Chef Chad Rosenthal: Breaking Culinary (and BBQ) Boundaries

Man presenting a burger on a tray with a smile.

Chef Chad Rosenthal is a man of many chops. He’s the chef and brains behind The Lucky Well and Motel Fried Chicken, a television superstar, and a father of two. We talk to Chef Chad on how he got started in the culinary world (with an easy bake oven!), how he makes barbecue special, and how he pivoted successfully in times of COVID. Chef Chad also shares how he recently incorporated meat made from plants onto his menus, and why it’s important to open doors of opportunity for others.  

This episode is hosted by Nicole Astra.

Listen to more of the Ridiculously Good podcast here.

Read the full transcript of the episode below:

Nicole: Welcome to the ridiculously good podcast where we talk to people who are ridiculously good at what they do. Learn how they got there and uncover firsthand insights about their industries. I’m Nicole Astra and my guest today is a nationally recognized self-taught chef who has been in the kitchen since he was just five years old.

Chad Rosenthal is a successful restaurateur. Having opened a handful of barbecue and comfort spots across Philadelphia. Over the past two decades, Chad has appeared on several local and national television shows, including two seasons of Food Network Star, Chopped Grill Master, and Good Morning America.

Constantly on the hunt for new flavors and inspirations. He recently partnered with TiNDLE for their US debut with a delicious motel fried TiNDLE sandwich in New York. Motel fried chicken is his newest experience that is taking the country by storm one chicken sandwich at a time. Chef, welcome to the program.

Chad: Thanks so much. That was great. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Nicole: There you go. So I guess, firstly, I want to start

Chad: You miss beat Bobby Flay though. I’m on next Thursday night. You gotta watch it.

Nicole: Ooh. See, we’re getting the scoop. So the first thing that jumps out to me is self-taught Chad. So where did this all begin for you?

Chad: When I was five, I asked my dad for an easy bake oven. And I’m 46 right now. So like 41 years ago, if you know, a boy asked his dad for an easy bake oven, it’s a very risky, weird thing. So he has a, you know, ask all his friends, make sure it was okay, but he got me the oven and one thing led to another and I’m here today.

So I’ve cooked my whole life and just fell in love with cooking and teaching myself things and learning barbecue and opening restaurants. And now I’m working with TiNDLE.

Nicole: And I can’t even imagine how much you’ve learned along the way, but if you weren’t a chef, what do you think you’d be doing to earn a living?

Chad: I think I guess I’d be a salesman for sure. You know, out of college, I went to the Ohio state university in Columbus and, and I was about to graduate. I was a fine arts major and about to graduate college. And I said to my dad. I want to go to culinary school and he said, what the hell do you want to do that for?

It’s like, you want to, you know, work when everyone else wants to play. And kind of talked me out of it and I, I needed a job. So, I found an entry level job right out of college for a print, like a print sales training. Basically, training to sell direct mail, like junk mail, right. You know, I trained for a few months and then all of a sudden took over to the New York territory and then the DC territory.

And then it took me down to Memphis, Tennessee, where I had a very large account called FedEx federal express, and I spent a ton of time. I was 22 years old and I had an expense account and I was living in Memphis, Tennessee and learn how to make barbecue. And it was pretty cool and took me all over the world and just one thing led to another.

I ended up buying a little barbecue restaurant and that was the cliff notes. But back to your original question, I’d be a salesman. I like to talk and I liked even selling my products that, you know, I create in the kitchen and I think it translates really well to a restaurateur, and being able to, you know, keep people happy and coming back for your product.

Nicole: Oh, there we go. That’s what I was thinking. That’s what I was thinking. Chad was that it’s got to translate so nicely into what you’re doing now, because I mean, you can’t open a restaurant without sales, right? You gotta be able to market and talk about yourself, but also the fine arts. When I talk about the restaurant industry you know, chefs in general, I do say art really instead of the industry.

So it’s like a little full circle for you.

Chad: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I, I, you know, it’s, it’s, I started cooking at a really young age and I think even though I’m in the barbecue world and when you hear barbecue and really, you know, American barbecue, it’s heavy and it’s about smoking meats and throwing them on a tray and certain bits.

But what I do here at the lucky well is, it’s an elevated form of barbecue. And people come in here thinking they’re going to get ribs on a plate. And you know, I think one thing that came really natural to me was plating and the art of plating, whether it’s a simple chicken sandwich or a TiNDLE plant-based chicken sandwich or ribs on a tray I think, you know, the one thing that I guess I learned in the art world that I never thought would have translated to me in the real world is, composition on a plate, which is the same as a canvas and everything else.

So it’s definitely helped me in the long run.

Nicole: Yeah. You know, we’re going to get off topic and man, Chad, I hope we can still be friends after I tell you this, but I’m a vegetarian,

Chad: Oh, that’s okay. I like vegetarians. Are you a vegan?

Nicole: No, I am vegetarian, but you know, something that I’ve really seen covering this space and even particularly with TiNDLE and their very quick upscale model was when the product lands in the hands of a trained chef, that is the most successful experience that the consumer is going to have for the first time with a product.

And, you know, I really do think that one of the keys to our success is that people like you have been able to present it in all of its glory. So I guess just a side note to say, thank you, but you’re absolutely right. That plated dining experience is really something.

Chad: I’ve had my stints as being a vegetarian and even a vegan for about eight months. So I get it. And I enjoy eating that way. It teaches me to learn new things and I love, love, love, even though I’m a meat eater, I love veggies. And I love cooking vegetables and I love herbs and I, I go forwards for things and I love it all. So I don’t hate you that much.

Nicole: Love it. That much he said, well, I’m gonna work on it. You mentioned your kids before we started recording. Tell me about your family and that extension of your support system.

Chad: Yeah, I mean, the boys are great. 12 and a 16 year old. I’ve been doing this a long time and I opened this restaurant, which is called The Lucky Well, 10 years ago. And they were young and it was hard on me and my wife and kids. And it’s not an easy life, the restaurant life, but they’re great. They’re, you know, my 16 year old he’s taking SATs now and my 12 year old who plays baseball. And we said, before this call, you couldn’t get your audio to work. I’m like, it’s cool. Like. Yeah, take another hour away from my kids. They drive me nuts but I love ’em..

Nicole: Hey, I, there’s no shame in hiding from your kids. We have all been there. Something I’m curious to learn about every chef is, do you cook at home? Are you all cooked out?

Chad: I cook at home. I don’t cook enough at home. I’ll be honest. And it’s very simple, easy stuff. My 12 year old, my high school kid now does his own thing. He’s super healthy. He likes to Make his own things. But when my 12 year old, luckily his bus stop is right in front of my house, but he needs to be on the bus at 7: 55 he’ll roll out of bed at 7: 45.

We’ll throw him in the shower, pop in a frozen, you know waffle, throw it in his mouth, throw his backpack on and out the door. It’s a different type of cooking. I do love to cook. I love having friends over. I love entertaining. I just don’t have between traveling and the restaurant world, you know, I don’t have enough time to do it, but when I do, I love, I love, I love to do it, you know?

Nicole: Yeah. And then let’s talk about Philly. Were you born there? Do you think you’re gonna keep staying? What’s kept you there all these years?

Chad: Born and raised in Philly. My parents are from Philly. You know, my whole family is still here in Philly. My parents and my two brothers are still in Philly. It’s a great city. It’s a very food city. I went to school in Columbus, Ohio. I came back. And yeah, I love it here. It’s got pretty much everything. I think it’s a smaller version of New York city, which is, and it’s only an hour and a half away. And you know, it’s a quick shot to, like I said, New York and DC and Baltimore and the food scene, anything you ever wanted is in Philly from, you know, great barbecue to, you know, just everything. Yeah, it’s a cool place. I live in the suburbs of a town called Ambler, which is where my original Lucky Well restaurant is about 30 minutes outside of the city. So yeah, I love it here.

Nicole: So you have come a long way since cooking with a light bulb in your bedroom with the easy bake oven. What changes have you seen in the industry over the last few decades?

Chad: Oh, God, that’s a hard question. If you would’ve asked me that question two and a quarter years ago, I probably would’ve said not much just, you know, the regular inflation and cuisine, what’s hot, what’s not, you know but I mean, obviously the last two and a quarter years with COVID. I’ve seen a trillion changes then it’s changed me and what I want to do in my restaurant career. And what I want to put on a plate and how I want to grow my businesses. And even working with TiNDLE I mean, it’s just my pivot from COVID was I started frying chicken and that led me to meeting TiNDLE and it’s been a great thing for me.

Nicole: So when you say particularly through the pandemic there’s things you would like to change by way of what you’re putting on the plate. Tell me more about that.

