Type to search


CHKN Not Chicken begins its run in the US

Chef Michael Gerbino, CHKN’s brand ambassador, leads the demos in a West Hollywood home.

With winter home entertaining season in swing and New Year’s resolutions around the corner, this perennial dilemma arises: how do you reconcile your desire to eat and serve flavourful, hearty meals, your desire to cut back on “the bad stuff”, and friends and family with dietary restrictions? One solution comes in the form of many plant-based meat products, some of which have been with us for a while and even popping up on popular fast food restaurant menus.
      The ‘impossible burger’ by now has achieved the impossible to varying degrees, depending on who’s preparing it. Since its introduction, however, there are more alternatives vying for a place in kitchens and banquet and dining room tables right now. One of the new contenders is CHKN Not Chicken, devised, developed and launched this fall by Marc Marano, Ryan Choi, and Brian Pope who each grew up loving meat but, for a variety of reasons (personal health, the desire to make an impact on climate change, and to champion more ethical treatment of animals) made a personal decision that they wanted (or needed) to eat less animal protein. It started hitting US markets in November.
      While all three varieties of CHKN Not Chicken (Naked CHKN, Zen CHKN, and Fiesta CHKN) are vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, and have no artificial ingredients or flavours, what they all contain are peas as a main ingredient. Peas are packed with protein and iron as well as nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. They are also a source for branched-chain amino acids, especially arginine, which promotes healthy blood flow and heart health, leucine, isoleucine and valine, which promote muscle growth.
      As existing products on the market did not successfully capture the flavour, texture and satisfaction of meat, and were too difficult to prepare to boot, Marano, Choi, and Pope consulted Michael Gerbino, a veteran Los Angeles PR–event planner-turned-celebrity chef whom they felt would provide a truthful assessment of how their concept would play out in the real world.
      While the founders all have impressive credentials in fitness, nutrition and consumer food product industries, what was most important to Gerbino when testing CHKN was that it was truly a multi-tasking food that would address body (healthier foods), mind (knowledge of eating more sustainably for a healthier planet), and soul among his clientèle. The recipes provide proof that CHKN just may fly with picky eaters and foodies alike.

Lucire Rouge: How did you first learn about this plant-based meat alternative?
Michael Gerbino: When I was approached by Brian about CHKN Not Chicken, he wanted me to first give an honest review of the product and how it would perform in a chef’s recipes and in a restaurant setting. He sent me some samples, knowing I have some clients with vegetarian and vegan diets and others who are omnivores interested in eating healthier. From a chef’s standpoint, I applied different recipes that typically involve chicken or other types of protein. I not only wanted to find out if it could successfully be a swap for both meat proteins and other alternative meats but also if my clients would like it.

Did you find that the initial run of CHKN Not Chicken needed any improvement?
I found that after I had experimented with CHKN, it needed very little change. It did not involve a learning curve in terms of anybody using it correctly. As CHKN works for the way I personally cook for clients, I appreciated that I did not have to do any special preparation beyond following the directions on the box before putting it into various recipes. Most important, my clients loved it!

Do you see it quickly catching on with a broader audience beyond vegans and vegetarians?
I’ve been following a “flexitarian” guideline with my client mix, but this is going to be my deepest dive into plant-based cooking as a professional chef. I was focused not just on taste and texture, but also how it can be used in more recipes beyond basic comfort food, Chinese and Mexican dishes. CHKN is presented in a way that is very relatable to home cooks and chefs in that it represents shredded chicken breast. It’s a great jumping-off point with a great taste and texture that I’ve found very successful in a wide variety of my dishes, going beyond classic American cuisine. I’ve applied it in Asian, Latin, and various other cuisine styles. It delivers the taste and texture of chicken and is a great way to introduce meat eaters to plant-based options. Most of the people I’ve prepared CHKN Not Chicken for weren’t vegans or vegetarians so I’m confident the market for this is quite broad.

As the term flexitarian is gaining momentum, as many plant-based meats are hitting mainstream supermarkets, do you think this using this term is a good strategy, especially with the different preferences of plant-based and omnivores?
[CHKN] is not overly niche and not trying to convert people to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. However, one thing most people can agree on is something that makes it easy to eat in a way that’s more sustainable and benefits the planet. Pushing people to go vegan can be a bit of a hard sell, but providing something new that provides a fun opportunity to [try out] a vegetarian diet is a win because of its familiar taste and texture. I also like that it’s not a finished product, as some meat substitutes are fried or prepared like fried patty or nugget-type foods, which contradicts the message of wanting to eat healthier on one’s own terms.

