This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The official food of the 2014 Utah State Fair is a Southern specialty and we're not talking a snack from St. George.
It's a chicken waffle on a stick a deep-fried, battered and then waffle-ironed delicacy that can be dipped in maple syrup or gravy and eaten without a fork and knife.
It's the creation of Richard Larsen and Michael Law, co-owners of Saturday's Waffle, a Salt Lake food truck that parks at the Olympus Hills Shopping Center every Saturday and serves sweet and savory waffles, including the popular Benny, a twist on eggs Benedict.
Fair officials contacted the Saturday's Waffle owners several months ago about creating a specific food for the 10-day event, which kicks off Thursday, Sept. 4, at the Utah State Fairpark near downtown Salt Lake City.
"We weren't sure that something on our regular menu really fit the fair," Larsen said. "So we decided to create something that people couldn't get except for those 10 days."
The chicken waffle, which will sell for about $6, combines two of America's favorite fair trends: deep-frying and food-on-a-stick. Fairgoers from Minnesota to Los Angeles have dined on pizza, ravioli, pork chops and even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on a stick. This year, a young entrepreneur at the Idaho state fair in Boise created the "corn hog," a quarter-pound piece of bacon, battered and deep-fried and served on a stick.
For the chicken waffle, Larsen and Law skewer and deep-fry a piece of chicken, then they dip it in a sweet batter and cook it in a waffle iron. The finished product resembles a corn dog that can be dipped in regular maple syrup, jalapeño maple syrup or rosemary country gravy, Larsen said.
A Southern staple, chicken and waffles has become a hot restaurant trend in recent years, with several Utah restaurants adding a hot waffle topped with pieces of crispy fried chicken to the menu.
In the past, the fair has had "all the usual food choices," said Jeff Kooring, director of sales and marketing. "But nothing like this."
Kooring said the fair hopes it can create similar partnerships in the future: "We are trying more and more to work with Utah companies."
Of course, chicken waffle on a stick is just one of several unique food items at this year's fair. Kooring said in addition to the usual fair favorites like funnel cakes, corn dogs and roasted corn, there will be deep-fried chocolate Twinkies, a doughnut burger, poutine, meat pies and turkey legs.
The new foods, along with some good weather, could help boost attendance and save the financially struggling fair, now in its 159th year.
Last year, the fair found itself in the red after sinking money into improvements and then being socked by bad weather and low attendance. The Utah Legislature stepped in and gave the fair an extra $600,000 on top of the annual taxpayer subsidy of $675,000 which will keep it afloat until 2017. But the lease on the State Fairpark is up in three years, and developers have their eye on the property.
Here's a sampling of the dozens of food events, tastings and demonstrations you'll find at this year's event:
Taste of Utah • Thursday, Sept. 4, from noon to 8 p.m., more than 50 Utah producers will offer free samples of local meats, fresh produce, cheeses, beverages, sweets and other treats. Visitors are invited to roam the specialty tent and sample what's available.
Governor Herbert's Favorite Pie Contest • On Thursday, Sept. 4, cooks will offer up their best pie in hopes of being picked the winner by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. Judging begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Zion Building. First place wins $150.
Goat Milk Ice Cream Demonstration • The Zion Building has regular cooking demonstrations throughout the fair, but don't miss Cindy Garlic demonstrating how to make ice cream using goat milk Friday, Sept. 5, at 2 p.m.
All-you-can-eat ice cream festival • Enjoy Utah's favorite treat on Monday, Sept. 8, from 3 to 9 p.m., in the Specialty Tent. Adults $3, children $2. The fair is offering reduced admission on this day, with adults $7; and children 12 and under free.
Food Truck Fiesta • On Tuesday, Sept. 9,five Utah food trucks will prepare their signature dish for judges in the Specialty Tent. Fairgoers can vote for the "People's Choice" award from 5 to 7 p.m.
Funeral Potato Contest • Also on Tuesday, Sept. 9, cooks will make their best cheese potato dish using at least three Utah's Own ingredients. Judging begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Zion Building. First place wins a $150 gift card.
Watermelon Eating Contest • On Friday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. on the Xfinity Stage, watch contestants devour Utah watermelons. There will be categories for different ages.
Utah State Championship Dutch Oven Cook-off • On Saturday, Sept. 13, stop by the Specialty Tent, where two-person teams will be cooking breads, main dishes and desserts in cast-iron pots. Cooking begins at 2 p.m. Judging begins at 4:30 p.m., with the final awards given at 8 p.m.
Utah State Fair
The 10-day Utah State Fair kicks off this week with animals and agricultural displays, educational exhibits, food and live entertainment, including a PRCA Rodeo.
When • Thursday-Sunday, Sept. 4-14. Gates open at 10 a.m. every day expect Sept. 9, 10 and 11, when they open at noon.
Where • Utah State Fairpark, 155 N. 1000 West, Salt Lake City
Admission • Adults, $10, children (6-12) and seniors 62 and older, $7; 5 and younger, free. Opening-day admission is only $5; carnival wristbands are available for $15-$28. Rodeo tickets are $12 for reserved seats.
Parking • $8, cash only
More details • utahstatefair.com