The first lesson was how to cook the ribbon fries, which was both straightforward and enjoyable, mostly because it involved what appeared to be a modified power drill.
What they do is take a potato, fit the potato into a chamber and then press the end of the drill into the potato so it locks into a notch and stays in place. Then you pull the trigger, press down on the potato and the device quickly shreds it into a thin, continuous spiral.
After that, you simply put the potato ribbon into the oil for a few minutes, and when it comes out it resembles an entangled web of kettle potato chips.
Typically Stuart Hall, a family friend who hails from Vermont, handles the stand’s potato duties, and his wife, Marcy, prepares the chicken. Marcy typically fries chicken in batches of 10, and she starts by tossing the chicken in flour before dousing it in evaporated milk and panko breadcrumbs.
Once the chicken is dressed, it spends about five minutes cooking in the oil before it comes out ready to eat. After that, Bobbi’s mother, Loreen Blow, takes the completed order and delivers it to the customer.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Blow said after serving one customer just before lunchtime. “I don’t even remember when we started.”
Though nobody could remember the exact year The Clipper City Chef or its sister stand The Traveling Chef were established, Vandenbulcke himself first started serving food at Yankee Homecoming in 1984, when he used to sell tacos and knockwurst out of a New York-style pushcart.
“Back then there were only like four or five of us,” Vandenbulcke said. “We were selling tacos and knockwurst, DC Lemonade was doing lemonade, Yankee Homecoming was doing hotdogs, and Bob Kimball had his ice cream truck, and that was about it for food vendors back then.”