Chad: Yeah, I mean it was you know, it was difficult. It was difficult to, you know, keep my restaurants in business. It was difficult to buy meat. Being a barbecue house. You know, we, and a lot of people don’t get how much work goes into that rib that they’ve put in their mouth. But we, you know, some of that stuff takes three or four days to make. I mean, we bring the food in, we season it, we let it sit for four. For two days, we smoked it for six hours. We hold it. Then we reheat it.

We, you know, it’s charred on a grill and briskets take four days to make. And then the price of meat will skyrocket and it just made absolutely no sense because we didn’t have staff to work overnight. So we tried a bunch of pop-ups. I’m definitely a little…Maybe a lot. And I don’t stop.

I don’t know how to stop. My brain never shuts off. I’m always looking for the next thing to do and, and the next way to create. And I started frying chicken based off of a recipe that I basically I was in, I was in Northern California. I was in the Napa area and I went Thomas Keller restaurant that had fried chicken.

It blew my mind and I took it back to Philly and tried to figure out how that recipe worked and came up with a recipe that I would just run here at specials. And I tried to do it as a pop-up in my barbecue restaurants and all three of them for takeout. And it blew up. I had lines around the corner. We called it motel fried chicken.

Just the name we made up. I like old motels. I thought it’d be a cool name and we could not keep up with it. So we have normal fryers that are in a fryer restaurant that are to cook fries and chicken fingers, but putting whole chickens, cutting down a day pieces in a fryer and having a line around the corner just doesn’t work. Takes too long. So I, I translated that recipe into these simple herb brines. Herb- finished fried chicken sandwiches. And it worked really well and people fell in love with them. And that then turned into a business called motel fried chicken. And we started selling on GoldBelly nationwide, and now I’m launching brick and mortars and franchising it. And then I met TiNDLE and I know I’m going all over the place here when I’m kind of trying to make a little sense of this.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s one of the beautiful things that, that happened through the pandemic, right? We were faced with these challenges and, you know, even around here in the Chicago land area, the, the businesses that could stay present that could stay really fluid. You know, and respond, look at that you were problem solving and now it’s a whole other business model that is extremely successful and has brought you some great partnerships.

Chad: Yeah. It’s been amazing. I mean, like amazing where this took me and, and you know, it was based off of just me not wanting to stop and me knowing a great recipe that and me also knowing that owning a barbecue restaurant based around meat in a suburb of Philly you know, I, I, I would say one out of every five people could need here. You know, I mean, listen, I have vegetarian options and vegan options, but not enough. So you know, I would get asked all the time pre COVID “Do have a vegan version or do you have a vegetarian version?” And like, you know, I blew it off. We were busy and I did what I did and I met TiNDLE and I’m like, you know what, let’s try it.

I was scared. I’m not going to lie. I got the sample in the mail and I was like, what the heck is this? You know, like it felt like Play-Doh, and I’m not used to cooking Play-Doh and I was, I I remember just dropping it in the fryer and a firmed up like chicken. I was like, holy crap. This is like magic, you know?

And then I, I literally take, I took the piece of TiNDLE which come in these two and a half ounce pucks as I call it. Cause I grew up playing ice hockey, but I don’t know what else to call it. And I dredged it exactly the same as I do my fried chicken sandwiches and it, it was perfect. I really, it was the easiest transformation from a standard fried chicken sandwich to a plant-based fried chicken sandwich. It was just so easy and it worked out perfect. It was a quick recipe and I do not serve vegan. It’s vegetarian because I do buttermilk dredge it. And we use Japanese mayo on it, but it could be vegan very easily, which I’m working on right now.

Nicole: When I tell you that, that for me is the thrilling part about TiNDLE. I have not had a bite of chicken in 35 years. And, you know co-founder Andre, I sat around the table and did a tasting and everyone in the industry has heard me say this by now. But for me, what was so wonderful about TiNDLE was it gave people like me an inclusive experience. I did get to eat every single thing on the menu.

And that is unless I’m the one providing the dinner that doesn’t happen if you’re out to eat or at a wedding or an event. And so for me to come to your restaurant and not have to be, you know, left out so to speak, but to get to experience it with the recipe that you’ve created, that’s the incredible part for me.

Chad: Yeah. I mean, it’s super um, easy. The only thing I had to mess around with was cook times. And what I find amazing about TiNDLE is in the chef world, it cooks very similar to regular chicken. When it comes down to temping the meat, like, you know, chicken is, you know, you have to cook it. It’s a 165. Right. And. In the meat world you’re doing that for safety purposes, but in the TiNDLE world, when I get it to 165, it eats like chicken. It firms up like chicken. If you cook it under that temperature, it is, you know, it’s a little crab cakey as I’ll call it. So it’s, it’s pretty neat.