Favourite dishes such as chicken Cæsar salad, Chinese stir-fry, and tacos are easy to make once it is heated according to directions. Going beyond this, how can one make all kinds of international dishes at home with the three selections, especially those whose original protein is not chicken?
At the product launch event in Los Angeles, CHKN stood in for pulled pork as well as a filling for dumplings. Beyond that, I have already found all three varieties are really all-purpose. I have used them in Indian curries, Thai dishes, spaghetti Bolognese, and American barbecue-influenced things. While some flavour packets perhaps can be added to the line in the future for those who don’t have Martha Stewart-sized pantries, I think it’s best for people to experiment with the Naked CHKN, Zen CHKN, and Fiesta CHKN.

Prepping the ‘CHKN’ for a variety of transformative and tasty dishes

Sesame CHKN potstickers
Makes 24 potstickers

2 pieces CHKN (Naked or Zen), minced or pulsed in food processor until finely chopped
3 oz finely diced shiitake mushrooms
2 minced cloves of garlic
4 thinly sliced scallions
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp shaoxing wine
36 wonton wrappers
2 tsp vegetable oil
4 tsp white sesame seeds

      1. Heat a large wide skillet over medium heat.
      2. When skillet is hot, add 1 tsp of vegetable oil.
      3. When oil shimmers, add mushrooms, garlic, green onions, sautee for 3–4 minutes or until fragrant.
      4. Remove from heat, and in a large bowl, add mushroom mixture to CHKN, ginger, rice wine vinegar, Shaoxing wine, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
      5. Assemble the potstickers:

  • Place wrappers on a work surface.
  • Spoon 1 Tbsp of the CHKN mixture into the centre of each wrapper.
  • Using your finger, rub the edges of the wrappers with water.
  • Fold the dough over the filling to create a half-moon shape, pinching the edges together to create a seal.
  •       6. Brush the bottom of each potsticker with water and dip into sesame seeds to coat the bottom.
          7. Wipe the skillet and return to the burner over medium heat. Add potstickers in a singer layer and cook until golden brown (about 2–3 minutes).
          8. Add 4 Tbsp of water to the skillet and cover to let potstickers steam, for about 3 minutes.
          9. Serve with dipping sauce.

    Alternative recipe
          1. Place assembled potstickers in an air fryer.
          2. Set to 350°F, and cook for 5–7 minutes or until golden and crispy.
          3. Serve with dipping sauce.

    Dipping sauce for potstickers
    1 oz soy sauce
    1 oz rice wine vinegar
    1 tsp fresh grated ginger
    1 small clove of garlic, minced
    1 scallion, thinly sliced
    1 Tbsp of toasted sesame oil
    1 tsp sugar

          1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and let sit for 5 minutes for flavours to meld.
          2. Serve with potstickers.

    Velvet CHKN and snow peas
    Serves 4

    2 tsp cornstarch
    2 tsp soy sauce
    2 tsp Shaoxing wine
    2 tsp oil
    ⅓ cup water

    1 pkg CHKN (Naked)
    ½ cup vegetable stock
    2 tsp cornstarch
    1 lb snow peas
    1 red bell pepper, julienned
    1 Tbsp oil
    1 clove of garlic, minced
    1 Tbsp shaoxing wine
    1 Tbsp soy sauce
    1 tsp oyster sauce
    ½ tsp sesame oil
    ½ tsp salt
    White pepper to taste
    ⅛ tsp sugar

    To make the marinade
          1. Mix the cornstarch, light soy sauce, oil, and wine in a bowl.
          2. Toss the CHKN into the bowl and set aside.
          3. Mix one-third cup of hot water or chicken stock with cornstarch into a slurry and set aside.
          4. If you like more sauce for the rice, increase your hot water or stock and add more salt or soy sauce to taste.

    To complete the dish
          1. Heat a wok or wide sloped skillet over high heat until smoking, add a tablespoon of oil to coat the wok and spread the chicken around evenly.
          2. Let the chicken sear (don’t move the pieces) for about 60 seconds until browned on one side.
          3. Next, give the chicken a quick stir and add the minced garlic and snow peas.
          4. Add the shaoxing wine around the rim of the wok to de-glaze and stir everything together using a bottom to top folding motion for about 30 seconds.
          5. Movement is important for the snow peas to cook evenly.
          6. The pods should be just starting to turn bright green now.
          7. Working quickly, add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir to combine, about 15 seconds.
          8. Stir up your slurry mix (the water and starch has probably separated by now) and add to the wok.
          9. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds, or until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon.
          10. Plate and serve immediately with steamed rice.

    Chef Gerbino’s tip: when cooking at home use a wide non-stick skillet.

