To be fair to the energetically self-publicising Payton, the deep-dish pizza he introduced in 1977 is rather good, and he has suffered on our behalf for his new crusade. During a whirlwind tour which took him to seven North American cities in eight days, he ate chicken 55 times - even venturing into Rodney King country in East Los Angeles where he discovered an excellent recipe. The ordeal left him defiant: 'I discovered that you can eat an awful lot of chicken. A lot of the recipes tasted really good; it's a healthy product,' he said. 'Fried is on the way out. It's a bad word for the 1990s.' He noted that Kenny Rogers, who bought the rights and the recipe from Colonel Saunders, now has a chain of chicken restaurants.
Payton reckons he's on to a good thing: 'I think chicken is underrated as a meal experience, no one's ever made it sexy. If I have any dreams, it is to have 100 chicken restaurants (chicken joints? Ed) before I die. The first one, which should open in the spring, is being designed as a unit which can be multiplied.'
Colonel Payton is being untypically coy about the way his (free-range) chickens will be prepared, for fear of a pre- emptive counter-attack. But the drift of his remarks implies that they will be roasted. 'Rotisserie chicken is one of the good things in every nation's cuisine. You can get a big range with minimum waste and capital expenditure. I was particularly struck by one place, where a brick hearth was designed to be the focal point of the whole restaurant.'
At a guess, Payton's Places will provide lots of different sauces, including garlic mayonnaise, of which he's fond, but not, thank God, the chocolate- covered Chicken Mole he tasted in Mexico City. And the name? Well he did let slip the phrase 'Kill 'n Grill'.