Longtime Durham restaurateur Fergus Bradley and several partners are planning to launch the Mama’s Hot Chicken food truck, which will serve Nashville-style hot chicken, on April 15.
Bradley is the co-owner of a group of Durham bars and restaurants, including the James Joyce Irish Pub Restaurant, The Federal, Alivia’s and Social. His partners in the food truck are the restaurant group’s chef RJ St. John, publicist Mary Halton and Mark Cromwell, the former general manager at Alivia’s and now a partner at Social.
The idea for Mama’s Hot Chicken came during a conversation about three months ago between Bradley and St. John to try to bring this trendy flavor profile to Durham. Over Superbowl weekend (when KFC aired its commercial about its own Nashville hot chicken line), the pair went to Nashville to taste several versions at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, Helen’s Hot Chicken and other eateries. (No, they did not make it to Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, the origin restaurant.)
St. John, 36, has only been cooking for the restaurant group since June. He previously worked in Florida and New Orleans, including at Channing Tatum’s Saints & Sinners restaurant. He has spent the last several months testing hot chicken recipes and serving them as specials at the James Joyce.
St. John is using an airline breast from Joyce Farms’ free-range chicken, seasoned with his own mix of Nashville hot spices. The chicken is served with a slice of thick toast, coleslaw, pickles and hushpuppies for $9-$11 depending upon size and whether it is white or dark meat. They will serve mild and medium but St. John said the truck will be equipped to turn up the heat at customers’ request.
Bradley expects the truck to be on the road for about a year but eventually land in a brick-and-mortar location. “We will go as quickly as we can into brick-and-mortar,” Bradley said.
It is worth noting that St. John will be competing at 8 p.m. March 6 on the Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games.” Social will be hosting a viewing party. (The episode will air again at 3 a.m. March 7, 7 p.m. March 13 and 6 p.m. March 21.)