First Person

Chicken potpies: Brisk business in Salem and beyond

Believing few of us have time to make weekday dinners, chef Ken Rothwell is expanding his Ken’s Kickin’ Chicken business to Peabody.

Ken Rothwell owner of Ken's Kickin Chicken with his chicken pot pies in Salem.
Bill Greene for the boston globe
Ken Rothwell owner of Ken's Kickin Chicken with his chicken pot pies in Salem.

The days of the ’60s, when mom stays home and cooks all day? Those days are gone. EVERYBODY’S SO BUSY THESE DAYS. My son gets home after football practice at 7 p.m., then has three hours of homework. You have to fit dinner in. It’s a “grab and go” era. Most people are getting home around 6 p.m. If you make dinner yourself, you’re eating it at, what, 8 p.m.? People want quality food that they can microwave in three minutes.

I love to cook. IT’S MY PASSION. I quit high school my junior year and took up cooking as a trade. I had my own restaurant in Salem for 10 years. I got burned out and sold it, then I said I’ll find a little place to do my catering. We slow down January through March. Four years ago, I thought if I could MAKE 30 CHICKEN POTPIES A DAY, I could keep the staff working [year-round]. We have 35 employees and are opening a second, larger 1,200-square-foot STORE IN PEABODY BY MARCH. We’ll have hot chicken potpies to go, to make it even easier for customers.

I don’t cook at home. I heat up whatever we’ve cooked that day. My wife works. WE ALL SIT DOWN TOGETHER. Otherwise, there’s no family time.


I’m a cancer patient at Dana-Farber. I do chemo every day at home. I still work every day, 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., plus have the catering. I’m a believer that, because I keep moving, I feel stronger.

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I don’t think this [“grab and go”] trend is going to go away. HARROWS HAS BEEN DOING THIS SINCE THE 1930S. Now there’s young guys like me.  — As told to Kathy Shiels Tully

Interview has been edited and condensed.