I didn’t have to teach my cooks much more. And an interesting story. I was doing an event with TiNDLE. I do a lot of things for them on going with them to see next. I was in Vegas showcasing motel fried chicken, and I was doing half, half my regular chicken and half TiNDLE. And of course the regular chicken went, you know, in an hour and a half there was still at Tyndall left because there happened to be more meat eaters than vegetarians out there.. And we ran out. So let’s just run out the TiNDLE and people, it got really busy and people kept coming up and they were coming back and telling me how amazing it was. We did not even tell them at that point we needed to tell them it was TiNDLE. We were just, they just thought they were eating fried chicken sandwiches. I have a special way of dredging it, where it gets that fried chicken-esque exterior, you know, I kind of triple coat it, so it gets flaky and crispy and yeah, it’s pretty, it’s pretty cool. And the last thing I’ll say about TiNDLE and I, there are times that I’ll go vegetarian and I’ll even go vegan.

And I I feel better when I eat vegan, I can’t do it all the time because of my job. And I have to admit, I like to eat meat, but you know, I’ve tried the beyond then I’ve tried impossible. And I, I get a weird aftertaste with those with those products. TiNDLE doesn’t give me that it’s easily adapted to the flavors that the chef put into it. And it doesn’t make me feel like crap. Like, I don’t know how, I don’t know if there’s a better way to say it. Sometimes some of those other products make like my belly feel like crap and

Nicole: Yeah and having a clean label, that is going to make all the difference.

Chad: Yeah 9 ingredients, one of them’s water, like, I mean, it’s, it’s simple and you know, I like that.

Nicole: Yeah. So, you know, you said that’s the last thing I’ll say about TiNDLE but I’m still so curious because you’re a meat guy, right? You’re the barbecue guy. So how did that partnership come about? Really just through the, you were doing great things with chicken?

Chad: No. Someone that was working with TiNDLE found me and they reached out like, Hey, you want to try this new plant-based? I think I posted a picture of me. There was something with fried chicken in New York and I reached out and they said, do you want to try TiNDLE? And, I’m “Sure send it to me. I got it.” And it freaked me out. I cooked it and I loved it. And I posted something about it. And one thing led to another. I met Andre and some of their other people there and they invited me to an event. I happened to be in New York city that night.

And we had an event where I think Rocco was cooking Rocco DiSpirito was cooking an event for TiNDLE and I went and met them. One thing led to another, I brought it to my restaurant and I started using it and became buddies with Andre.

Such a good guy. That’s so passionate about, about TiNDLE and you know, and just a smart dude. I love this company. I love the product. And I started working with them and I think what they like about me, um, different than, you know vegan influencers or vegetarian influencer, vegetarian chefs is that it’s, it’s not bullshit.

You know, I like, I cook meat, like big cuts of meat. And I like it. I could stand behind it and I’m not making this stuff up. And it, you know, aligns with what I do in the real world was frying chicken. So. I dig it and I’m using it, you know, I’m just trying to put it into all my businesses.

Nicole: Yeah. You know, and I just have a little peek behind the scenes of TiNDLE and certainly I have the same experience, every single employee that I have interacted with have just been great people. So not only at the top of their game, because man, they are building an empire, but really just sincerely great people.

And that’s why we do the podcast. There is no gate keeping happening. Let’s talk about where we’ve stopped. Let’s talk about how we are successful, you know, in all of these different industries. So we can bring people along because that’s what it’s really about.

Chad: Totally. They hire great people. They hire smart people and they’re also not trying to hide the fact that they’re showing it in different ways. Like, yes, it’s a vegan product. It can be served vegan, my same exact dredge, the way that I dredge my chicken, I put it in a dry, flat, dry season flour. I hit the buttermilk and then I dry season flour.

I have the same thing that I, I make a vegan where I hit it with dry season flour, and then I dunk in Dijon mustard. And then I dunk it in flour and then all of a sudden it’s vegan and the way you serve it, but you know, TiNDLE, I don’t think there, you can put bacon on it. You can put an egg on it. It’s still a great product.

