In the April 2008 issue of Los Angeles magazine reporter Mark Arax wrote about Los Angeles’ beloved Zankou Chicken chain, and how one owner tore the founding family apart by murdering two of its members and killing himself. The story is a compelling mix of family dynamics, fast food and the complex American dream. It was republished in Arax’s book West of the West, and in The Best American Crime Reporting 2009. Here’s an excerpt:
This wasn’t Beirut. Mardiros put in long hours. He tweaked the menu; his mother tinkered with the spices. It took a full year to find a groove. The first crowd of regulars brought in a second crowd, and a buzz began to grow among the network of foodies. How did they make the chicken so tender and juicy? The answer was a simple rub of salt and not trusting the rotisserie to do all the work but raising and lowering the heat and shifting each bird as it cooked. What made the garlic paste so fluffy and white and piercing? This was a secret the family intended to keep. Some customers swore it was potatoes, others mayonnaise. At least one fanatic stuck his container in the freezer and examined each part as it congealed. He pronounced the secret ingredient a special kind of olive oil. None guessed right. The ingredients were simple and fresh, Mardiros pledged, no shortcuts. The magic was in his mother’s right hand.