When Donald Adams and Paolo Campbell were going to culinary school together at Seattle Central College 10 years ago, Campbell would always bring a sketchbook to class where he’d jot down business ideas for the future restaurant they knew they wanted to open together. After they graduated, they split ways, Campbell cooking at Revel, and later Opus Co., and Adams working as a sous and executive chef at Ethan Stowell’s restaurants. But Campbell still texted Adams new business ideas at least once a year.
Sometimes, it would be something off-the-wall like, “Dude, we’re going to do hot sauce,” an idea that never came to fruition. But most of the time, it was some form of fried chicken — a food Campbell has always loved for its flavor and unfussiness.
Then last fall, Greenwood’s Opus Co. closed and Campbell had the opportunity to take over the space; meanwhile, Adams was on a work hiatus to spend time with his one-year-old kid. The stars aligned: Campbell texted Adams and told him, “Alright man, it’s really happening.” They decided to open a restaurant together, much like the ideas they had seeded back in school.
The Chicken Supply opened in October in the old Opus Co. space and has sold out almost every night since, normally by 7 p.m., with pre-orders often closing out by 1 p.m. That’s in part because Adams and Campbell limit the amount of chicken they’ll fry in a night (the dream was a restaurant where they could go home with enough time and energy to hang out with their young kids and where staff wouldn’t get burnt out on long hours). It also might be because of how the gluten-free batter on the gluten-free-soy-marinated chicken — wings, drumsticks, thighs, or 10-inch long cylinders of breast meat on sticks — crackles under the teeth with the satisfying, puffy texture of Rice Krispies, or how the tanginess in the vegetable side dishes complements the grease in the fried birds.
Campbell says the fried chicken at his restaurant is Filipino (he’s Filipino American and spent time in the Philippines as a kid, and though Adams didn’t know it when he met Campbell, an uncle’s DNA test mid-way through culinary school revealed that he, too, is partially Filipino.) But what, exactly, is Filipino fried chicken?
Campbell says generally, Southeast Asian chicken has a lighter, crispier batter than American fried chicken, though he wrote his own recipe based on knowledge he picked up in Seattle restaurants. First, he marinates the meat with soy sauce, lemons, and garlic. Then, he brushes it with an egg white wash before dusting it in a mixture of rice, tapioca, and potato flours with spices and throwing it in the deep fryer. Unlike Hawaiian mochiko chicken, whose thin, crispy texture is achieved with a simple dusting in rice flour, or kaarage, whose crackly, but often structurally weak, crust is made with just potato flour, Adams says the combination of the three flours and the egg wash forms a crust that crackles while also maintaining structural integrity. The chicken itself is from Skagit County’s Draper Valley Farms, the best chicken Campbell says he can buy without running into constant supply issues.
The vegetable sides are also Filipino dishes with twists. The pancit, for example, is served cold instead of hot (to better pair with the steaming-hot chicken) and is made with separately pickled celery, marinated tomato, and seared cabbage. “Normally you’d just cook it all together and do the thing and it’d still turn out really dope,” Campbell says. And For the laing, a Filipino braised green dish with coconut milk, he swaps out the traditional taro leaves for sturdier collard greens.
Other sides to pair with the chicken include a dish made with eggplant, bell peppers, and cipollini onion marinated with soy sauce, black vinegar, and licoricey star anise, whose tangy sauce can be poured over toasty garlic rice. Though the menu will evolve over time, Campbell says it will remain 100 percent gluten-free to accommodate his friends with celiac disease.
The pair might add another staff member soon and start to fry a little more chicken every day; right now, the shop has two employees who earn $25 an hour and have 100 percent of their health benefits paid by the business.
The Chicken Supply will also likely open its small dining room soon, where diners will be able to watch staff batter and fry the birds behind the counter (it’s currently takeout-only after a brief period of offering dine-in in October), and Campbell is hoping to build some streetside dining as the days get sunnier. For now, though, Campbell and Adams are happy running their dream restaurant — and going home to their kids every night.