I think they’re, they’re not just showing yes, it’s plant based, but it’s great. And it’s sustainable, and it’s better for you and, and all that, but like, you know, you can serve it both ways and it’s just a thing versus a vegan and a vegetarian thing. And I liked that about it.

Nicole: Yeah. And you know, it, my personal preference too, is, you know, I don’t need everybody to be vegan or vegetarian.

I just, I want you to eat less meat. Just, you know, try to replace some of your dishes with a vegetarian option and that’s going to be what is, you know, contributing to a sustainable future. And TiNDLE certainly has blown that door wide open. So we have wonderful options to do so,

I was going to say, let’s talk about The Lucky Well, I want to know where that originated. I want to know, you know, talk about building a team, you know, how did this all start for you?

Chad: Yeah, so I was in the printing business. I fell in love with barbecue. I learned to make barbecue and wanted to open a barbecue restaurant. I bought a little restaurant in a suburb of Philly. People loved it, but it was impossible to make money. There was no bar and it was just, I was just selling meat and sides. And then I opened a second one, same thing. And I met a partner and there was a location available. At some point I realised, in the Northeast, if you’re going to sell barbecue, we’re not Texas, not North Carolina. There’s not going to be lines around the corner to eat meat, you know, at one o’clock in the afternoon.

So you need to create an experience around it. You get a full bar and the live blues here and everything else. So we sold Rosie’s barbecue. We bought an old Irish pub. We built the Lucky Well and one thing led to another you know, it took off and we struggled our first couple of years to make it work. And then, you know, six years later we decided we’re going to expand and open four more.

And then COVID hit, we’re kind of back to trying to get us back on our feet, but everything’s been great. It’s hot, you walk in you don’t feel like you’re in a barbecue joint. It’s a little swankier, it’s low lit. As you guys could tell earlier, you can barely see me. We have three hundred bottles of whiskey on the wall. We’ve got craft cocktails. We do live blues music on the weekends.

And so it’s just a great spot and people love it. And so we’re trying to open our second opening in Philadelphia and then we’re trying to get back to opening the other two.

Nicole: Yeah. And like you said, that environment, certainly, probably upped your game, for sure. You now have travelled and done TV appearances and, you know, have increased visibility and popularity. Has that changed how you do business in Philly?

Chad: No, definitely not. Like I love it if I like, if I think the only thing changed, you know, the very beginning of my career, I love the late night stuff. I got home way too late and I didn’t know how to let go. And I tried to do everything and you know, I think it’s made me hire better and step back and delegate better and let people do their jobs.

But I still, and I don’t get to do it enough, love to cook. You know, I have chefs in all my kitchens now because I just can’t be everywhere. And I just can’t be in the kitchen every day. But you know, I think the only thing that has changed is I’m not that guy in the kitchen every day, I try to work with them as much as I can.

But no, I love it. I love to be in the front of the house. I love to see guests. I think that’s where the salesmen part of me comes in. And I think it’s so important to have that experience. There are so many people that can cook and that can make great food. But I think the building and experience and that experience can be a little chicken sandwich shop or a big full service restaurant, but that is kind of my thing now is not just cooking and putting out great food or putting out a great, great cocktail. It’s creating an experience, whatever that experience is. You know, you’d find some places and there’s zero experience. A dive bar is an experience I happen to love.

Nicole: Yeah just be intentional about it.

Chad: Exactly like that’s kind of what I like to do. And that’s what I’ll be doing in the future. Whether it’s a motel fried chicken, little, little kind of delivery, only sandwich model, or a Lucky Well with blues and cocktails and great barbecue, it is kind of creating experiences.

Nicole: So, what about the balance for you as you’ve stepped out of the kitchen more and more? So, you know, we talked about this being an art, and you certainly want chefs to do this your way, but also give them the freedom to express. Where’s that balance for you as you train your staff?

Chad: It’s not the easiest thing. And I didn’t, I still really don’t call myself a chef. Sometimes I joke with them and I say, call me cook. I changed my Twitter name once to Cook Chad Rosenthal cause I got annoyed when people called me chef. But I yeah, I mean it’s hard, you know, your name’s in all the menus and when you’re getting written up, it’s your name and someone else is creating the food in the back and you know, I’ve definitely become a better business person.

I think in the beginning it was all about putting the best barbecue out and having fun. And, I had a restaurant. Now it’s how do we make money? How do we grow in a responsible way and do smart things, like put vegan chicken sandwiches on our menu because we know it’s going to bring in a whole new, a whole new person.

Right. So. Yeah, it’s powerful. I’m a little bit crazy. I won’t stop. I hired a director of operations, Kelly. Who’s great. And she’s watching over a lot of other aspects of the business and I’m trying, I’m trying to let go.

Nicole: You joked about the ADD brain, but this is a really tough business. And you know, the celebrity chef and successful chefs that look so glamorous, but the truth is it is really hard work. You give us a glimpse into just what, what it’s like in the kitchen, even the hours and the prep alone is intense.

Chad: Yeah, it’s intense. I mean, you know, people talk about celebrity chefs. Most of the true celebrity chefs don’t fully have restaurants that they operate and that, and there’s a lot of reasons, but the biggest reason is they don’t really make that much money, right? Even the best restaurants in the country don’t make that much money either. They’re great PR pieces. You can win . Awards from them. The bar is where you make the money. Right now, buying meat is so expensive. It’s just hard to make money. But good, good restaurants. Good. I’m going to call them good restaurants. They might make 12% at the end of the year. You know, it’s not, it’s not a huge money maker. You know, so they, you know, but, but they lead you to other things. You know, I do a lot of work with products. I do virtual things. We, we, I know later on, we’re going to talk about the Senate T project and TV projects and, and you know, what I love about it is it creates jobs.

And, you know, I have three restaurants now and I’m opening another small chicken sandwich shop and, you know, I’m employing people and growing and growing a name for myself and doing cool things like the TiNDLE and so it’s really cool, but, but the restaurant world is super difficult. It’s hard to make money. You have to deal with a lot of people. If you can’t deal with people, don’t go to a restaurant because it’s definitely the wrong industry for that.

Nicole: Have you found more comradery or competition among your peers over the years?

Chad: Camaraderie. I’m not a big competition kind of guy.

I mean, I you know, I always think like I’m in this, I’m in this town called Ambler and it’s a main street type of town outside of Philadelphia. Really cool. Really it’s restaurants and hair salons. That’s what’s here and people always say, oh, there’s another restaurant opening up the street.

I think “the more, the better” you know. I love to give back. I love to become friends with. You know, even in the town of, in the city of Philadelphia, there’s not many guys that are doing barbecue restaurants or full service, barbecue restaurants, or, you know, I, I don’t have many enemies in the restaurant world and I don’t plan on having any sooner.

Nicole: Well, good. That that’s the way it should be. Okay. So you mentioned the NFT. So tell me about Minted Rare. And I did read that you’re finding that it gives you, it’s bringing you deeper connections. Tell me about that.

Chad: Yeah. So I had a buddy, I had a buddy, I still have a buddy who moved to Miami and he got really into crypto and NFT’s and for, you know, a guy like me who’s in the restaurant world, chef world, I had no idea what I’m then. He’s like, we’re going to do a barbecue NFT. And this was like two years ago. One thing led to another, you know, more things happened and I started working on a project when I understood. And I still fully don’t understand what the heck is crypto.

Yeah. It’s really, really hard to get, you know, your arms around what it is, you know, NFTs, like, you know, there’s art NFTs, which is a picture of you, right? You buy it for $200 and that picture might be worth $500 next year or next week. There’s a portion of NFTs that are utility-based and they’re based on utility, on what you can use them for, right. So during COVID and things shut down and I had to keep moving and doing what I do. I started doing a ton of virtual cooking demonstrations. I had a company that found me and I was, you know, doing just large zooms for companies that wanted to have, you know, corporate retreats and all these things that were cancelled. Sales meetings. And they would hire me and I would package barbecue and I’d ship them out to them and then we’d all cook together.

And so out of that, I was like, you know, out of COVID you had to learn new ways to feed people and to kind of keep in touch with your community and same thing with, you know, pivoting into a fried chicken sandwich and doing popups and stuff. So the NFT was just a new way to, to reach people and this whole Web 3, this is by the way, this is, we could talk about this for like seven hours, but trying to clinic, I’m trying to cliff note it for you.

We came up with a project that was me and another guy that’s in the barbecue world that has 3 million followers on Tiktok . He happens to be just a, a school teacher in south Jersey, Matt *** and we want to build a community and sell an NFT at a very low price and, and build a utility around it. You know, once a month, we’ll get on and we’ll do virtual barbecue demonstrations and we’ll do tailgates and we’ll take trips to Memphis and whiskey tastings down in Lexington and in Kentucky.

