Classically trained chef finds success through fried chicken

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Editor’s note: this story pairs with “Late night food delivery sweeps Provo”

What began as a passion project for chef Chad Pritchard has become a viable second business in just a few months.

Chad, owner of the Oregano Italian Kitchen, and his nephew Brandon began “kicking around” the idea of doing a late-night food delivery business like Five Sushi Brothers and Chip Cookies.

The first thing the pair came up with was the kind of food they wanted to serve. Pritchard had two rules for their food: it had to be good, and it had to be relatable — something people were familiar with.

The answer came fairly quickly to Chad, a classically trained French chef.

“My two favorite things in the world to make are pizza and fried chicken,” Chad said. “And there’s really no place in this area that does fried chicken.”

Chad shared with his nephew a concept he had created years earlier: “Love Me Tenders,” focusing on chicken tenders. But after some discussion, Chad and his nephew decided to serve chicken sandwiches.

And not just any chicken sandwiches, either — Chad’s chicken sandwiches are gluten-free. Inspired by a close friend with a gluten intolerance, Chad felt there was a need to create good fried chicken that is accessible to everybody, regardless of dietary restrictions.

“So we figured out a way to do (fried chicken) without breading,” Chad said.

Love Me Tenders currently offers two chicken sandwiches and 20 different sauces, a fact Chad is proud of.

“People love their sauce here in Utah County,” Pritchard said.

Some of the sauces will always be on the menu, while others will be rotated out. Chad said the sauces are always made fresh, an important component of making good food. Of course, Chad makes his own fry sauce, but it comes under a different name: Mormonnaise.

Chad said the name came from a coworker in Texas, where Chad grew up and worked for a while. Chad made fry sauce while working as a cook and his coworker commented that “fry sauce” was a boring name. The coworker then declared that they would instead call the condiment “Mormonnaise,” and the name stuck. Chad said there is even a sub-cult following for Mormonnaise in Austin.

“There’s a food truck down there that sells it by the gallon,” Chad said.

Chad and his wife, Kimber, said they owe their success to the community they found here in Provo.

Chad and Kimber moved from Texas to Provo almost five years ago. Kimber was eight months pregnant with their fourth child and the family wasn’t sure what was to come.

Pritchard had flown to Utah for a job interview. When he returned to Texas, Kimber met him at the airport and they went straight to the temple to pray about whether they should move to Utah.

Pritchard turned down a job in Texas to move across the country and start work in Provo. Within six weeks, he quit the job at a Provo restaurant because he wasn’t being paid.

“I was really distraught,” Chad said.

But Kimber had received an answer that the family was supposed to move to Utah.

“It wasn’t for the job,” she said, “The impression I got was, ‘You don’t want to miss this opportunity.'”

Through connections they had made in Provo while living here briefly in 2010, Chad got a job teaching culinary arts at UVU. Later he purchased Chef’s Table, a restaurant in Orem, and eventually earned enough money to open the Oregano Italian Kitchen nearly three years ago. The Pritchards currently run Love Me Tenders out of the Oregano Italian Kitchen in the evenings.

On opening night of Love Me Tenders, Chad sold 85 chicken sandwiches, even though they hadn’t done any advertising, according to Kimber. They had only told their regular customers at the Oregano Italian Kitchen, and many of them showed their support.

“Provo really embraced us like no place we’d ever been,” Chad said.

The Pritchard family is active in Provo politics and “the scene downtown,” Chad said.

Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rona Rahlf confirmed Chad’s involvement in the Provo community, especially when it comes to downtown businesses. Chad serves as chair elect for the Convention and Visitors Bureau Board.

“(Chad) is one of the main leaders in downtown Provo,” Rahlf said, “He’s very vocal and politically active when it comes to advocating for downtown Provo.”

Chad didn’t necessarily expect to see Love Me Tenders become so successful, but now that it has, he’s already found a location to move the restaurant to so it can become fully operational. The future location will be open for lunch and dinner, in addition to continuing late-night food delivery.

Even with Provo’s continually growing food scene, one might wonder why a Le Cordon Bleu chef chooses to stay. For Chad and his family, it’s simple.

“We chose to stay in Provo because Provo chose to stay with us,” Chad said.

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