Did Thomas Jefferson Invent Chicken & Waffles?

Crispy golden fried chicken atop a buttery waffle doused with sweet amber maple syrup. As delicious as it is iconic, the exact origins of this combo remain a bit of a mystery but there are a couple theories.

From the bottom up: Waffles

Starting from the bottom up, let’s look at the history of waffles. Waffles were first invented in Medieval Europe when bakers, looking for some extra revenue, began making communion wafers to compete with monasteries. Eventually one baker expanded the wafer and the waffle was born using a process similar to modern waffle irons with batter baked between two hot metal plates. Waffles quickly became a popular street food due to their inexpensive ingredients (flour and water), with more exclusive offerings for the wealthy which incorporated eggs and honey.

Waffles were first brought to the Americas by Dutch colonists in the 1600s, however it wasn’t until the late 1700s that they made their leap into popular culture. Legend has it- Thomas Jefferson brought 4 waffle irons back from a trip to Amsterdam- inadvertently spurring a waffle craze throughout the colonies. By the mid 1800s boiled chicken and waffles topped with gravy was a popular Sunday meal among the Pennsylvania Dutch and a sought after treat by tourists to the area (strange choice but it was the 1800s i suppose?).

Add a little bit of chicken fried

But what about the chicken? Fried chicken has been a staple in several cultures throughout the world but the US version continuously reigns supreme. Up until the mid 1800s the most popular method for frying chicken was “Fricassee”- lightly fried and braised in a seasoned sauce, but the fried chicken we’ve come to know and love is said to be the fusion of Scottish, West African, and Indigenous North American recipes- perfected by enslaved cooks. This crispy and delicious version is made by dredging the chicken in a decadent mixture of buttermilk, flour, and a blend of aromatic spices unique to the chef. Following emancipation, many formerly enslaved African Americans moved north and brought their recipes with them and eventually the boiled chicken was replaced by this crispy and delicious fried chicken.

Chicken & Waffles takes off

We can thank Well’s Supper Club, a Harlem late night haunt for Jazz musicians and their fans throughout the 1940s, for Chicken and Waffles’ rise into the popular lexicon. Arriving at hours too late for dinner and too early for breakfast, Chicken and Waffles became a happy medium and cult favorite for Well’s Jazz loving regulars. It was such a popular destination that Nat King Cole reportedly chose Well’s for his wedding reception.

One of Well’s less famous, but equally ambitious regulars, Herb Hudson, took the dish across the country to California and opened Roscoe’s Waffle house. In the 1990s Roscoe’s became an extremely popular restaurant with the Hollywood crowd including the likes of Snoop Dog and Notorious BIG. This cross country jump solidified Chicken and Waffles as a truly American dish and fan favorite for generations to come.

Order it up Wilde Style!

Our take combines the flavors of decadent buttery waffles and crispy fried chicken into one mouth wateringly delicious bite.


Jake Whitney - Wilde Ambassador Q&A