And, but you have to be an NFT holder to, you know, you have to be an NFT holder of Minted Rare to be able to be in this stuff. So it hasn’t been done yet. Since we started working on the project, there were actually a couple of large food based NFT’s that have launched.

One was from Spike Mendelsohn and Tom Colicchio that minted a few weeks ago called Pizza. Did you guys hear of that?

Nicole: I haven’t.

Chad: Okay. And then there was another one from this big time crypto guy called Gary Vee. Have you heard of him?

Nicole: No. Well, gosh, I should.

Chad: All right. Well, it doesn’t matter. This is like a whole other podcast that we can do on this stuff.

So I started getting into it and I have to admit, like, I think it can make sense. I think it’s, I think it’s going to be big in the next you know, five years and I love it. I love to talk about food. I love to connect with people through food. And I think now’s the time. So that’s something we’re working on.

Nicole: Why is it important to you to open doors for others?

Chad: Are you talking about open doors in my world and this in general?

Nicole: Well, I mean, you’re a dad and you’re a community member too, so we can take that anywhere. But again, like we, like we said, even doing this podcast and, and bringing others along and teaching and letting them know what, you know, why is that important?

Chad: Yeah, I just, I think it’s great to give other people’s opportunities.

You know, I kind of followed the dream of wanting to cook my whole life and I didn’t go to school for it. And didn’t really train to do that. And there’s, you know, being in the restaurant world. You hire these, you know, kids that might be out of high school or they might be in high school or, you know, they’re not technically trained. My chef here in Ambler, his name’s Matt, he was just into barbecue and I hired him at one location. He learned some things and now he’s, he’s running a full kitchen. So I think opening doors, especially in my industry is like, I know I need help and I need good people to grow. And, if I can be the person to kind of open the doors for them and, and grow with them it’s I think it’s super cool. Absolutely.

Nicole: Yeah. I, I think your growth mindset is definitely evident when I hear you talk to Chad. So I love it. I appreciate that. We would be remiss, even though we are audio, if we did not talk about the tattoos. So since we can’t see, let me just ask what was your first one?

Chad: So my first tattoo is a really horrible tattoo that I was so scared of my dad and mom knowing I had a tattoo, I got it on my hip and it was some, all my tattoos. Let me just think if I say this, right, they’re not all, actually I have a really cool tattoo that my son drew. It was like a self portrait of him when he was six. But all, most of all of my tattoos were things that I think are cool that I then draw on bar napkins. And then I take it to a good tattoo guy or girl, and they put it on my body, but they look like shitty tattoos because I drew them.

Yeah, I will after this, I could say to some, I just got another one of a hand with a chicken sandwich on it, but I have fun with them. I don’t have, I don’t put anything besides my son’s self portrait when he was six, that looks like a little baby picture or the date of one of my son’s birthdays, because I happened to go with two of my buddies that never got tattoos before, and I had FOMO.

So I was like, I gotta get something I’m never going to regret. I don’t get anything like that. Yeah, it just says 8.25. It’s his birthday, but like, I don’t get anything that’s too serious. I have fun with it. I have a salt shaker on my arm. I have my old Ford truck on my arm. I have a chicken sandwich. I have a motel sign some other stupid stuff.

So I like to have fun with it. My parents absolutely hate every one I get. I think they’re finally getting over it and making jokes about them. So, but back to my first tattoo, it was on my hip because I was afraid to get it anywhere else in my body. And I remember once I was in, my parents have a house at the Jersey shore, and I remember one summer when I was out of college, there was swimming and there’s a big wave that hit me.

And like, I think my bathing suit fell down and like, I didn’t cover anything else, but my hip, cause I was so nervous if you can imagine that. So that’s, that’s my first tattoo and then…

Nicole: That’s true parental fear.

Chad: Yeah, exactly. But now I’m over it. I, you know, I do enjoy getting them. I like the art of them.

If my two boys get them, I’d want to kill them. They’re pretty much limited to my arms though. I don’t, I don’t go past there. So but I, I do like tattoos. I think they’re fun.

Nicole: Yeah. They always tell such an interesting story. So what’s next in food for you?

Chad: Well, I’m, I’m, you know, we’re back to this Lucky Well concept that, you know, I kind of started with, I love and we our rock and roll and here again in Ambler and we’re busy as heck and I’m opening Philadelphia.

After that I don’t want to open big, big, big, big restaurants anymore. You know, I love the Lucky Well. I think we want to kind of scale it down to a smaller, quicker service format and step in and have a great experience. Step up, order your food and sit at your table and get a great drink versus having big, full service restaurants.