    CHKN al pastor tacos
    Serves 4

    2 pkg of CHKN
    1¼ cup of fresh pineapple cut into bite sized pieces
    12 small fresh flour or corn tortillas
    1 small red onion finely diced
    1 bunch of cilantro, minced
    ¼ cup shaved radish
    1 cup guacamole (recipe below)
    4 limes cut into wedges
    1 cup grated jack cheese

    5 garlic cloves, minced
    ¼ c brown sugar
    2½ tsp salt
    2 chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped

          1. Preheat oven broiler and place the top rack about 6 to 8 inches from the top.
          2. Combine the marinade ingredients and add CHKN. Let sit for 10–20 minutes.
          3. Place non-stick foil over a sheet pan and arrange CHKN in a single layer and top with the chopped pineapple.
          4. Place the sheet pan in the broiler for 4–6 minutes or until the CHKN is lightly charred in places, stir and place back in broiler for 3–4 minutes to char the rest of the CHKN.
          5. Remove the CHKN from the oven, tent in foil and let rest while you prepare the tortillas.
          6. Place tortillas on a sheet pan covered with non stick foil and top with grated cheese.
          7. Place under the broiler for 1–2 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
          8. Remove the tortillas from the broiler and top with the CHKN mixture.
          9. Top with onion, cilantro, radish, guacamole and a squeeze of lime.
          10. Serve immediately.

    2 ripe avocados, mashed
    1 Roma tomato, finely diced
    1 bunch cilantro, finely minced
    Juice of 2 small limes
    1 Tbsp kosher salt
    1 small clove of garlic, minced
    ¼ small red onion, minced

    Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, adjust salt to taste.

    Nashville–Buffalo CHKN sliders
    Servings: 12

    3 packs of CHKN
    1 cup of Nashville–Buffalo sauce (recipe below)
    ½ cup cornstarch
    1 qt of canola oil
    12 sweet Hawaiian rolls
    2 Tbsp melted butter
    1 small head of savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
    1 small red onion, thinly sliced
    1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
    1 small carrot, shredded
    ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
    2 tsp white sugar
    1 Tbsp quality mayonnaise
    Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

          1. In a large heavy bottom pot, or deep fryer, heat canola oil to 350°F.
          2. Preheat oven to 425°F.
          3. Meanwhile prepare the slaw dressing by whisking together the vinegar, sugar, mayo; season to taste with salt and pepper.
          4. Prepare the slaw by combining the cabbage, onion, carrot and cilantro in a large bowl.
          5. Add dressing, mix well and set aside to marinade.
          6. Place the rolls on a sheet pan with parchment paper and brush rolls with melted butter.
          7. Bake rolls for 3–5 minutes or until lightly browned and warm to the touch. Set aside.
          8. Toss the CHKN together with the cornstarch in a large bowl, shaking off any excess, add CHKN to the heated oil and fry for 4 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy.
          9. Remove from the oil and drain on a sheet pan with a wire rack or paper towel for 1 minute.
          10. Toss CHKN in Nashville–Buffalo sauce.
          11. Assemble the sliders by adding slaw and top with sauced CHKN.

    Nashville–Buffalo sauce
    4 oz melted butter
    6 tsp cayenne pepper
    1 Tbsp fresh ground black pepper
    1 Tbsp garlic powder
    1 Tbsp onion powder
    1 oz white vinegar
    1 Tbsp brown sugar
    1 tsp paprika

          1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and add the remaining ingredients until well combined.
          2. Keep warm and add to CHKN once removed from the fryer oil.

    Grilled CHKN Cæsar salad
    Servings: 4

    1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut into cubes
    2 Tbsp olive oil
    Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    1 pack of CHKN
    2 heads of romaine lettuce, washed and roughly chopped
    1 lemon
    1 clove garlic minced
    3 lemons, juiced
    ¼ c mayonnaise
    2 anchovy fillets
    ¼ c fresh grated parmesan cheese
    1 clove of garlic, minced
    ½ tsp crushed red pepper

    To make the croutons
          1. In a wide skillet over medium low heat, add the bread, olive oil and toss frequently until lightly browned and slightly crispy.
          2. Toss in garlic clove, salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat, set aside.

    To make the CHKN
          1. Preheat the broiler and place the top rack 6 to 8 inches from the top.
          2. Toss CHKN with the juice of one lemon, 1 minced garlic clove, and fresh ground black pepper.
          3. On a sheet pan lined with non-stick foil, spread CHKN in a single layer.
          4. Broil for 4–6 minutes or until lightly charred in places, remove from broiler and set aside.

