Thursday, April 14, 2011

8702: “It’s Soul Food Without The Soul.”

The New York Daily News reported on something MultiCultClassics noted too.

Harlem chef Carl Redding plans protest of IHOP over soul food dish chicken and waffles

By David Hinckley, Daily News Staff Writer

The food fight is on over the honor of chicken and waffles, a dish cooked up for midnight ramblers in Harlem and now considered one of uptown’s culinary signatures.

Carl Redding, a chef who was raised and trained in Harlem and ran Amy Ruth’s restaurant before opening Redding’s in Atlantic City, says International House of Pancakes has taken chicken and waffles and butchered it.

“It’s soul food without the soul,” says Redding, who has traveled to South Africa with Oprah Winfrey and appeared on the “Today” show and “Conan.”

“It’s nothing like the way we know it in our community. If you’re going to appropriate a dish we treasure, at least get it right.”

Patrick Lenow, IHOP’s executive director of corporate communications, says that, with all due respect, IHOP has.

“We know there’s a lot of history to this dish,” he says, “and it’s terrific that Chef Redding has his way of doing it. But this is what IHOP is good at - taking something and putting a new twist on it. We did tests for how our customers would like it and the way we serve it is what they told us.”

The IHOP version of chicken and waffles is fried white-meat chicken tenders served with a Belgian waffle.

Redding’s version offers fried, grilled or smothered chicken, with both white and dark meat. He also uses the Belgian waffle, but he says his is more flavorful.

“Theirs is like a brick,” Redding says. “It should be light and fluffy.”

He says he learned to make chicken and waffles where most food historians agree it was created 60-plus years ago, at the now-departed Wells Restaurant on Seventh Ave. between 132nd and 133rd Sts.

“When I worked for the Rev. Sharpton, he used to meet Betty Shabazz [Malcolm X’s widow] there,” says Redding. “They’d meet and I’d sit by myself just luxuriating in the chicken and waffles. It’s something everyone uptown knows and likes.”

Wells reportedly developed the dish for its late-night crowd, “when it was too late for dinner and too early for breakfast.”

IHOP is offering chicken and waffles on a limited run through May 1. The dish could return if it does well, which Lenow says it has.

“I would respectfully suggest we have chefs and owners who prepare and serve it with love,” he says. “And with soul.”

Lenow also suggests that because IHOP has more than 1,500 locations, it can introduce more people to chicken and waffles, “and maybe some of them will make their way to Redding’s.”

“Next time I’m in Atlantic City, I’d like to go there myself,” he added.

Redding replied, “Tell him anytime.” But meanwhile, the chef will take to the street today for an edible demonstration of his point.

He’ll set up at noon in front of the IHOP on Black Horse Pike in Mays Landing, N.J., to cook and hand out free portions of chicken and waffles, Redding’s-style.

Redding stresses, by the way, that IHOP doesn’t normally ruffle his feathers. “I eat there,” he says. “I love their T-bone steak with pancake breakfast.”

He just thinks IHOP missed here — and tarnished an icon.

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