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Library Patrons Go Behind-the-Scenes at Chick-fil-A

Lansdale Library's "Explore Your Town" program showed interested children and parents what goes into daily preparation at the fast food chicken sandwich restaurant at Montgomery Mall

In one day, will go through 600 chicken patties, freshly squeeze four cases of lemons for its lemonade and serve about 600 people.

Twelve youths and five adults got a behind-the-scenes look at Chick-fil-A at the Montgomery Mall Thursday morning, led by owner and operator Mike Endicott of Hamilton, NJ. It was all part of 's "Explore Your Town" program.

Before the tour, Endicott gave a bit of background on the company. 

Chick-fil-A was started by Truett Cathy in 1967. 

"When he was eight years old," Endicott said, "what he did to help his parents make money during the Depression was he got a red wagon and he would buy six packs of Coca-Cola. He would sell the six packs for a nickel a piece. He would take the nickel bac and help his mom, who ran a boarding home."

Endicott said the Cathys would have 10 to 12 people staying at a time in the boarding home.

"His mom was famous for her food," he said.

In 1946, Cathy started a restaurant - "no bigger than this restaurant," Endicott said, pointing at a mall Food Court restaurant location - called The Dwarf Grill. It would be renamed later as The Dwarf House.

"He opened across from a Ford plant. He built a great relationship with Ford," Endicott said. "He developed such a good relatioship, he would keep the doors open and lights on. When he would hear them coming in, he would get up and cook them food."

Endicott said the Ford plant closed on Sundays, so Cathy closed his Dwarf Grill on Sundays.

Cathy invented the first chicken sandwich, Endicott said. Cathy would cook his chicken in under five minutes. Then, he realized if you take the bone out, the chicken cooked faster and stayed juicier.

Cathy opened the first Chick-fil-A in 1967 at Atlanta's Greenbriar Shopping Center.

"Thre are more than 1,640 Chick-fil-A's in 49 states," Endicott said. "They look to open 1,000 to 1,200 more in the next 10 years."

"That's a lot of Chick-fil-A's!" exclaimed six-year-old Kelly Williamson, a student at Mater Dei Catholic School in Lansdale.

Endicott mentioned some brief facts about Chick-fil-A, like the restaurant goes through four cases of lemons a day - about 20 cases a week - and slice and squeeze lemons every day for its lemonade.

He also said Cathy owns the original Batmobile, as well as other luxury cars from Deussingbergs to modern-day vehicles.

Cathy also founded the Winshape Homes program, a philanthropic area of the company that has established 12 foster homes in the South, and the Winshape Camps.

Endicott then had the children and reluctant adults don Chick-fil-A hats before embarking on a tour of the back kitchen.

First, an employee showed the children the proper way to wash and sanitize their hands.

"Our employees wash their hands about 10 to 12 times a day. It's real important for us for food safety," Endicott said. "Employees handle food products and cut lemons and bread and batter chickens."

He said employees a trained on food safety procedures.

"We also ask them to double wash their hands, so they never miss a handwashing," he said.

In the back kitchen, employee Lauren Des Londe showed off the brand-name products used in the Chick-fil-A menu: Dasani water, Saltines, French's mustard, Driscoll's strawberries, Del Monte mandarin oranges, Oreos and Hershey's chocolate syrup for milkshakes, and Sargento and Land O' Lakes cheeses.

The lemonade is fresh squeezed everyday by an automatic juicer. There are three ingredients in the lemonade: fresh lemons, sugar and water.

Des Londe then showed how chicken patties are battered, breaded and cooked every day.

An employee changes gloves after each battering and breading of patties, Endicott said.

Gloves are then changed again between moving the patties from the prep area to the pressure cooker.

"We can cook 24 patties at a time," said Des Londe.

Patties are placed in the pressure cooker basket, dipped into the oil, raised up to make sure they don't stick to the basket and then cooked for four minutes and 20 seconds.

Chicken is then placed in another area where they are ready to be eaten by customers. All chicken is placed on a timer.

"We don't hold chicken past 20 minutes," Des Londe said.

