Why couple who started successful fried chicken business at home in lockdown are leaving it behind for now

Jamie Rees and Natalia Galka have a clear passion in life – Nashville hot chicken.

They have taken their passion from just cooking spicy chicken for fun, to developing a recipe in their garden over lockdown to trading in Sticky Fingers in Cardiff .

Now they are leaving their bsuiness behind for a few months to travel America to on honeymoon and find the perfect recipe.

Jamie, 32, from Swansea , and Natalia, 27, from Poland met nine years ago and discovered their love for hot chicken when Jamie, who was working as a chef at the time, brought home a cookbook with a spicy chicken recipe.

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From then it became an occasional dish for the couple, as Jamie explained: “It was something I had never seen before, something I had never even heard about and then every now and again I would just cook it for me and Natalia and didn’t really think too much about it.”

It was not until they went travelling to Canada that they really fell in love with Nashville hot chicken and their passion began.

Going all out and trying the extra hot chicken, Jamie says he experienced his first-ever “spice high”.

He said: “It was my first time ever getting spice high. It fills you full of endorphins. We absolutely fell in love with hot chicken there and then.”

It was here the passion started and they next travelled to LA on the hunt for more hot chicken, which they found and loved.

Jamie said: “It was phenomenal, we tried a few more little hot chicken places in LA and realised it was something we really enjoyed.”

However, until lockdown that was all hot chicken was for the couple – a hobby and a dream to set up a business around it.

Then lockdown hit and Jamie took the chance to perfect his hot chicken recipe.

“When I was sitting at home for three months I thought if I don’t work on my recipe, if I don’t write my own menu now then I never will,” he said.

They bought a two-litre fryer and began frying in their apartment until the apartment started to smell from all the chicken and Jamie had to become creative and started frying in their garden.

He said: “The apartment started smelling so what I ended up doing was getting an extension cord, pulling it out through the window, and then frying on the balcony.”

Frying chicken began to attract some interesting looks from people walking by. Jamie said: “People are walking past and I’m there with an apron and a tiny little fryer, just frying!”

The couple started posting their creations to Instagram, after coming up with the name which took a while to form, and were just hoping there would be someone out there who could help them turn their dream into a reality.

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The couple wanted to turn their dreams into the reality © WalesOnline/ Rob Browne The couple wanted to turn their dreams into the reality

And someone did as Matt Connolly, the owner of Sticky Fingers a street food venue in Cardiff, got in contact.

After chatting with Matt and explaining their hospitality experience as Jamie is a trained chef and Natalia has worked extensively in the industry, they were given a space in Sticky Fingers.

Jamie explained how it felt to be given a chance to make their hot chicken business a reality. He said: “It felt amazing because for years me and Natalia had been speaking about something like this, about eventually running our own place – for someone to give us the opportunity like that was huge for us.”

However, this was in January 2021 and Jamie and Natalia had to painstakingly wait five months for lockdown to end before they could finally start serving.

Jamie said: “And then we had to wait and just wait. It was horrible – we didn’t exist, we weren’t really trading.

“It took five months from the conversation with Matt to then finally be able to trade so the entire time we were just waiting and twiddling our thumbs.”

But finally, they could open, and taking on some great advice from their neighbouring stall in Sticky Fingers they hired staff for the first night.

Jamie explained how this was one of the best things they did: “He (the stall owner) said ‘you only have one chance to make a first impression, so if I was you I’d bring someone in, just in case’. And thankfully he did because there is no way we would have survived that first night.”

And the night was a great success. Despite the slight chaos of being open for the first time, Jamie and Natalia were overjoyed.

He said: “It was phenomenal, there is no other way to describe it.

“To see bloggers and Instagram just going ‘I went to Fowl and Fury their stuff was amazing’ was amazing. After years of lazy thoughts about a company, but then a few months of solid preparation followed by four months of sitting around hoping to be able to trade, it felt awesome.”

Jamie and Natalia working at Fowl and Fury © @yonyphotography Jamie and Natalia working at Fowl and Fury

Since then the couple has been successfully trading at Sticky Fingers but at the end of this month are about to embark on another big adventure.

Jamie and Natalia are getting married and then going on an epic honeymoon across South America and then Texas to sample the home of Nashville hot chicken.

He said: “We need to go to the place where Nashville hot chicken was invented, we need to go to the original spot that invented it and we need to see what they are doing differently.”

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Jamie did admit they are nervous about giving up their spot in Sticky Fingers, as another trader will replace them, he said: “It is really scary, in terms of trading we have only been around five and half months now and that soon to walk away and close for a little bit is scary.

“We are a little nervous about leaving this soon after but we are going on a research mission.”

While they are gone the couple will be keeping their Fowl and Fury followers updated every step of the way on their Instagram, hoping to keep people engaged for their return, as followers will watch them try the extra extra hot chicken.

Jamie joked: “People will be able to watch me suffer rather than us make them suffer, they get to watch me suffer and cry like a baby.

“Regulars have come to us every week since we opened and we still want to keep people engaged and I think the best way to keep people engaged while Fowl and Fury isn’t running is to bring them into our journey with us.”

At the heart of their business is making sure customers experience true Nashville hot chicken as the couple increase the spice level with more and more chillies.

Jamie did not let slip what chillies they use for the Hot and Fury level, which has caused some customers to cry from the heat.

He said: “We want to do it the most justice we possibly can and it was our number one priority when we opened Fowl and Fury that it was Nashville hot chicken, that it wasn’t watered down, it had to be hot.”

Despite this almost painful experience eating the hot chicken, which you can read more about here as our reporter Ed Gilbert tried every spice level , the customers love it and this is the best part of the business for the pair.

Jamie said of one response from a customer: “Their face was all red and blotchy, you could tell they had a fight with the chicken that night, but the fact that they would still come up and tell us that they thought it was amazing and some of the best chicken they had ever eaten reminds us that it started with a two-litre fryer.”

Another key element of the success of the business is how well Jamie and Natalia work together.

Jamie said: “It is the best thing. She is one of the hardest workers that I have ever worked with, she is one of the best people I have ever met. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

You can catch Fowl and Fury in Sticky Fingers, Cardiff until Sunday, October 31.

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