I, I you know, that’s just my thing. With motel fried chicken, we want to I’m opening my first brick and mortar in July or August. We want to open a second alarm. We’re going to work on a franchising model for that. And I want to grow overseas. Like I really think I’ve always thought that the Lucky Well would do, I used to in a past life, my printing life, I used to go to China all the time about once a month. And every time I went to Hong Kong, I was like, or even south China, I was like, “Wow American barbecue do so well here?” You know, and that was 10 years ago now, like fried chicken sandwiches would do so well here.

So like, I would love to grow overseas. Singapore would be cool, you know, but.

Nicole: Well, listen, listen, I, I know, I know a guy.

Chad: I know, I know, I know a couple of guys looks like, I think, I think going global with simple, great food translates everywhere. I mean, look at us here in America. All anyone wants to eat is ramen and pho and sushi.

I’m like, we gotta get that like, like I think we need to get. Not, you know, obviously larger brands are huge in Asia, you know, KFC and Pizza Hut and all that stuff. But like chefy, or middle of the road brands. Yeah, I would love to go global with Motel, so that’s something I’m looking at.

Nicole: Well, I look forward to that. So Chad, I asked the same few questions before I let a guest go, but you have the choice. Do you want to take the easy road or the hard road outta here?

Chad: Shit speak my French. I don’t know. Let’s think it’s easier, probably more fun.

Nicole: That’s true.

Chad: Right.

Nicole: Okay. Tell me something you will never do again.

Chad: Something I’ll never do again. You know, never do again. It’s something I’ll never do again. Oh, I say yes to everything. I, I think in the first beginning of my career, I would say yes to absolutely everything. I was a pushover. I would take every opportunity out there. I would open every restaurant, do every catering job. Like I do every TV show, I think you know, I think I need to kind of be smarter about that stuff. Not say yes to everything and, and. Sleep on it, right? Yeah. Get back, get back to you in the morning.

Nicole: What is a food you refuse to live without?

Chad: Pizza? I love pizza. Every type of pizza. I know you’re in Chicago area.

Like I don’t hate on the, on, on the thick crust, this Chicago stuff Detroit, Philly, thin crust New York, Brooklyn, Scranton off a Scranton, but it’s a pizza capital of the world. That’s just a little town outside of Pennsylvania. Yeah.

Nicole: I’ve never met a pizza I didn’t like, let’s just say that. Yeah.

Chad: I love pizza.

Nicole: How about a talent you wish you had?

Chad: Dancing. I’m like the worst dancer in the world. I can’t dance. I’ve always wanted to be like, you know, the cool guy at a wedding. You know whatever bar mitzvah, whatever it is that that could dance. I just can’t dance. I try, I love yoga. I’ve been doing yoga now all through COVID I got, kind of got really into yoga whenever it gets a little dancey I’m done. So I wish I could dance better. I might have to take lessons.

Nicole: Well, listen, here’s some great life advice. If you feel stupid, you’re probably doing it right. Just stay on the dance floor.

Chad: Haha. Or just drink more, right?

Nicole: Our last question. What is something the world needs more of?

Chad: Wow. That’s a hard one. What is something the world needs more of? Well, let’s equate it to the restaurant world, right. I think the world needs more restaurant employees, right? . I don’t even mean that, like we know how hard staffing is right now. I mean, I feel like people that have worked in restaurants, whether it’s for a day or a week or for their whole life. I think it is the most important like life. It’s just so important to work in a restaurant. You get to meet every type of person, right? Black, white, purple. Great people, total assholes.

Like, like I feel like there’s no other better life lesson and sticking a kid in a restaurant and I feel bad cause my kids have not worked in a restaurant yet, but like there’s a, I think they need more. I think if everyone worked in a restaurant for a week of their life they’re going to be better people.

Nicole: I could not agree with you more.

Chad: Right?

Nicole: Yes, absolutely.

Chad: How hard it’s hard work, it’s smart work and you have to… It’s hospitable and you have to learn how to deal with every type of person.

Nicole: And let’s be honest. We can, we can figure out those people who have, and have not worked in the service industry before. You know it.

Chad: A hundred and a hundred thousand percent. A hundred thousand percent. Right.

Nicole: Chad, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for telling us your story and thank you to our listeners for tuning in. I’m Nicole Astra. Take care. Talk soon.

Chad: Thank you so much.