Just like the KFC Colonel’s secret recipe, Jovan and Natalia have their own blend of 11 herbs and spices in the fried chicken that Jovan’s family has been making for 20 years.
And just like KFC, they have a technique that they reckon sets their fried chicken apart – and they’re not telling anyone!
All they will say is that it’s a way of premixing and applying their 11 herbs and spices to the chicken – and unlike KFC, which resorts to pressure-cooking its chicken, they’ve found a way of deep-frying it that they say makes all the succulent difference.
The couple moved back from Melbourne to Rarotonga with their three children last year, with big plans to revamp the family fried chicken business.
They have completely turned their lives around: Jovan, who worked in construction, is now frying chicken using the 20-year-old family recipe. And Natalia, who worked as a make-up artist for 15 years, has now brought a Vietnamese twist of flavours to the island.
The shop used to belong to Palace Takeaway owner, Annie Nicholas, who passed down the fried chicken business to her son Jovan.
“I think she just really wanted to get her grandkids home,” he laughs.
The couple renamed the business in her honour.
It must have worked: Annie’s Fried Chicken and Vietnamese is a favourite with locals.
Before they opened, they would prepare food at home and sell rolls outside the front of the shop and when they saw the demand from hungry locals, they decided to get serious about the business.
“It was crazy, we had people lining up even before we opened the shop,” says Natalia.
She wasn’t sure if the locals were going to like her Vietnamese food.
“But here the chili and limes grow wild, all the flavours were here for Vietnamese food.”
They wanted to keep the chicken for all the locals who have been going there for years, Natalia says. They will also be providing healthy food on the menu like their favourite Vietnamese salad.
“Everything in the shop is our favourite food,” she says, “this is what we love to eat.”
Jovan has always loved cooking.
The family returned home to Rarotonga to raise their kids on the island, away from the city.
They all agree, it’s good to be home.