AFTER deciding that taking a chance on the music industry wasn’t for him, Dan Aldridge, 34, found another career path to follow – in fried chicken.

Dan went straight into cooking after his very first lecture at university.

He explained: “I went to the first lesson of my degree and the lecturer said that only 10% of us would make a career in the music industry and out of those 10% we would all be eating cheese sandwiches for the next five years because we wouldn’t make any money. So, I got a job at a Lloyds No.1 bar and the rest is history.”

Dan then worked as a head chef in Bideford, but after the owners sold, Dan quit and decided to start his own business – a street food fish and chip business.

He would visit villages with his fish and chip trailer from Monday to Friday and at the weekends would work events and festivals.

After a while, Dan realised that even though he was sourcing all his fish from Cornwall and adding unusual items to the menu like sardines and crab cakes, he was still only attracting the older generation. So, he decided to introduce fried chicken to the menu.

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He explained: “The chicken started to outsell the fish, so I started taking it to events.

“Me and a mate eventually created the brand Eat the Bird. We said that we would do this for a year and if it was popular we would open a restaurant, so we sat down and planned the year.

“At the end of the night, we were sat drinking gin and we decided to cancel all the festivals - four months later we had a restaurant.”

Chris Kenny, 39, and Dan opened Eat the Bird in Taunton in April 2017 and have now expanded and opened a new restaurant in Exeter this July.

Dan explained: “I think we connect with people well, as we don’t really have a formal approach. You can tell by the names of our burgers that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

“We obviously have a lot of professionalism in what we do and have really high standards, but in terms of the general public – we just want people to come down and have fun.

“Most of our food is completely homemade.

“We make all the sauces and spice mixes - everything is fresh on site from local places. We use a veg merchant and a butcher from Exeter.”

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Two weeks ago, they also relaunched their menu, but Dan admitted that the pair are never quite satisfied.

Everyday they will asses the food based on customer feedback and decide how they can make dishes better.

“Every country around the world has a different style of fried chicken” Dan added. “You can go to Korea and get it super light and crispy. You go to America and its really crunchy.

“We are authentic but think about how we can improve this and make it our own. We have endless ingredients that we just love to work with.

“In Nashville they have a way of frying chicken where they add as much heat as possible and we have just started this here.

“It has taken off really well, especially at the Exeter restaurant.”

Although Dan was reluctant to let us in on any of his secrets, he did admit that the most important process when cooking his fried chicken is the brining stage.

This keeps the moisture in the chicken, but also allows you to add as much flavour to the chicken as well. Dan also adds more spices to the breaded coating.

The team also use mainly gluten free flour, as this is much better for frying chicken. So most of the dishes at Eat the Bird is automatically gluten-free.

Vegan and vegetarian dishes are popular too. As the Exeter restaurant currently has a smaller menu, all the dishes can be made vegan and in Taunton, three burgers on the menu can be made using Seitan as a vegan meat-free alternative.

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Eat the Bird are also offering Christmas parties but with a twist. Rather than a formal sit-down meal, they focus on having fun with delicious fried chicken, cocktails and beer.

As Dan said: “If we all start celebrating Christmas in November, we’ll be bored of it by Christmas day.”

He added: “We are here out of the love of what we do. We can take raw ingredients and make something special.”

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