If you grew up in Miami, you are probably intimately familiar with Chicken Kitchen.
The fast-casual restaurant chain is best known for its Chop Chop, chicken-topped rice and salad-based bowls that can be drizzled in the house’s “Mustard’n Curry” sauce, items that have become popular favorites and often imitated. – Pets from the menu.
While the brand has its roots in New York City, the company has flourished in South Florida, where owner Christian de Berdouare has grown the business over the past three decades.
Today, the Miami-based chain has 20 locations, including Fort Lauderdale’s newest store, which opened last November.
However, it was not a quick success for the chain built from a single store. As the story goes, in 1985, De Berdouare left his native France with a few thousand dollars in his pocket and moved to the United States in search of the American dream. In New York City, the young entrepreneur was eager to start a business, but had no idea what it would be.
While walking along the Upper East Side of Manhattan, he came across a narrow 300-square-foot restaurant at the corner of 62 Street and Second Avenue that sold bone-in chunks of chicken served over Spanish rice and tabbouleh. De Berdouare bought the Greek-owned family business, which was called Chicken Kitchen, and in 1989 moved the operation to Miami.
“During those early years, it was all blood, sweat and tears. I spent every day, all day, on the grill cooking, from 10 am to 9 pm, seven days a week,” says De Berdouare. New Times. He would marinate and grill the chicken while his cousin, Laurence Sammut, acted as manager, waiter, and cashier.
At the time, the Chicken Kitchen menu focused on meal-sized dishes: bone-in wings, breasts, thighs and legs that are sold alongside a handful of sides.
One day, while recovering from dental surgery, Sammut decided to modify his usual food for something easier to eat. “He needed something soft and easy to chew, so he asked our line cook to remove the white meat from the bone, cut it into small pieces and add it to some yellow rice,” recalls De Berdouare. “That week, it became his favorite food.”
It soon landed on the menu and became a hit.
“Before the Chipotle burrito bowl or Pollo Tropical Tropi-Chop, there was the Chicken Kitchen Chop-Chop,” boasts De Berdouare. “Our chef Alex just called it what it was: a ‘chop chop,’ this slang term for minced chicken mixed with rice. And so we practically invented the rice bowl.”
The original Chop-Chop was a simple combination of diced chicken served over rice with a variety of sauce, but it wasn’t long before customers began requesting additional ingredients, from lettuce and tomato to sour cream, guacamole, and cheese. .
“The rest is basically history,” says De Berdouare, who remodeled the menu around the Chop-Chop in 2015. “It was a huge change, going from selling bone-in chicken to these bowls for what quickly became the 90’s. percent of our income. ”
Perhaps the only thing more famous than Chop-Chop is the brand’s iconic sauce. After more than three decades, the Mustard’n Curry is a true secret recipe developed by the founder of the original New York location, who invented it in the early 1980s.
While several restaurants have tested the knockoffs, none have been able to determine the precise ratio of mayo, mustard, and spices to replicate Chicken Kitchen’s sauce. Like another chicken magnate, De Bergouare claims that only he knows the recipe.
Now, after 36 years of perseverance, de Berdouare says he plans to bring his original vision for a Chicken Kitchen acquisition to life. While Miami-Dade and Broward are the focus in 2022, their sights are on Boca and Palm Beach County in 2023.
“We’re basically doubling the business with more than 40 company-owned stores,” says de Berdouare. “It’s a dream come true to find this success in our Miami home, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Famous for many things, including the sale of Pablo Esbobar’s Miami Beach mansion in 2020, De Berdouare has had many hats over the years, from real estate investor to entrepreneur. But his favorite title is “Chief Chickenologist,” the spokesman for his Chicken Kitchen restaurant chain who wears oversized glasses and a white lab coat.