An Internet Sensation Counts His Rotisserie Chickens
Rotisserie chickens have a long and somewhat fraught history as a delicacy of kings. In 1192, on his way home from Crusade, King Richard the Lionheart hit inclement weather and docked his ship in Vienna, where he assumed a disguise to avoid being captured by Duke Leopold V of Austria, who’d accused Richard of orchestrating the murder of his cousin, Conrad of Montferrat. Legend has it that King Richard’s cover was blown because locals near his campsite picked up on the scent of a roast chicken, then considered an aristocratic indulgence, leading to Richard’s imprisonment. But this past weekend, chicken was reclaimed by the proletariat. Alexander Tominsky, a 31-year-old living in South Philly, has become a minor internet celebrity over the past month by documenting his journey eating 40 rotisserie chickens in 40 days. On Sunday, the morning after the Phillies lost to the Houston Astros in the World Series, he lifted the spirits of some hundreds of Philadelphians who gathered at an abandoned pier behind a Walmart to watch Tominsky eat his 40th and final chicken. Seated at a table covered in white cloth, Tominsky cut an almost messianic figure, raising his arms triumphantly as he ate the last bite while Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” played from a speaker. Fresh off his strange and unexpectedly galvanizing accomplishment, Tominsky talked to Interview about what he calls the “Daily Fowl” and his newfound fame as a kind of viral heartthrob.
JAKE NEVINS: How are you feeling today?
ALEXANDER TOMINSKY: Uh, I feel pretty good. I haven’t had anything to eat and I might just take the day off to let my gut reset. I’m in the process of healing.
NEVINS: Good, good. What would you normally be doing today? What’s your day job?
TOMINSKY: I’m a server [at Barclay Prime, a steakhouse in Rittenhouse Square]. So I work in the restaurant industry.
NEVINS: You’ve kind of fascinated the internet with this rotisserie chicken challenge. Tell me how it came about.
TOMINSKY: Well, one day I had work and you know, I start at 3:30 and it was about 2:30, and I realized I had a bit of a hunger. So I got a rotisserie chicken and as soon as I started to consume, I had this immediate feeling that there’s something powerful about it. Some sort of—I just felt really good about it. So then I just kept taking pictures and eating one every single day and it wasn’t until day 11 that I decided to start sharing it with the world because I felt like it was too powerful to keep bottled up.
NEVINS: It’s primal, almost. Like you’re the Original Man.
TOMINSKY: I like how everyone has their own interpretation of it.
NEVINS: Why chicken, specifically?
TOMINSKY: Well, I’m not really sure. I mean, rotisserie chickens are quite easy and you can pretty much find them at any grocery store, which was good. But also, rotisserie chickens are strange. And they’re also kind of like a sensory bomb. You have the smell, you have the warmth, the slimy texture, the sound it makes when you pull the skin off the flesh. I kind of wanted to abuse myself a little bit, to feel the pain, and it just seemed like one of those things that would eventually destroy me, which it did.
NEVINS: Are you a bit of masochist?
TOMINSKY: I mean, what’s reward without some hardship? And that hardship is absolutely minimal in comparison to the hardship some other people in the world have to deal with. So maybe it’s also just a good reminder of that. And also, maybe I have some sort of traumatic event with chicken that I need to overcome. But I don’t have any recollection.
NEVINS: Were you getting the chickens from the same place every day? Did they have, like, different seasonings?
TOMINSKY: So my whole thing was to get the plainest chicken possible, with no sauce. And I’ll tell you, rotisserie chickens are very volatile. Most of the time they are very dry. But the spot right next to my work was where I’d go, because when I would walk in the staff would give me thumbs up. That hospitality and the works from the staff at Rittenhouse Market was wonderful.
NEVINS: Are you a fan of Joey Chestnut and the Hot Dog Eating Contest?
TOMINSKY: Not really. I don’t really care for competitive eating but I respect them for doing it
NEVINS: Has all this attention surprised you?
TOMINSKY: The first time I took that bite, I knew something special was gonna happen. So when I made the flyer to promote the 40th consumption, I did pick a venue that could accommodate a crowd like that. And this was at a point in the process where I only had like, 20 people following the uh, “Daily Fowl.”
NEVINS: So you’re a Philly guy. And something about this strikes people as very Philly. How long have you lived there?
TOMINSKY: It’s been about eight years and the city has accepted me with open arms. And I plan to make it my first permanent residence. But I’m originally from Burrillville, Rhode Island.
NEVINS: Obviously, the Phillies lost the World Series on Saturday night. And losing a championship can really affect a city collectively. You had a big turnout on the Piers yesterday, so I’m wondering what about this captured the spirit and character of Philadelphia.
TOMINSKY: Yeah, yeah. Well, one of the beautiful things about Philly is that we know when it’s time to unite. It’s literally the city of brotherly and sisterly love. Like, we can be hard-ass upfront assholes, but when the time comes, and the time needs to come occasionally, we find an outlet to unite and to remember that we’re all neighbors and we need to look out for each other and care for each other.
NEVINS: And now you have a lot of admirers, too. I imagine your DMs are blowing up.
TOMINSKY: Yeah, it’s been very overwhelming. I’m flattered by the interest. I mean, that’s great. I guess I got lucky. But yeah, I’m flattered.
NEVINS: What are you like dying to eat now?
TOMINSKY: I think I might have some nice sushi.
NEVINS: What kind?
TOMINSKY: Probably a nice collection of different types, and maybe some ceviche.
NEVINS: Well, you deserve it. Thanks for getting on the phone with me.
TOMINSKY: It’s my pleasure. I appreciate your interest and taking the time to call.