Nashville Hot Chicken is Still in the Heart of its Hometown’s Culture

Nashville Hot Chicken started in a small way almost 100 years ago. Now, the unique chicken style is famous all over the country. Many hot chicken restaurants in Tennessee city are fighting for the top spot because so many people want to try the dish. At the same time, big fast food chains like KFC, Baja Fresh, Dave’s Hot Chicken, and others are adding Nashville hot chicken to their offerings more and more.

Technomic, a food service research and consulting company, says that the Nashville hot chicken trend picked up quickly during the pandemic and peaked at the end of 2022. A lot more people talked about Nashville hot chicken from the first quarter of 2020 to the second quarter of that same year. Over the last five years, it’s grown even more, by 65.7%.

The Story of Nashville’s Hot Chicken

However, Nashville hot chicken isn’t just a hot new thing. Semone Jeffries, the CEO of Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville and the great-great-niece of Thornton Prince, says that the dish’s unofficial roots can be found in his kitchen in the 1930s.

The story goes that Prince’s ex-lover wanted to teach him a lesson after a sketchy night out. The lesson came in the form of what the restaurant calls a “devilish” amount of spices and flavor on top of a gently fried chicken.

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Jeffries said that recipe was soon improved and turned into a Nashville classic, becoming an important part of the lives of Black people in the area. On top of the chicken are pickles and a mix of spices. The dish is served with fries on a warm piece of bread. Even though a lot has changed in the city since Thornton Prince’s first hot chicken, Prince’s is still one of its most beloved landmarks.

“The care we put into our hot chicken is what makes it the most interesting.” Things don’t just happen for us. Jeffries told CNBC, “We cook almost to order and don’t usually use warmers.” His mother owns the restaurant right now. The statement “Everything is intentional.”

As soon as Prince became famous, other cooks in the city opened their hot chicken restaurants and food trucks. The dish became a symbol of the city.

Kara Nielsen, an expert on food trends, says that the Nashville hot chicken trend is a “controversial topic” because it has been taken from its roots as a Black-owned local business. Nielsen said that it became popular around eight years ago, but Nashville had Prince’s Hot Chicken for decades before it became popular across the country.

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Nielsen said, “In the last few years, a lot of foods that may have come from certain communities have been taken over by mass pop culture without giving credit where credit is due. Other people then use it to make money, and the people who started it aren’t getting enough credit.” “That’s why it gets so touchy: I think this is also an interesting story of taking from Black culture.”

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