05/01/2015 01:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Frank Perdue: All in the Name of Charity

Co-authored by Lorraine Cancro-Silvetz, M.S.W.

Many came from far and wide to hear Mrs. Frank Perdue or "Mitzi," as she is known to so many, present her latest book on her late husband. The book, Frank Perdue. Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Business & Life Lessons, recently reached #6 on Amazon's business biographies. The HuffPost review may be seen here.


Mitzi Perdue, author of Frank Perdue: Tough Man, Tender Chicken,
at Space Sixteen in SoHo, NYC. Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

It is the story of Frank's business acumen to life through interviews with friends and foes who knew and worked with him. This is the story of how Frank Perdue built his small chicken and grain company into an international powerhouse that today employs 19,000 people and sells its products in more than 100 countries.

Don't tell me what's right about my product. Tell me what's wrong because that's the only way I can make it better.

These are the words of one of the food industry's most famous entrepreneurs -- Frank Perdue. With his father, he built a business that turned a commodity into a highly sought-after brand. Anyone who's seen his TV commercials or eaten his chicken knows the business legacy of Frank Perdue. Today, with substantial thanks to Frank Perdue, more than eight billion chickens are consumed in the U.S. every year.


Sara Herbert Galloway, Co-Creater of Space Sixteen Daniela Zahradnikova,
news personality Rita Cosby, author Mitzi Perdue, and Kelly Le Brock
at Space Sixteen. Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

Perdue's folksy ads made him the No. 1 marketer in the country and for the millions who got to know him in their living rooms through his ads, "Tough Man, Tender Chicken" reveals what this entertaining, and often brilliant, man was really like.

Known in the industry as a demanding, occasionally difficult personality, he also commanded a stunning loyalty from those who worked with him. His legacy is profiled in Tough Man, Tender Chicken in both the business and life lessons that guided him throughout his career. Entrepreneurs would do well to read his ethical will left to his grandchildren and family along with his estate.


Frank Perdue: Tough Man, Tender Chicken, at Space Sixteen
in SoHo, New York. Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

One of the younger guests, Justin Galloway, told us, "Mitzi does an incredible job archiving the life of one of the most successful businessmen in American history. As a true level-five leader, as well as model in humility and innovation, Frank's success story transcends and inspires both industries and generations."

Guests not only got to hear inside stories about Frank Perdue, they were also treated to some of Perdue Farms' best new products, personally selected by Corporate Chef Chris Moyer. Two of the products, Mac and Cheese Nuggets and Korean Barbeque Glazed Nuggets are only just now becoming available, so look for them in your local markets.


Global Partnerships Forum founder Amir Dossal, Lorraine Cancro,
Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, and Tas Dossal.
Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

According to Chris, "Developing these new products begins when each year, the food scientists at Perdue are part of an 'Oz Session.' It's a time when the food scientists talk with other company officials about the products that they each have a passion for developing."

Only a few of the products discussed in the Oz Session will ever make it to market. In the case of Mac and Cheese Nuggets, food scientist Jim Hopkins was sure that we consumers might enjoy a combination of some of this country's all time favorite flavors: macaroni, cheese, and chicken.


Space Sixteen's Daniela Zahradnikova, author Mitzi Perdue, interior designer
Inson Wood, humanitarian Sara Herbert Galloway, and non-profit leader Lorraine
Cancro-Silvetz at Space Sixteen in SoHo. Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

Jim Hopkins may have thought that combining these foods into a nugget was a good idea, but he couldn't go further until he got the approval of other Oz Session participants, including Frank's son Jim Perdue, people in sales and marketing, and dozens if not hundreds of other people.

Next, Hopkins had to develop samples and then the project had to get the enthusiastic endorsement of many hundreds of taste testers who evaluated it not just for taste, but also texture, mouth feel, and generally, a "This is delicious!" reaction.


Kelly LeBrock, Inson Wood, Jim Luce, and Sara Herbert-Galloway.
Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

People at the Perdue book signing apparently had the same reaction. They unanimously loved the Mac and Cheese Nuggets. But they were also enthusiastic about the Korean Barbeque Glazed Nuggets, developed by Reggie Berry, and the smoky roasted chicken and turkey breasts, developed by Candice Schroepfer. The turkey and chicken breasts were made from Perdue's anti-biotic free chickens.

Funds raised from the sale of books were donated to the International Committee Against Mental Illness' Global Stress Initiative (ICAMI-GSI) and The J. Luce Foundation. Robert Cancro, M.D., Chairman Emeritus of the N.Y.U. Department of Psychiatry, serves as Medical Director of ICAMI-GSI which treats veterans and their families impacted by PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).


