Midway Moments: Chicken Charlie’s fries up food and fun

Editor’s note: Midway Moments is a column that takes a look at funny, unusual, inspiring — even embarrassing — moments at the 2016 Orange County Fair.

Chicken Charlie needed to make a promotional video. So on Friday morning, about an hour before the gates opened and thousands of hungry patrons flooded in for the 126th annual Orange County Fair, Chicken lined up employees in front of a Chicken Charlie’s deep-fried-food stand and started filming

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Smartphone in hand, he strolled down the line, aiming the lens toward his merry crew, each member wearing black Chicken Charlie’s T-shirts, some with words like “totally fried.” They raised their hands in the air and cheered, as if doing the wave at a ballgame.

Later that day, Chicken digitally spliced the video with other footage. By the afternoon, the final production was uploaded to his business’s Facebook page, Chicken Charlie’s at the Fair, accompanied by hashtags that included “#comegetit.”

By 7 p.m., the 46-second video, which ends with a shot of Chicken Charlie’s buzzword, “FRYBQ,” had some 2,200 views.

Chicken is not his real name, of course. It’s Charlie Boghosian, and he’s proud to note that he has about 200 employees, a little over half of whom are local kids recruited to work at one of three food stands at the OC Fair.

Chicken explained that opening day is crucial. It’s when all that training on the cash register and in food handling comes together for the first time for a crew that’s mostly new. But most of all, it has to be fun. Smiles, good service. This is the fair, after all.

“This is a fun day. Your wife, your kids, your family, you want fun,” Chicken said. “You’re expecting fun. We have to give you fun. So we have to be in a fun attitude.”

A few moments later, Chicken looked behind him and noticed that a cook didn’t place enough product on the grill.

“What are you gonna do when the first two people come and buy everything you’ve got?” Chicken asked him. “What are you gonna do for the next 2,000?”

“I’m gonna cook more,” the cook replied before walking back to grab stock and load the grill with kabobs and other goods.

“This is a reality show,” Chicken joked.

Minutes later, Chicken hopped on a cart with his brother, Tony.

Tony had been tasked with delivering an opening-day pep talk to the crew at a Chicken Charlie’s stand close to the Blue Gate entrance.

He approached the nine crew members, all standing around the registers.

“We’re gonna open in 10 minutes. Are you guys ready?” he asked. They said they were.

The Orange County Fair — the 126th edition — is back in Costa Mesa and features new treats such as the French Toast bacon bomb, cooking contests with Spam, craft beer tastings, the Budweiser Clydesdales on parade and concerts.

“Customers are here to enjoy the fair,” Tony said. “They’re gonna go on rides. They’re gonna do games. They want to eat fried Oreos and chicken kabobs, and you guys are gonna help them out with that. And Krispy Kreme triple-decker cheeseburgers — where else in the world can you get a Krispy Kreme triple-decker cheeseburger? Only at Chicken Charlie’s.”

He reminded them to smile and ask customers how their day is going. It’s OK to make mistakes, but seek help and learn from those mistakes, he said. Don’t be afraid to yell to the kitchen what you need.

Make sure the waffles come with syrup. Remember that zucchini needs ranch dressing.

And “if it’s a bacon pickle, you know, ranch probably goes really good with that,” Tony added. “So suggest ranch for them.”

“Are we charging for ranch?” an employee asked.

“The first ranch comes with it. Always,” Tony replied. “So if they want a lot of extra, you know, it depends. If they buy a lot of stuff, we should give it to them.”

Tony reviewed the new items, including one with Doritos, cheese, escargot and fresh, “really expensive” caviar.

One employee commented that he ate escargot once in New York, but it was expensive.

“It’s only $15.75 at Chicken Charlie’s,” Tony quipped. The crew laughed.

“That’s not bad,” Tony said. “That’s not bad.”

Original article by LATime: http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/opinion/tn-dpt-me-midway-moments-20160715-story.html

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