Most of Philadelphia is familiar with his story at this point, but in case you missed it, let’s catch up. Alexander Tominsky, dubbed The Rotisserie Chicken Guy, rose to fame by eating one rotisserie chicken a day for 40 days. Word quickly spread through Alexander’s twitter account using only one piece of marketing, a flier.
“This is not a party” – but that’s exactly what it was. For many, like myself, this was something you just could not look away from. As he tortured himself for over a month, Alexander gained over 40,000 Twitter followers, including some prominent names like newly elected Pennsylvania senator John Fetterman. On November 6th, the 40th day came and the 40th rotisserie chicken was eaten. Like a Cinderella story oversaturated with sodium, Alexander stood on that abandoned pier (near Walmart) surrounded by Philadelphians cheering on a man who turned eating too much chicken into a nuanced and novelty spectacle.
Afterwards, the world could not get enough of The Rotisserie Chicken Guy. Alexander was featured on local and national media outlets alike including Billy Penn, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and several others to show off Philly’s finest and strangest.
I spoke with Alexander a few weeks after the event and was able to see what life is like as “The Rotisserie Chicken Guy.”
To quickly sum up the physical toll of eating 40 rotisserie chickens in 40 days, it wasn’t great. Alexander said it took about a week to get back to normal and to “finally eat and drink water” the way he should be. Forty chickens wasn’t the original goal either – It started from one chicken, turning to seven, then to thirty, then finally landing on an agonizing forty. While dealing with the chicken hangover, Alexander was consistently fending himself off from “people trying to use him as a puppet” to sell their merch, dealing with hate mail, and even getting flack from PETA, to which he replied that he would never eat chicken again.
Negativity aside, The Rotisserie Chicken Guy has brought many shades of joy to those around him. When asked about how he feels being so fondly embraced by the city, he said,
“I didn’t really do anything that spectacular, I just ate chicken. The thing that is spectacular about the whole event is the fact that Philly embraced someone that was doing something that was a little bit strange and supported them. I think that’s what drove this whole situation, and I don’t think they shouldn’t be patting me on the back as much as they should be patting themselves on the back… That’s what makes the whole thing special, and it honestly really pisses me off that all of these media outlets are like “Oh this guy ate 40 chickens” – but they’re not having me on this media outlet because I ate 40 chickens. It’s because of the reaction to it, and that’s because of Philly, and because of the people that live in this city.”
While sharing the spotlight with the rest of Philly, Alexander is also sharing his spotlight with good causes to feed Philadelphia, like the South Philly Community Fridge. “I’m trying to take the attention and point it to the fact that there’s people that live in our city, that are our neighbors, that are very hungry and don’t have enough food to stabilize a properly functioning life. If someone’s hungry, how do you focus? How do you pay attention to other things that you need?” Alexander has participated in and promoted several events including most recently teaming up with South Philadelphia Community Fridge distributing 200 rotisserie chickens to those in need in South Philly.
Throughout Alexander’s media tour, the number one question that’s been asked is, “why?” An answer to why he did it, and why the city loved it. The beauty of it all is that he never really gave a straight answer other than in an interview with Billy Penn saying, “It felt like the right thing to do.” I asked Alex if the public deserved an outright answer to why. He responded, “I think that’s part of the reason it got so successful. There’s a lot of people that need answers or an explanation to make sense of something. There’s the question why, and then the follow-up, why did people come to support it? There’s that video of people just cheering and the pure, honest joy and the twinkle in their eye that says this is wonderful. It’s very confusing to someone who doesn’t understand it. The question why, and the fact that there’s nothing to understand allows people to make their own reasoning out of it to bring themselves joy.” Ultimately it comes down to: if you know, you know.
While originally from Rhode Island, Alexander moved to Philly about seven or eight years ago. I asked him if he thought Providence, RI would have the same reception as Philly. He said, “Philadelphia kind of has this ominous pain about it. This strange darkness that overshadows us and sits upon us, finding ways to be creative in the way we’re excited for life – Whether it be sports, art, or watching someone eat chicken. I think Philly is really the only city that can embrace the purity of the event.” Alex described turning down several sponsorship offers to maintain the authenticity, purity and honest joy of what we all experienced.
My time talking with Alexander showed me that he is one part of what makes Philly so special. While strange, he’s remarkably kind, authentic, and just like so many of us, he seeks something outside of the mundane drudgery of everyday life. While the lightning strike of spectacle gave him spontaneous fame, he said, “Ultimately, this was just for me. I’m happy it brought others joy but I would’ve eaten that goddamn chicken on that pier all alone.”
Everyone eventually has their time in the sun, and Alexander’s used his to give back to the city that supported him. Finally, I asked if he had any New Year’s resolutions, to which Alexander responded, “no.”