If you were Foster Farms, you might think those daffy Imposter Chickens had created enough name recognition to build your brand. But listen to Nancy Piho of NTA, a PR firm in Washington, D.C.: "The backbone of any food media marketing program is quality recipe development."
In other words, it's chicken recipes, not cute characters, that get busy shoppers to actually buy your products, be they boneless breasts or bone-in thighs. Used to be, the National Chicken Council ran a contest every year for original chicken recipes — kind of like the Pillsbury Bake-Off. This year, Foster Farms stepped up to sponsor a competition in its sales territory, the West Coast.
Piho sifted through 2,000 recipes and came up with five semifinalists for Washington State. At the Kathy Casey Food Studios in Ballard Wednesday, professional chefs followed the recipes (Foster Farms chicken, prepared with local ingredients) without making any adjustments or enhancements.
The winners: a brown rice chicken salad (which I found rather ho-hum — needed zing) and a chicken breast with goat cheese and mushrooms that fit the bill: neither too complicated nor particularly exotic (except for mashing the goat cheese with a tablespoon of honey ), the sort of dish that wouldn't be out of place in a neighborhood bistro. You might not order it twice in a restaurant, but you could imagine the family around the dinner table tucking in an appreciative "Mom, you're the best cook in the world!"
And it turns out, that's just what happened. The creator of the winning chicken dish was Monica King, a project manager at Southwest Washington Medical Center in Vancouver, with a husband and four teenagers.
Two more rounds of semifinals this week in California and Oregon, then the final cook-off at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, Calif. Monica King, already $1,000 richer, will be on hand.