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Knott's Berry Farm celebrates 90 years of its chicken restaurant

Knott’s Berry Farm celebrates 90 years of its chicken restaurant
Knott’s Berry Farm celebrates 90 years of its chicken restaurant 02:25

It's not all about the rides and berry jams at Knott's Berry Farm. The theme park really owes its success to chicken, specifically chicken dinners.

Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner restaurant at the amusement park got its beginnings 90 years ago, on June 13, 1934 when Cordelia Knott served eight chicken dinners at her Buena Park berry farm for 65 cents a piece. It was a way to supplement the family income, as she, along with her husband Walter had been operating the farm since 1920.

Cordelia manned the berry stand and a tea room, and started regularly serving up chicken. Before they knew it, the Knott's were restaurateurs. 

Eighty-two-year-old Ruth James is a regular at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner restaurant and recalls her visits as a child. "There wasn't much of anything. There was the grassy knolls, and I don't think there was any rides or anything," James said.

The popularity of the chicken forced the restaurateurs to become entrepreneurs. "The lines (to the restaurant) got so long that Walter actually built a ghost town and that sort of acted as the catalyst for the theme park," Joey Lopez, Knott's Marketplace brand manager said.

Today, Knott's Berry Farm brings in more than five million guests a year, and the restaurant serves about 1,000 chicken dinners a day. 

Bobby Obezo, Knott's Berry Farm executive chef said they go through about one million pounds of chicken a year and still follows Cordelia's recipe from 90 years ago, with the breading and double frying. He says besides the original recipe, the secret to success is quality control and attention to the details.

James is a fan, and while enjoying her chicken dinner she proclaimed her loyalty. "We'll keep coming here probably until we can't come any longer," James said.

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