, outpacing our second most popular entree 2:1.
To keep up with the demand we had to literally buy a case of Chicken every single day. It got to the point that we would have daily races to see who could break-down whole chickens the fastest, with me and our dishwasher/prep-cook, Andy, topping off the list, and constantly battling back and forth. We got so good that we could break down a whole case together in less than 8 minutes flat. That’s 24 chickens, both breasts and thighs removed, cleaned and squared off, divided among 2 highly motivated cooks, fabricating whole chickens at a rate of 40 seconds per chicken. To keep it fun we would make small wagers to see who could break down a case fastest, and I strongly believe that we would have gotten even faster if Andy didn’t lose his nerve in the end and back-out when I suggested that if he won I would agree to grow a mustache and if he lost he would shave his off.
At this point we were selling so much chicken that Vicki would bemoan the fact that we would need to have someone stationed just to slice the chicken breast as it came out of the oven during service. I would half-joke that we probably sold more Chicken & Waffles than 90% of the Waffle houses in the city, and our protein cooler was quickly taken over by all the chicken wings, tenders, and the chicken carcasses that we didn’t have room for on our menu.
Overwhelmed by this mountain of ever-growing chicken parts and not knowing what else to do, our solution was to try to consume it. Staff meals had gone from a fairly balanced meal of protein, starch, and greens, to what just seemed like chicken, chicken, and more chicken.
Payton, one of our trusty line-cooks, was sick of making coleslaw everyday, I was sick of feeling like the head butcher of a chicken factory, Jenny was just plain sick of eating family meal, and in fear of her wasting away, I had to man-up and put an end to this whole Chicken madness.
This wasn’t an easy decision to come to; at this point there was a palpable fear that if we took Chicken & Waffles off our menu we would anger the masses. But I said to myself, “I am no slave to any one dish!”, and I finally found the courage to do so.
It also helped that as I was coming to this decision, in the middle of dinner service, the waffle maker broke down.
Perhaps he’ll make another cameo in the future.