The Hot Chicken Project – Geelong, Victoria

Twin Discoveries discovers… The Hot Chicken Project – Geelong, Victoria

Finally had a taste of Nashville hot fried chicken…in Geelong of all places! Geelong is a city of population close to 185,000 people, and 1 hour or so drive from Melbourne CBD, Victoria. I hadn’t visited Geelong for years, and thought about it as more of a stopover location for petrol or fast food, en route to the beach in Torquay, or another roadtrip out west. After visiting twice in the last few months however, I am a Geelong convert, a believer who can feel the vibe there are big plans for turning Geelong into a modern bustling foodie town. More on Geelong in future posts… but now, on to the fried chicken!

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#chickenforthepeople #geetroit

I’ve been a big fan of Aaron Turner (ex Noma and El Celler de Can Roca) after taking one of his masterclasses at the Melbourne Food and Wine show. At that time, he was chef owner of Loam (Drysdale, Victoria), a small, unique restaurant that focused on innovation and foraging the local Bellarine Peninsula produce, which eventually won him the Best Regional Restaurant of the year in 2012 from The Age Good Food guide. In mid 2013, the lease expired (among other things) and Aaron made a decision to close the restaurant down on a high. Long story short, he moves to Nashville, Tennessee and falls in love with the famous Nashville hot fried chicken, to the point where he eats it twice a day for a week, to decode the science of fried chicken. Over a year later, he returns to Australia and helps his mate Morgan McGlone to open Belle’s Hot Chicken on Gertrude st, Fitzroy, before returning to Nashville.

I found out recently that Aaron teamed up with local cafe and restaurant heavyweights – Kate and Nathan Veach (Kilgour Street Grocer, Bistro at Banks) and Nathan Johnston (Coffee Cartel Roasters) to start up The Hot Chicken Project, serving Nashville style hot fried chicken. Nashville “hot chicken” is traditionally brined and crumbed, with a spicy cayenne-pepper-based paste added after frying to give a signature Nashville golden-red appearance. Similar with Texan BBQ, white bread and pickles is served to help balance the dish, along with Southern style sides. At The Hot Chicken Project, this “hot chicken” preparation process usually takes approximately 2 days. 

Nashville hot chicken

I wish my stomach was bigger so I could try the whole menu…

The Hot Chicken Project menu was pretty straight forward.

  • MAINS : All mains were priced at $16, with choice of Wings, Tenders, Dark Meat (thigh and drumstick), Fish Sandwich, Tofu, or Burger Royale.
  • SIDES : One side is included, with four options – Coleslaw, Potato Salad, Turnip Greens or Shoestring Fries. 
  • HEAT : Southern (no chilli), Medium, Hot, So Dam Hot, Evil Chicken
  • SAUCE : Ranch, Blue Cheese, or Alabama White $2
  • SWEETS : Seasonal Hand Pie with Icecream $8

We ordered the Tenders and the Dark Meat. If I had another stomach, I would have squeezed in some Wings. For sides, couldn’t go past shoestring fries and the slaw. Because I have delicate, soft and unmanly taste buds, I dialed down the heat to Southern, and Medium. And finally, just in case the heat needed to be doused, I got a fire blanket of Alabama white sauce (mayonnaise based BBQ sauce).

hotchicken2

Dark meat vs Chicken tenders

The verdict? The “project” is a great success – certainly didn’t disappoint. Every bit of chicken was super juicy and tender, with some added texture and flavour from the crunchy spice rubbed batter. Glad to say it was more delicious than spicy, lucky me! The sides weren’t anything special, but the drinks on offer and the service were very good. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. Let me know if you recommend the wings!

Now waiting in drooling anticipation for Aaron’s second Geelong project, a restaurant called IGNI, due to open in Ryan Place this coming November. The restaurant philosophy will be all about showcasing the quality of the produce, along with the cooking process using different charcoals and woods to create different flavour notes. Equipped with a large wood-fire grill, this restaurant will be one to watch!

The Hot Chicken Project
84a Little Malop Street, Geelong, Victoria
Open 3-10pm Tuesday-Thursday, noon-10pm Friday/Saturday, 11am-4pm Sunday.
The Hot Chicken Project facebook

Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.

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