John Wiggins chowed down on some Popeyes Chicken back in 1991 when he accidentally spilled some honey onto his fried chicken. Suddenly, the Godby High School graduate and Tallahassee native had an idea. Wiggins began cooking his newly-created honey fried chicken at The Figg Player’s Dining Room, where he was newly-appointed as the Florida State University restaurant’s lead cook.
Almost 30 years later, Wiggins — now the sous chef — prepares, cooks and serves the savory creation himself, which (to put it mildly) is the most important recruiting tool FSU athletics has seen since Hall-of-Fame coach Bobby Bowden.
“[Recruits] say that’s what sells ’em,” Wiggins said. “I don’t know, but a lot of recruits come in and they look forward to the honey fried chicken because they done heard so much about it.”
Wiggins isn’t wrong. In an article by The Athletic’s Tashan Reed, several FSU recruits are quoted as saying the honey fried chicken is simply the best they’ve ever had.
“I bit into it and I was like, ‘Oh. My. God,'” defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, a former five-star recruit and No. 1-rated DT by 247Sports, said. “I went and got a whole ‘nother pan. I was like, ‘Man, I ain’t never had nothing like this before.'”
Marvin Wilson later committed and now starts for the Florida State Seminoles football team.
“[FSU] coaches and people were just talking about the chicken and I was like, ‘What’s so good about this chicken they’re talking about? It can’t be that good,'” Josh Griffis, a former Florida Gator commit, said. “That was probably the best chicken I’ve had. I ate like the whole pan of it.”
Griffis committed to the FSU football program in April 2019.
What makes Wiggins’ magical dish so undeniable? How are high school football recruits visiting Tallahassee, eating some chicken, then leaving completely changed people?
“Anybody can cook fried chicken,” Wiggins says, “but the thing of it is getting it crispy.”
Grab your bibs. You’re going to need it after trying FSU’s best meal for the first time.
Every day, Wiggins empties eight cases of chicken — about 128 pieces per case — into a sink, cleans them, tosses them in vinegar (Wiggins calls it “bleach, but for food”), then seasons it all with a secret blend of spices to marinate overnight. Each morning, Wiggins tosses the chicken in flour and fries it in vegetable oil. He’s the only one involved in this process, but when you have 30 years of experience, it becomes almost second nature.
The final touch is drizzling locally-sourced Full Moon Apiary honey over every piece of chicken, then keeping it warm until it’s go-time.
On home football Fridays, The Figg dining hall goes through more than two dozen cases of chicken.
Oh, and FSU’s honey fried chicken is served all-you-can-eat style for lunch and dinner at the Seminole Cafe and Suwanee Room, as well as The Figg.
FSU and Willie Taggart may be in the middle of a complete rebuild, but at least they have one of college football’s best recruiting tools being served hot and crispy to swoon hungry teenagers with just one bite.
“It might be the best fried chicken I’ve ever had and will have,” three-star offensive tackle Thomas Shrader said.
Not surprisingly, he’s also committed to FSU where a whole pan of honey-fried goodness awaits him.