Bunhill: Chicken shack

BOB PAYTON, he of Chicago Pizza Pie Factory and Chicago Rib Shack fame, is preparing another assault on Traditional Culinary Values, this time based on the humble chicken.

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'.

(Photograph omitted)