If you’ve never heard about Nashville-style hot chicken, it’s certainly time to get familiar. Hot chicken not only brings the heat, but also is cooked to perfection with secret spices that are passed down with care from generation-to-generation. Today, Kim Prince, the owner of LA’s Hotville Chicken, has been carrying the torch, bringing her family’s deeply rooted hot chicken creations to Los Angeles.
Reaching as far back as the 1930s, Prince said it was her great-great Uncle Thornton Prince who, along with his brothers, started the hot chicken tradition in Nashville. Legend has it that hot chicken’s origin was rooted in a not so favorable circumstance when a vengeful love interest added some unexpected heat to Uncle Thornton’s food, leaving his mouth sweltering with spice. From there, the Prince family gave birth to the BBQ Hot Chicken Shack in 1936, later undergoing a name change to Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in the 1980s.
During its early years, Prince said that her family was located in a segregated part of town, but it was the smell of the chicken across the miles that brought people together. “Most of the patrons starting off were of color, however, the scents of hot chicken would travel miles, and people would smell it and they would follow it,” she said. “People of all different nationalities and colors to this day, they make a trek to Nashville and now they’re coming here to try hot chicken”.
Recently, the Sentinel got the opportunity to experience just what hot chicken is all about. Visiting Prince’s Hotville Chicken pop-up at a swanky loft in LA’s arts district, the mood was set with checkered placemats, cherry red cool aid, delicious sides, pickles to control the heat, , and of course lots of spicy hot chicken, and new friends.
In November 2016, Prince joined the popular food app Feastly, allowing foodies from all over to search for their next dinner experience. Once the user finds and selects Hotville Chicken, they are later provided with the address to a “secret” dinner location, where patrons experience an exclusive, interactive and open concept dinner amongst friends.
As a restaurateur who happens to be a woman of color, Prince says while she’s faced some adversity when based in the South; she simply keeps her focus on building her community by way of hot chicken. “I really don’t look at it like that, as being a woman or being a woman of color with a business,” she said. “I will say fried chicken is an equalizer, fried chicken is a regulator, fried chicken is like water, everybody needs it,” she declared.
While the original Prince’s Hot Chicken still remains in Nashville, Prince says that it was critical for her to be educated about business decisions before bringing the brand to L.A. “It was important for me to do my homework first. I researched, I contacted the Health Department and the city [of Los Angeles], I really found out what I needed to do,” Prince said. “I partnered up with really wise restaurant owners here in the city to find out what are the pitfalls, what are the good and the bad and the ugly of what you do in the business,” she continued. Fellow restaurateur and supporter, Greg Dulan says Prince is certainly on the right track. “Kim is a very astute businesswoman. She is bringing a way of southern cooking to L.A. from Nashville that is only just beginning,” he said. In coming weeks, Hotville Chicken will be hosting a popup at Dulan’s on Crenshaw.
While’s Prince’s hot chicken pop-up craze continues to skyrocket, Prince says that she does plan to secure a brick and mortar location and food truck in 2018. As far as the look and feel, Prince is going for rustic with hints of metal in a fast casual, yet folksy environment. “I really want to stay true to the roots of what hot chicken is so people get the most accurate representation of what my great-great uncle Thornton started back in the 1930s,” Prince said.
Overall, the hot chicken Queen says she wants patrons to feel like they’re right at home, like they are walking into their grandma’s house and sharing food amongst family. “I’m excited about providing an opportunity for people in L.A. to come and try my menu,” Prince said. “Nashville style hot chicken isn’t going anywhere, it’s not a trend. What my family started back in the 1930s is something that will be shared for generations to come,” she declared.
By Brittany K. Jackson, Los Angeles Sentinel