This Memorial Day, we are revisiting one of our most popular FACES of the past year: André Prince!

**********

As my lips burned and mouth went numb, I wiped my fingers on a piece of white bread and hoped the acid from the pickle would counterbalance the heat. What I really needed was a tall glass of milk, but what I had was half a plate of hot chicken to be finished. Some 80 years ago, Thornton Prince created a place for the community to gather — and eat hot chicken. Eighty years later, Prince’s Hot Chicken is that — and more. When Thorton first opened his hot chicken joint, a young André Prince wasn’t welcome in the late-night restaurant, but 40 years later, she took the reins and has been running the show ever since. Known to most as Ms. André, she can be found cooking and serving hot chicken seven days a week. We convinced her to take a break, but she had to quickly get back in the kitchen because a good customer of hers (Kid Rock) put in a large order of hot chicken. Before the chicken called her away, she answered a few of our burning questions. Welcome André Prince Jeffries, the leading lady of hot chicken, as our FACE of Nashville.

Hot Chicken's Leading Lady: André Prince Jefferies of Prince's Hot Chicken

Welcome André Prince Jeffries as today’s FACE of Nashville!

What is your earliest memory of hot chicken?

I grew up being exposed to hot chicken; it has been in my family over 80 years. Started by my Uncle Thornton Prince, it was known as a late-night place. The restaurant wasn’t open until 6 p.m. during the week when everyone got off their regular jobs and was open until midnight. On weekends, it was open until 4 a.m. I am sure it was opened to supplement income — no one ever had enough money, of course. The restaurant moved all over Nashville. It started on 28th and Jefferson, moved to Ninth and Cedar (now Ninth and Joe Johnson), then to 17th and Charlotte, then to 28th and Clarksville Highway and finally to this location here at 123 Ewing Drive in North East Nashville, off Dickerson Road.

My father only took us there twice – when it wasn’t open. It wasn’t known as a kid-friendly place back then. My father would bring it home on Saturday nights. We would be asleep, but we looked forward to seeing that greasy brown bag on the stove on Sunday mornings. My mother always had breakfast set by 6 a.m. on Sunday morning, and we could never get enough chicken because he would never bring more than two pieces home. I never imagined I would be in this position right now!

I am almost 72, so that was a long time ago. It started 80 years ago. They didn’t keep records, so we can’t pinpoint a particular day, but it has been traced back as far as 1936 in the state archives. Former Mayor Bill Purcell, who matter of fact was here yesterday, did research when he was at The Kennedy Center at Harvard. As far as his research went, he concluded that the Prince family was the first in the country to cook chicken as spicy hot. He is the one who took the lid off the box, as far as hot chicken is concerned. He started the Hot Chicken Festival and exposed us to the world. It has caught on like wildfire.

We have been in this business a long time, and it was my goal to keep it in the family, and hopefully, we can keep at it.

You took the reins of Prince’s in August 1980. When, and why, did you introduce different levels of heat?

First, when I took over, I changed the name from BBQ Chicken Shack. I don’t know why my great uncle chose that name, because the chicken was never barbecued. I wanted it to be associated with the family, the Prince family. And I only remembered the chicken one way – hot! So I chose Prince’s Hot Chicken.

We also added different variations because people wanted their children to try it. My mild is the original, and we added plain, medium, hot, xxtra hot and xxxhot.

Hot Chicken's Leading Lady: André Prince Jefferies of Prince's Hot Chicken

It’s likely you’ve seen this smiling face during your visits to Prince’s!

What level of spice do you order?

I don’t go past mild. The medium is too hot for me. More children are ordering it and order it mild. That is amazing to me. This was always called an adult place, but more young people are eating hot chicken.

What level of spice do you suggest for first-time hot chicken eaters?

If they want it hot, I always recommend they try it medium. Nine out of 10 times, they say it is hot enough. More women order it hot and extra hot than men. Men will try it hot, but they slide back down. Does that make them wimps? Someone oughta do research on that. Women tolerate the heat better on a consistent basis. Even pregnant women come in here. I always tell them the doctor says if you get something a little spicy, the baby will come right out. Sometimes, you just have to wake them up.

Hot Chicken's Leading Lady: André Prince Jefferies of Prince's Hot Chicken

How do you order your hot chicken?

RELATED: Nashville Hot Chicken, the History Behind the South’s “It” Dish

What’s the secret to your hot chicken?

We marinate it for a while, and the longer it marinates, the hotter it gets. When you come in after midnight, it is at its peak.

Nashville hot chicken has reached astronomical popularity/nationwide acclaim, with copycats everywhere. It’s a cultural phenomenon, from artisanal hot chicken places to the most basic fast food chains. Thoughts?

I welcome it. It is the American way — you have to have competition. I am just surprised it took them so long. It really hit the fan in the past 10 years, and I give tribute to former Mayor Purcell.

As my mother always said, the best business to be in is the restaurant business because that is one thing people are going to do — they are going to eat. And as far as spicy chicken is concerned, it is something to talk about. People come here from all over the world just to taste it. And wow, the expressions on their faces. I always say, it isn’t for everybody.

Have you tried any of the other places?

Never, never. I stay with my own. I am sure they have tried me, that is why they wanted to explore it!

Hot Chicken's Leading Lady: André Prince Jefferies of Prince's Hot Chicken

Pay Ms. André a visit at Prince’s Hot Chicken.

RELATED: 8 Under-the-Radar Spicy Meals to Order in Nashville This Weekend

What is your typical day?

Hopefully, it’s busy, so I can pay at least one bill. And it usually is busy. We have been around for a while, and we don’t advertise because it is always by word of mouth.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received, and from whom?

As mother said, keep moving. Digest it and keep on going. Make adjustments and keep moving. And that is the word. That is what she always said, and that is true and welcome advice.

What is something you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?

Chicken is definitely my favorite — hot chicken. When I have chicken other places, I have to put some heat on it. I am not used to eating plain chicken. That is the main thing, always have some spices around. They pick you up.

Thank you to Ms. André for sharing your story and always serving us hot chicken, and a special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s gorgeous photos!

***********

Allow us to introduce you to Dr. Erin Steidl, OB/GYN. Not only does she make other women moms with every delivery she makes, but she’s also a mom herself. Get to know our newest FACE of TriStar! CLICK HERE.

Share with your friends!