Sarnia woman says she inherited notebook with 50-year-old copy of KFC recipe

Feature, Sarnia, Spotlight — By on January 23, 2013 at 6:35 pm

KFCJust when it appeared that KFC was finished in Sarnia, a local woman has come forward claiming she inherited a 50-year-old copy of Colonel Sander’s recipe for chicken batter last year from her grandmother and wants to go public with her rare find.

Kelly Edwards, a 35-year-old student at Lambton College, said she was “astonished” last April when she realized what she had and wasted no time putting it to the test, not only once but, since then, numerous times with culinary success each time – there’s no question in her mind that she’s got the real McCoy.

“Everyone who’s tasted, looked at and smelled it says it not only tastes like the Colonel’s recipe but, for those who can remember, it reminds them of what KFC chicken tasted like years ago – before the MSG was added and other changes were made to save money,” said Edwards in an exclusive interview.

While Edwards conceded there are literally hundreds of KFC copy-cat recipes available on the Internet, she said hers is different than all of them.  To prove her point, she typed all 11 herbs and spices into one Google search query (without mention of KFC) that only returned culinary encyclopedia sites. Those were the only search results that contained all 11 ingredients.

The Colonel’s recipe is considered throughout the industry and around the world as one of the best kept, most valuable trade-secrets in commercial culinary history.

KFC has indicated publicly that there are only two “unnamed executives” with the company today that know the whole recipe. The ingredients are apparently prepared in parts, each part mixed together at a different facility, before it’s all put together at yet another facility. It’s a system designed to preserve secrecy and, with few exceptions over the decades, it’s worked.

KFC has historically went to great lengths over the past 40 years to guard the recipe and specifically the blend of 11 herbs and spices that are the staple of their famous chicken batter.

One of those exceptions happened in 2001 when a couple from Shelbyville, Kentucky, Tommy and Cherry Settle, came across a diary (that purportedly once belonged to KFC founder Harlan Sanders) that had a copy of the Original Recipe – among other related recipes. In their case, they contacted KFC and requested “authentication” of their recipe so that they could auction it. KFC’s response was to immediately attempt to legally bind them, through an injunction request, from revealing or selling the recipe. Just days after they launched said legal action against the Settles, the suit was dropped and they suddenly said that, after comparing the recipe to what’s in their vault, they were “no longer concerned” and it wasn’t the real recipe, stating, “It’s not even close.”

Ironically, afterwards Tommy and Cherry Settle dropped off the public radar but, in the years since, went from being “strapped for cash” (allegedly Tommy Settle’s own words to the media at the time) to apparently living a highly affluent lifestyle.

Last April, once Edwards found she had what appeared to be the legendary recipe, she decided not to jump the proverbial gun but instead take steps to, first and foremost, authenticate it (by contacting the company) and, smartly, speak to an intellectual property attorney to ensure that, if she found it to be the real deal, she would be protected legally if she chose to go public with it or perhaps sell it to the highest bidder.

When asked how her grandmother could have possibly gotten this elusive recipe, Edwards told us the lackluster but compelling story behind it.  Her uncle apparently worked for KFC in the early to mid-1960s at a time when though there was secrecy surrounding the recipe, it wasn’t guarded in the same aggressive fashion that it is today.  That said, one of the cooks that her uncle worked around had gotten their hands on the recipe and passed it on to him.  He brought it home and it went into his mother’s recipe binder to be used many times over the ensuing years with consistent, time-tested perfect results according to him.

Edwards says that she’s been in touch with KFC several times since April attempting to authenticate her recipe, but after some friendly back and forth communication between her and Yum! Brands’ (KFC’s parent company) PR department she was told it wasn’t the recipe.

She said she didn’t buy the “official response” and decided to continue pushing the matter.  In August, she fired off another letter to Yum! Brands, through a representative, letting them know that despite their disappointing response, she still believed the recipe to be authentic based on repeated cooking and taste tests as well as the consistent opinions of everyone who’s tried it.

The seemingly cryptic response that came next, through her attorney, cited the U.S. Lanham Act and asserted that Yum! Brands felt that if she goes public with the recipe or tries to sell it as theirs, it would create confusion in the marketplace and they would have no choice but to take legal action to protect their intellectual property.

They added that they’d be “monitoring her” with respect to this matter going forward.

Edwards asserts that the corporate response only proves further, at least in her mind, that she has the real recipe, contending that otherwise they would simply not care what she does with it.

She added that regardless of what she decides to do with the recipe she inherited and despite what she and others might believe it to be, she made it very clear that she has no intention of selling or auctioning it as the legendary recipe itself or, for that matter, passing it off in any improper fashion.

“I’m happy to have the recipe I have and, at least in my own mind, a piece of culinary history.”

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1 Comment

  1. Jim Moran, Ma Ed says:

    Tasty story!

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