The NBA Hall of Famer is looking to serve a completely different market.

By Nina Friend
November 12, 2018
Big Chicken/Carnival Cruise Line

Shaquille O’Neal knows how to make people happy—whether by winning the NBA championship (four times over) or giving away free Oreo candy bars—and his latest venture does just that. The legendary basketball player recently opened a fried chicken restaurant, called Big Chicken, in Las Vegas, and now he’s planning to take his super-sized sandwiches to sea.

As the CFO, or Chief Fun Officer, of Carnival Cruise Line, O’Neal is charged with making sure that vacationers have an amazing time while traveling on the newly-upgraded Carnival Radiance cruise ship—especially when it comes to food. So, when the ship reopens in early 2020, it will feature the first on-the-water version of Big Chicken, each meal free of charge to guests.

According to a press release from Carnival Cruise Line, the ship’s Big Chicken menu will feature a range of different fried chicken sandwiches, along with fries. Plus, guests might even be able to taste O’Neal’s personal favorite sandwich, the Shaq Daddy. It’s made with swiss cheese, country ham, and honey mustard barbeque sauce, all on top of—what else?—some crispy fried chicken.

Big Chicken/Carnival Cruise Line

“My place is a mixture between Cane’s and Chick-fil-A,” O’Neal tells Food & Wine. It’s fast-casual with an emphasis on the flavors that O’Neal grew up with. “I’ve always loved chicken, I’ve always loved sandwiches. That’s been a part of my championship diet, and I wanted to introduce it to the world.”

Through a Facebook Watch show called Big Chicken Shaq, O’Neal let his fans in on the behind-the-scenes work that went into building the Vegas restaurant—from meeting with contractors to designing the menu. Anyone who follows along will see just how passionate O’Neal is about fried chicken, to the point where he thinks people should eat it on land, at sea, and even on Thanksgiving.

“My mother cooked turkey for everyone else but she would also cook me fried chicken,” O’Neal says. “There will for turkey at the house for all my family, but I won’t eat it. I’ll eat fried chicken.”

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