Robert Cancro, M.D., Chairman Emeritus of the N.Y.U. Department of Psychiatry,
serves as Medical Director of the International Committee Against Mental Illness'
Global Stress Initiative. Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

Robert Cancro, M.D., said:

Mitzi Perdue has served on the International Committee Against Mental Illness' Lay Advisory Board as a strong advocate for veterans and their families. Recently, ICAMI's Global Stress Initiative discovered the Brain Treatment Center's innovative protocol is having dramatic results treating autism, PTSD, TBI, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and other intractable disorders. It is an exciting intervention that will change the future of treatment for psychiatric and neurological disorders.

Lorraine Cancro-Silvetz, M.S.W., co-hostess of the evening and co-founder of the Global Stress Initiative (GSI) program stated: "ICAMI's Global Stress Initiative has been honored to collaborate on awareness raisers with Mitzi Perdue on the subject of PTSD and TBI and its impact on veterans since 2008."


Katlean de Monchy, Sara Herbert Galloway, and Jane Pontarelli.
Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

The fundraising event was held at Space Sixteen, a sophisticated store containing a blend of fashion, art, and style co-founded by Daniela Zahradnikova. Daniela said:

The vision of Space Sixteen has always been to create a platform for emerging fashion designers and artists and at the same time allowing customers to shop with their hearts as a percentage of each sale goes to various NGOs. In November 2014, the door of Space Sixteen was opened in SoHo where the same concept as in Southampton, the convergence of art and style, continues with weekly events to celebrate.


Brian Tralonga and Camille Knoll. Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

Sara Herbert-Galloway, co-hostess for the evening, stated:

I grew up eating Frank Perdue's chicken as have my children and most of America. It is a pleasure to know Mitzi and learn more about Frank's life. I am thrilled that she is sharing his and her story with the world.

Renowned Interior Designer, Inson Wood, who designed Space Sixteen, said:

In life, in my projects, and with Space Sixteen SoHo - the goal is always the same -- to create an environment with a composition of pieces so beautiful and well made that they will never be thrown away -- this is the most eco-friendly concept. Cradle to cradle is a noble cause --- but cradle to cradle to cradle to cradle ad indinitum is the ultimate goal. This is why we have emerging designers and artists mixed in with vintage and new Louis Vuitton -- and Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs custom painted by artists.


Recording artist Cynthia Basinet attends the signing event for Mitzi Perdue's book.
Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

The concept was to make a true lifestyle destination blending fashion, art, design, architecture and health. Because today's retail experience is so formulaic we wanted to make something special and to curate beautiful timeless designs whether with established brands or emerging talented younger designers. The display unit I created was designed for the modern day shopper - it can be a desk, hutch one day and comes apart to be reconfigured as a media unit, closet, the most exciting part of the design was bringing in the highest quality brands in the world from around the world to make an emporium of visual delight worthy of the biggest fashionista as well as the young shopper on a budget -- all in the name of charity."


Inson Wood and Jane Pontarelli. Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

Given, Frank Perdue was a veritable powerhouse it is no surprise his wife is as well. Currently. Mitzi serves as Corresponding Editor for the Academy of Women's Health, and also for GEN, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. As a syndicated columnist for 22 years, first with Capitol News in California and then nationally with Scripps Howard, she has written more than 1600 articles, most often on the environment and on science. She was also a nationally syndicated TV hostess and producer, having produced more than 400 half hour shows.

She has been a strong advocate of literacy and American veterans, and currently serves on the boards of the Institute of International Education, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, ICAMI and the Arthur W. Perdue Foundation. She's a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Women's Day Magazine Women Who Inspire Us Award, and the President's Award from the Maryland State Medical Society, for Bettering the Health Care of Maryland Citizens.

Her motto is: "Success is not measured by what you can get, but by what you can give."

MBA students, entrepreneurs, marketers, and business people, in general, will find the real-life stories of Frank's life and business lessons inspirational. And Mitzi Perdue, a writer with a degree in management, was there to record his decisions, theories, and approaches in real time. It's a unique vantage point, since few captains of industry had their own Boswell recording their lives.


Co-creater of Space Sixteen Daniela Zahradnikova, author Mitzi Perdue,
philanthropist Jim Luce, and humanitarian Sara Herbert Galloway
attend the signing event. Photo by Steve Mack/S.D. Mack Pictures.

Tough Man, Tender Chicken profiles a self-made man who had the folksy wisdom of a Will Rogers and loved to encourage young people. The story of Frank Perdue isn't just about business lessons; it's about life lessons as well. And it is told here, in full, for the very first time.

Tough Man, Tender Chicken is available on Amazon for $17.00 and on Kindle for $9.95.

For more information on Tough Man, Tender Chicken, go to


Lorraine Cancro, MSW is a Clinical Social Worker and Executive Director of the Global Stress Initiative, a program focused on treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among returning military members, their families, and civilian survivors of trauma. She also serves on the Medical Advisory Board for Stand for the Troops which spearheads research on TBI and PTSD among returning military members and Global Advisor to the J. Luce Foundation. She is an active advocate raising awareness of the symptoms of TBI and PTSD through many publications in the disability arena.

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