Hot Chicken Fest Cooking Contest: Watch Our Boss Get Hot Under the Collar on July 4

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  • HotChickenFest on Twitter
No, Chris Ferrell hasn't finally discovered Mr. Pink's cache of receipts from the Great Escape that he turned in for reimbursement labeled "research." Nor has he discovered that Nicki and I are still working here after lo, all these many years, despite the fact that we try to keep our profile in the Gulch office as low as possible.

Nope, our fearless leader is going to get red-faced for another reason this Monday, July 4, as a volunteer judge for The City Paper and Nashville Scene Amateur Cooking Contest, as part of the annual Music City Hot Chicken Festival. Chris will be joined by Hizzonor Mayor Karl Dean, Hizzformerhonor Mayor Bill Purcell, the “Spice Dude” Charlie Tambellini of Further Foods and Talk of the Town’s brave stalwarts Meryll Rose and Lelan Statom.

As co-founder of the festival and the most noted evangelist of hot chicken before a certain rail-thin blond actress had one of her assistants taste a bite and describe it to her, Mayor Purcell is quite the get as a judge and should inspire the same beads of forehead sweat on the contestants as their chicken had better create on his dome.

Six teams will compete to win this year's coveted title of Hot Chicken Kitchen King (or Queen) and the accompanying bad-ass plastic trophy. This year’s competitors include:

The Hot Chicks. Inspired by a passion for Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, this group of guys attributes their Indian heritage to their love of all things spicy.

The Producers of Heat. Armed with a new recipe and new team member Donald Cockrill, Errica Rutledge is back again this year to try her hand in cooking up some heat.

Abomb’s Chicken. With promises of long-lasting effects and watery eyes, Aaron Burton’s hot chicken refuses to disappoint.

Brother Bill’s Kickin’ Chicken.
Paul Buckner is cooking in honor of the man who kick-started his love of heat: his late father, former East Nashville pastor Reverend William T. Buckner.

Slap Yo Momma Good Hot Chicken. Yankee by birth and Southerner by choice, Bud Friley promises to cook up what he calls the “Holy Grail” of hot chicken.

Nick’s Hot Chicks. Nick Worley calls himself the “Illustrious Potentate” of hot chicken, and he wants to prove to you that he can cook up one mean bird.

Cooking begins at 12:30 p.m., and contestants have exactly one hour to prepare their recipe for judges to sample. The winner will be announced from the main stage at 2.

The Hot Chicken Festival is a free event 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at East Park, 700 Woodland St. There will be free chicken samples for the first 500 folks, then you can repair to the shaded food garden to purchase more food and drink. There will also be live music and kids' activities. All festival proceeds go toward Friends of Shelby Park and Bottoms.

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Vendors at the event include:

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack
Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish
The Chicken Shack
400 Degrees
Pepperfire Hot Chicken
B&C BBQ
Otter's Chicken Tenders
East Side Fish
The Dog of Nashville
Fleur de Lis Flavors
Nashville Farmers' Market
Yazoo Brewery
Pied Piper Eatery

For more information, visit www.hotchickenfestival.com.

Follow the Hot Chicken Festival on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HotChickenFest.

Organizers promise long lines in the sun waiting for free hot chicken. Well, they actually didn't promise that, but I know that everyone in the comments will begin to pile on anyway. So if you go in expecting to wait in the sun on the Fourth of July for some free hot chicken, the only way you can be disappointed is if the lines turn out to be shorter than expected and the weather is less than infernal. A guy can dream, can't he?

A quick historical aside, although Mayor Purcell certainly deserves accolades as the spiritual creator of the Festival, Nicki encountered an old entry from the Scene's Best of Nashville in 2004 that indicates the credit should at least be shared:

Best Proposed Food Event: A Hot Chicken Festival. Other than the traditional meat-and-three, Nashville's most indigenous — and curious — cuisine is hot chicken. If you haven't had it, it comes as advertised. The bird is fried in a batter that includes so much red pepper (and other unknown spices) that eating it essentially scours away the lining of your lower intestines. Even when you eat it on a cold day, even when you order the mild instead of the medium or hot (or God forbid, the extra hot), your forehead gushes sweat like a garden hose. The heat is unspeakably harsh. But hot chicken has a huge following here in Nashville — and not only that, its biggest promoter is Mayor Bill Purcell. On a recent lunch outing ... Mayor Purcell ordered the hot breast at Prince's Hot Chicken off Dickerson Road — and in his cool, collected way, he didn't even break a sweat as he downed his bird. Others at the table—including myself, and I was only eating the medium — just wilted. So if Memphis has a barbecue festival, we should be able to put on a fine Hot Chicken festival. Tom Jurkovich, the mayor's top economic-development official, was recently throwing around this idea, and we concur. Bring on the heat.

Bruce Dobie wrote it up, but it seems Tom Jurkovich may have thought it up. Thanks to everyone who made this dream a reality.

UPDATE: The Chicken Shack has had to cancel this year's appearance at the festival due to "unforeseen personal circumstances." We look forward to having them back next year.

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