The Chicago Tribune may have just stumbled upon a food-industry scoop for the ages. It sent a reporter to visit the Harland Sanders Café and Museum in Kentucky for what started out as a standard travel piece, but ended with a fried-chicken recipe containing “11 spices” and utter disbelief.
The writer met the colonel’s nephew, Joe Ledington, and the two got to paging through a Sanders-family scrapbook. Ledington pulled out the last will and testament of Sanders’s second wife, and on the back was literally a handwritten recipe for a fried-chicken spice blend. Asked if this was for real, Ledington casually noted, “That is the original 11 herbs and spices that were supposed to be so secretive.” Sooo, cat’s out of the bag?
The full recipe reads as follows:
11 spices — Mix with 2 cups white fl
1) 2/3 Ts salt
2) 1/2 Ts thyme
3) 1/2 Ts basil
4) 1/3 Ts oregano
5) 1 Ts celery salt
6) 1 Ts black pepper
7) 1 Ts dried mustard
8) 4 Ts paprika
9) 2 Ts garlic salt
10) 1 Ts ground ginger
11) 3 Ts white pepper
Once Ledington realized what he’d done, he struck a much less confident chord, telling the Tribune the recipe “could be” legit, but he can’t say “for sure,” adding that this was the first time he’d shown it to a reporter. Obviously the Tribune test kitchen wasted zero time conducting a side-by-side comparison, and their verdict is that this “is the real deal.” The group’s batch supposedly became “virtually indistinguishable” from KFC’s once they added MSG, which a rep for the chain confirms is a current ingredient.
What goes into the Original Recipe chicken is one of the business world’s most closely guarded trade secrets, and the Tribune’s claim is already bringing other “experts” out of the woodwork to debunk its authenticity. (One writer, whose thing is politics but as bona fides once worked at a KFC in college, says the spice blend is “more grays and blacks than anything,” so the Tribune’s attempt is no good because there’s enough paprika “to turn the flour pink.”) Unsurprisingly, KFC has been cagey so far, releasing a non-answer to the paper’s questions, saying, “Today, we go to great lengths to protect such a sacred blend of herbs and spices.” Also, it sued the last person who claimed to have found the chain’s top-secret recipe.