An Australian icon, chicken salt is a must-have on hot chips at the footy or on the beach and now its creator’s story is being told.
Peter Brinkworth, the 81-year-old inventor of chicken salt says he is still surprised to realise the tasty condiment is recognised around the world these days, but he remains true to its humble Adelaide origins.
After discovering the perfect concoction of spices and salt to rub on a chook being prepared for cooking in the 1970s, Mitani bought Mr Brinkworth’s business idea in 1979.
But he maintains the original recipe, held secret for more than 40 years, tastes even better than the product you can pick up on any Australian supermarket shelf.
Mr Brinkworth’s story has been captured by Brisbane’s Film Focus Productions filmmakers Jacob Richardson and Thomas van Kalken.
The 10-minute film Salt of the Earth will screen for the first time at the Adelaide Film Festival on October 20.
Mr Richardson said he tracked down Mr Brinkworth through his wife Helen on social media and after meeting him said he “had to put this guy on the big screen”.
“For us, it’s a good double bill because we’re in front of a documentary itself [Senses of Cinema] which speaks about Australian documentary making,” Mr Richardson said.
Salt has ‘nothing to do with chicken flavour’
Mr Brinkworth described his amazing discovery as a “simple, natural thing” that happened when he was cooking chickens for his retail food store in Adelaide.
“Instead of putting salt and pepper on them, I made up a mixture to just sprinkle with one go instead of using a dozen different containers,” he said.
“It was just out of laziness more than anything.
“There are a hundred recipes out there today and they all reckon they’re good but mine has salt, chicken stock, MSG, paprika, garlic, onion, celery, some herbs and spices.
“There is the misconception that chicken salt was made from chicken.
“Chicken salt was made as a condiment to flavour a cooked chicken; it had nothing to do with the flavour of chicken in the chicken salt.
“It was not one of these fancy salts to add the flavour of something else, it was just a condiment to flavour chicken, and it went from there.”
And no, there is no curry powder in the original recipe.
Mr Brinkworth said any colour in the salt should be reddish and come from the paprika.
Stash always at hand
When Mr Brinkworth was tinkering in his kitchen, the chicken meat industry, which started in the 1960s, was still in its infancy.
As well as the retail chicken shop, he also sold wholesale frozen foods before beginning to supply the region’s fish and chip shops with the delicious new chicken salt creation.
“We supplied a lot, in the early days, through Elizabeth, just south of Gawler, and wholesaled to a lot of fish and chip shops through there,” he said.
“There was one guy in Salisbury, he was the one who put it on chips and said, ‘Oh, this is good’.”
When asked what he thought about the new variations of his salt — like an Australian deli in New York that makes it from dried chicken skin — Mr Brinkworth is nonplussed.
“Mine is just an idea, they can do whatever they like,” he said.
“I’ve always made my own chicken salt; I’ve always used it.
“My hobby these days is making jam, so I always have jam and chicken salt in the car.”
Kissing a ‘movie star’
While no Brisbane-based film festivals have taken up the opportunity to screen Salt of the Earth yet, Mr Richardson says there is still time.
He also said there was a “global appetite” for his film on the popular seasoning.
In the meantime, he will head to Adelaide to watch the screening with the Brinkworth family next month.
Mr Brinkworth said when he found out the film would be shown in his hometown, he woke his wife up to tell her the news.
“The next morning, she woke up and gave me a kiss and said, ‘I’ve kissed a movie star’,” he recalled.
“They’re all very proud.”