Sometime during his career as a natural foods executive, Rich Cundiff stopped eating fried chicken. He didn't go on a diet; he just forgot about the dish. But then one day, he discovered a chicken shack on the outskirts of Asheville. Transfixed, he made it his lunchtime haunt. "I don't know if I'd had fried chicken for 15 years, and when I had Rocky's, I was blown away," Cundiff recalls.

Eventually the proprietor, Rocky Lindsley, convinced Cundiff to partner in the business and move it closer to downtown. Since then, Rocky has retired, and Cundiff carries on the fried chicken mission at Rocky's Hot Chicken Shack.

So how does the former Whole Foods exec explain his affection for homestyle eats? "There are different ways of looking at health food," he says. "For me, it's about purity. Quality starts with ingredients, and then you have to treat them well."

Cundiff buys the chicken from a nearby farm and serves it with varying spice levels - mild to "Mt. St. Hell No." Of the latter variety, Cundiff has eaten exactly one wing. "I tried it so I could say I had," he says. Rocky's awards a special prize to diners who can eat six spicy wings.

Despite its name, the restaurant serves plenty of milder fare. Its chicken tenders, pot pies and fresh veggie sides inspired a following in south Asheville's family neighborhoods, and the Rocky's crew responded with a second location. "It's up to you to decide how spicy you want your food," Cundiff explains. "We want you to come in with confidence, have an incredible meal, and then maybe take a nap."

Rich Cundiff | Rocky's Hot Chicken Shack

Rich Cundiff | Rocky's Hot Chicken Shack