A generation of children have no concept of small pieces of chicken in anything other than a breaded crust. The man responsible for this innovation, Robert C. Baker, passed away today.
Ithaca, NY - Presidents, governors and other dignitaries digested his work over the years, along with generations of consumers. Of all the famous people he'd met, though, Robert C. Baker was probably most proud of his association with a fellow poultry pioneer, who like himself helped reshape American cuisine.
"He always thought highly of Frank Perdue," son Dale Baker said of his father Tuesday. "He got to work with Frank on a number of things."
The elder Baker, who died Monday at age 84, helped develop chicken nuggets, turkey ham and poultry hot dogs into ubiquitous American fare.
A Cornell University poultry science and food science professor, Baker may be best remembered in Upstate New York as the inventor of the famous Cornell Chicken barbecue recipe.
"He was just a unique individual," Dale Baker said. "He really - in more ways than most ever will - changed things. He changed the way we eat."
...During his career, Baker developed dozens of poultry products, including ground poultry. Another key product was chicken nuggets, and one of his achievements was finding a way to keep the breading on nuggets. Today, the savory poultry morsels are ever-present in grocery stores and fast-food restaurants, but "when the nuggets came out in the 1950s, they weren't too popular," Baker told the Ithaca Journal in a 2004 interview.
And guess who shows up later in the Ithaca Journal article?
In 1999, President Bill Clinton, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and their daughter Chelsea visited Baker's Chicken Coop specifically to savor a taste of the famous Cornell barbecued chicken, university officials said.
As the first family arrived at the barbecue stand, Reenie Sandsted, one of Baker's daughters and manager of the stand, presented the Clintons with a basket of New York state apples. With a smile, President Clinton explained he was hungry and reportedly asked: "Those apples look good, but where's the chicken?"
We feel your pain Bubba...