    To make the dressing
          1. In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until uniform consistency is achieved.
          2. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

    Assemble the salad
          1. In a large bowl, toss together the romaine, croutons, half the CHKN and the dressing.
          2. Plate in a wide shallow bowl and add top with the remaining CHKN.
          3. Serve immediately.

    CHKN tikka masala
    Servings: 4

    2 packs of CHKN
    ½ cup Greek yoghurt
    5 garlic cloves, minced
    2 Tbsp ginger, grated
    4 tsp garam masala
    1 tsp turmeric
    1 tsp cayenne pepper
    2 tsp ground cumin

    Sauce ingredients
    4 Tbsp butter
    1 onion, finely chopped
    6 garlic cloves, minced
    2 Tbsp ginger, grated
    1 tsp brown sugar
    1 tbs each
    Ground cumin
    Garam masala
    1 tsp cayenne pepper
    1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano)
    1 c heavy whipping cream (or coconut cream)
    ½ c chicken or vegetable stock
    1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

          1. In a large bowl or ziplock bag, combine the CHKN, Greek yoghurt, garlic, ginger, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper and cumin.
          2. Set aside and let marinate while you prepare the sauce.
          3. Meanwhile make the sauce.
          4. Heat a wide pot over medium heat. Add 2 Tbsp of butter and when bubbling subsides, add the CHKN in batches frying until golden brown. Work in batches, do not crowd the pan.
          5. Set CHKN aside.
          6. Add the remaining butter to the pan and add onions.
          7. Cook over medium heat until soft and translucent.
          8. Lower the heat and add the garlic and ginger, sauté for 1–2 minutes or until fragrant, add the cumin, coriander, turmeric and garam masala and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
          9. Add tomatoes, cayenne pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
          10. Add the cream, stock and sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes, then adjust the salt and pepper levels to taste.
          11. Right before serving, add CHKN to the sauce just until heated through.
          12. Top with cilantro and serve with Naan bread and steamed rice.

    CHKN pasta Bolognese
    Serves 4

    2 Tbsp of olive oil
    4 Tbsp butter (reserve 1 for pasta)
    1 small white onion, finely diced
    3 stalks of celery and 3 carrots, finely chopped
    2 packages of CHKN
    ¾ c heavy whipping cream
    1 c white wine
    1–14 oz can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
    ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
    1 lb cooked pasta
    Salt and pepper to taste
    3 oz fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano
    ½ c fresh basil leaves

          1. In a food processor, pulse the CHKN until it resembles coarse ground meat.
          2. In a wide pot, heat 1 Tbsp each of olive oil and butter over medium heat, add CHKN and sauté for about 2–3 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
          3. In the same pot, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat.
          4. Add onions and sauté for about 2–4 minutes or until onions are translucent and soft, add the carrot and celery and continue cooking for 4–6 minutes or until they all soften.
          5. Add the heavy cream simmer until it has reduced completely.
          6. Add wine and simmer until it has reduced completely.
          7. Add the tomatoes, and lower heat.
          8. Add nutmeg, a pinch of pepper, half of the fresh basil, stir and simmer for 30–60 minutes uncovered.
          9. Meanwhile bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside.
          10. When the sauce is thickened, adjust salt and pepper to taste and add the CHKN.
          11. Toss with pasta, top with parmigiano-reggiano and serve immediately with remaining torn basil.

    Greek CHKN pita picket
    Serves 4

    2 packages of CHKN
    3 oz olive oil
    1 tsp dried oregano
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1 lemon, juiced

    To make Greek salad
    4 Persian cucumbers, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
    1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
    1 c yellow tomatoes, halved
    1 clove garlic, minced
    ½ c thinly sliced red onion, soaked in water for 10 min then drained
    1 c rough crumbled feta cheese
    ⅓ c kalamata olives, roughly chopped
    1 tsp thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
    ¼ c minced parsley
    1 oz red wine vinegar
    2 oz olive oil
    4 small pitas, warmed and halved
    2 lemons, cut into wedges for garnish

          1. Preheat the broiler and place a rack 6–8 inches from the top.
          2. In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.
          3. Add CHKN and let marinade for a few minutes.
          4. Line a sheet pan with non-stick foil.
          5. Spread CHKN in an even layer and broil 4–6 minutes or until lightly charred in places, set aside.
          6. In a separate bowl, make the Greek salad.
          7. Combine the cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, herbs, olives, feta and garlic.
          8. Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
          9. Toss to combine and let sit for a few minutes.
          10. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the pitas flipping until both sides are warm and they begin to puff slightly.
          11. Remove from heat, slice in half, add CHKN, then top with the salad.
          12. Squeeze extra lemon, if you’d like to serve immediately.


    Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *