ST. CLOUD — What’s standing between Catholic Charities and $5,000? Currently, the popularity of a fried chicken sandwich.
The chicken is breaded in biscuit mix and seasonings. It’s smothered in sweet-hot raspberry chipotle sauce. The biscuit is a Pillsbury jalapeno cheddar scone.
The dish is the brainchild of Coyote Moon Grille General Manager Adam Meyer. Oh, and it’s also one of 20 winners of a national recipe contest.
The General Mills 2021 Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest asks local restaurants and food trucks to submit recipes that include at least one of a list of General Mills products. Annual winners are selected based on whether they use an eligible product in the recipe, how viable the recipe is for foodservice (whether or not a restaurant could easily add it to its menu) and the story shared about where the recipe’s inspiration came from. The recipes are also judged on taste, appearance and creativity, and it has to be an original recipe.
For national winners, the prize package from General Mills includes a $5,000 check and a marketing package valued at $5,000.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Coyote Moon’s Southern Fried Chicken Sandwiches with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce recipe is going head to head with the other 20 winners for the grand prize: a $5,000 donation to a local food charity (and a few more perks). That’s where Catholic Charities comes in. Should Coyote Moon win the public’s vote, that $5,000 will go to Catholic Charities’ Emergency Services Food Shelf.
“More people have seen the recipe than I ever imagined would have,” Meyer said.
Cash donations in general are incredible, said Emergency Services program manager Sue Hanks. The food bank has more buying power than the average consumer thanks to federal programs. So $5,000 in their hands could buy $15,000 of food.
And while that’s helpful, there are two other goals this money could go toward. According to Hanks, the food shelf is trying to increase its freezer capacity.
“We needed that, and then COVID exacerbated it,” she said. “We actually have to turn down donations because we don’t have freezer capacity.”
Hanks said Catholic Charities Emergency Services is also hoping to improve and redesign its mobile food shelf, which goes to nine sites each month.
“That’s become critical also,” she said.
A sandwich star is born
Meyer said he found some more time on his hands in early 2020, when restaurants were shut down as a statewide effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coyote Moon Grille received a delivery of ingredients for its dishes, and with it came the jalapeno cheddar scone. It’s not part of a menu item, Meyer said; their customers don’t typically lean toward spicy foods. He assumes it was dropped off as a sort of new product trial.
With some of the ingredients they typically use, it can be hard to reimagine how to use them, Meyer said. He’s been at Coyote Moon since the start, about 15 years ago, and is one of a handful of people who has input on the menu at the restaurant. The scones were something new.
And they were on the list of General Mills products of which at least one needed to be incorporated.
“We do a lot of our own batters and battering stuff out here,” he said, mentioning chicken, frog legs and walleye. “… We have a lot of experience putting homemade batters on something,” Meyer said. Hence, the chicken. And the rest of it?
“(It) just sort of came together,” Meyer said, a marriage of sweet and spicy.
Whether it’ll make the Coyote Moon menu isn’t set in stone, though Meyer said they may add the item to the menu in the summer or feature it in some way.
How to vote
The grand prize winner is selected by the public. People can vote for a grand prize winner on Facebook. To vote for a particular recipe, the public is encouraged to comment on the photo of that recipe on a specific General Mills’ Convenience and Foodservice Facebook post. You can do this once a day. But if you want to vote, hurry — voting closes Friday.
Sarah Peterson, public relations consultant for General Mills, said in the contest’s six years, this is the first year there’s been a Minnesota winner (and this year, there were two).
She said General Mills includes the charitable component in the grand prize because restaurants are often the first in a community to step up and give back when the community is in need.
“It’s nice when you can pass some of it on,” Meyer said.
According to Coyote Moon Grille events coordinator/manager Andrea Tharp, the possible financial donation to the food shelf inspired the business to host a food drive in March. The restaurant is offering deals and promotions for customers who bring in non-perishable food items.
“Yes, we’ve been struggling, but just the community as a whole has been struggling,” Tharp said.
To vote for Coyote Moon Grille, visit neighborhoodtonation.com and click the button that says “vote now.” The link will lead you to General Mills’ Convenience and Foodservice Facebook post where you can comment on the photo for the Southern Fried Chicken Sandwiches with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce.