Chicken salt has become a must-have addition when ordering hot chips from the local fish and chip shop, but capturing the same flavour at home can be as elusive as grabbing a headless chook.
However, a Shellharbour duo – one a sales manager and another a traffic controller – set about cracking the code and discovering why chicken salt from your local supermarket doesn’t taste quite the same as it does at the local takeaway.
In doing so, Luke Fierro and Robert Archer found their own set of secret herbs and spices, which residents of Shellharbour are flocking to buy.
Simply labelled Actually Chicken Salt, the poultry pair of home cooks are in a flap trying to keep up with orders from their home kitchen.
“We were eating some hot chips we made at home and I’d found this old chicken salt I’d bought from a supermarket,” Luke said. “We sprinkled it on and we were like, this tastes nothing like chicken salt.
“We said ‘Let’s try more of them, maybe there’s one that’s OK’.
“None of them were OK.
“We started sampling around the fish and chip shops and tasting all their different chicken salts.
“We wanted to make one that was our own, but with a bit of a twist as well.
“That’s how we came up with ours.”
The iconic flavouring was originally developed in the 1970s by South Australian man Peter Brinkworth to season chickens for rotisseries.
It became popular in Australia when the Mitani Group purchased it in 1979 and is now a staple of our fish and chip shops.
Luke believes the reason the supermarket chicken salts don’t taste the same as the mouth-watering condiment used in fast food outlets was due to the addition of wheat or rice flour, which gave it a more powdery taste.
“Unfortunately, they happen to not be the gluten-free ones, so anyone who’s gluten free gets to enjoy the good chicken salt anyway,” he said.
The pair undertook an extensive research process to come up with the right ingredient combination, before launching earlier in June.
“My father owns a cafe and we spoke to him about what he’s played around with,” he said.
“Now, it’s a pretty secret formula, but we do use chicken fat.
“That’s what gives it what my father says is an old-school kind of taste.
“That’s what gives it that taste that we love.”
The testing phase was thorough and included many willing testers from Luke and Robert’s circle of friends and family who were lifelong regular users of chicken salt.
“My partner Phoebe, she’s a chicken salt lover. She pours it on pretty much anything,” Luke said.
“We didn’t just test it out on chips either. We put it on different things as well.
“I think Phoebe’s father tried it on cheese and bread, which was a weird one,” he said, laughing.
The pair, who are growing the business while working their full-time jobs, have big goals for Actually Chicken Salt.
Initially, they’re aiming to take the business from Facebook orders and kerbside pickup to an online store and into local grocers.
While the majority of sales come from Shellharbour, demand has grown and they are now posting the product around Australia.
Already supplies have been regularly selling out within 24 hours of promotion.
“Our long-term goal is taking it internationally and selling it to the American market because I know chicken salt isn’t really a thing there,” he said.