Patties are also thawed out for 24 hours in a refrigerator.

"We project our product for two days out," Des Londe said. "On Thursday, we make sure to have enough for Friday and Saturday."

The best seller at Chick-fil-A in the mall are the chicken nuggets.

"If seven people come up, not all are going to eat a main dish," said manager John Camiola. "We have an obligation to serve 600 to 700 people a day."

Camiola said the company's record speaks for itself.

"I think the reason it is what it is is because we haven't gone public," he said.

He said the food product is unique for the segment of its industry.

"Nobody sells this type of chicken," he said.

Lansdale Library director Tom Meyer came up with the library's "Explore Your Town" theme two years ago. Past events included visiting Lansdale's Wastewater Treatment Plant, Peter Wentz Farmstead and The Pearl S. Buck House.

"This year, I thought, 'What do I remember as a kid?' and I remember going to McDonald's and seeing what they do there," Meyer said.

He said he called Chick-fil-A and they were happy to oblige. Meyer said the Montgomeryville fast food restaurant has worked with the library on different things, such as a Reading Night at the mall and this Saturday's Clean and Green Extravaganza.

"I look at the age groups and think what can we get for teens? Most teens' first job is in fast food. We can introduce them early on that this is what you could do for work," Meyer said.

Meyer learned something at the event: He didn't know the employees change gloves so much in preparing food.

"I didn't know they used all brand names either," he said. "I wasn't aware of all the high quality ingredients."

Christina Williamson, 7, a Lansdale resident and student at Mater Dei, said she learned that employees wash their hands twice to make sure chicken doesn't get contaminated.

"I learned that lemons, sugar and water are in the lemonade," Kelly Williamson said. "My favorite part was the food!"

Dominic Verzilli, 7, also a student at Mater Dei, said chicken salad sandwiches are his favorite.

Christina said Chick-fil-A is her favorite chicken restaurant.

"I would do this everyday if I could," she said.

jay morgan July 19, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Boycott chick-fil-a. Homophobic religious zealots. Plus their food is garbage.
Julianne Wylie July 20, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Jay--do more research, much of what you read is not true. And our food is fresh and cooked on site
Pat July 20, 2012 at 12:57 PM
I don't know about their food but the homophobic charge is true as Dan Cathy has recently proudly admitted as much in an interview. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-news-blog/2012/jul/19/chick-fil-a-comes-out-as-anti-gay?newsfeed=true Re donations - http://equalitymatters.org/factcheck/201207020001 "WinShape Is Chick-Fil-A's Charitable Arm. The WinShape Foundation is Chick-fil-A's charitable arm, created by Chick-fil-A founder and chairman S. Truett Cathy in 1984. WinShape has received a substantial amount of funding from Chick-fil-A: in 2010 alone, WinShape received $8,067,161 from Chick-fil-A Inc. [WinShape 2010, Publicly Available IRS 990 Form via Foundation Center, accessed 6/27/12] WinShape Gave Over $1.9 Million To Anti-Gay Groups. In 2010, WinShape donated $1,974,380 to a number of anti-gay groups: Marriage & Family Foundation: $1,188,380 Fellowship Of Christian Athletes: $480,000 National Christian Foundation: $247,500 New Mexico Christian Foundation: $54,000 Exodus International: $1,000 Family Research Council: $1,000 Georgia Family Council: $2,500
Mike Endicott July 20, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates. From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business. For example, we believe that closing on Sundays, operating debt-free and devoting a percentage of our profits back to our communities are what make us a stronger company and Chick-fil-A family. The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect -- regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena. Our mission is simple: to serve great food, provide genuine hospitality and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.
jay morgan July 20, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I did do research. That's how I found out Chick-fil-A is a fast food chain run by homophobic religious zealots. And that's why I encourage people to boycott it. As for being family-owned, I couldn't care less. Same goes for their so-called "biblically-based principles," that's even more reason not to eat there. Cheers!
X July 21, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Serve great food while using the profits to fund groups that harm gay people and their families. That's not Christianity. It may be Chick-fil-A Christianity. But, it's not Jesus based Christianity.

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