Long ago, in the days before the internet and rap music took over the world, I was a high school senior working as a cook at Kentucky Fried Chicken, which I will also refer to as KFC because I want to be like today’s hip, cool kids who abbreviate everything.
Back in my day (old person statement) there was no KFC in my town. The KFC where I worked was located on Route 1 in Wells, right next to the Mile Road leading to Wells Beach. KFC is no longer there. I think it’s a small hotel now.
Cooking at KFC wasn’t the world’s greatest job. It paid minimum wage and I regularly suffered burns from the oil we cooked the chicken in. Still, it wasn’t all bad. When I worked nights until close – which I often did during the summer – I got to take home whatever food we didn’t sell. I’d often come home with buckets of chicken, biscuits, and mashed potatoes. Did I cook more chicken than was needed, just so I could bring more home? Gee, I don’t remember.
Back then I could eat a bucket of cold chicken and not gain a pound. Oh sure, it was probably clogging my arteries, but I didn’t care because I was a teenager and that wouldn’t affect me until I was old. Like now.
The best (and worst) story I have from my time at Kentucky Fried Chicken is the time we cooked the green chicken. The chicken was stored in plastic bags packed into large plastic storage containers, several bags to a box, in the walk-in refrigerator.
I believe it was a holiday weekend, nonstop customers, when we got down to our last box. I don’t know how long that box had been in the walk-in, but when we opened it the chicken was green. And it stunk. I told the manager, “We can’t cook this, it’s green.” He looked at it, thought for a moment, and said, “It’s all we have. Cook it.”
I could tell you that I heroically stood up to the manager and said no, sir, I won’t endanger the lives of the customers and sully the Colonel’s reputation. But of course I didn’t. I was a teenager and needed my $4 an hour for gas money and Motley Crue cassettes. I just pretended it was St. Patrick’s Day. I rolled that green chicken up in the secret recipe, stuck it in the cage and dropped it in the cooking oil.
It still stunk when we pulled it out. And the manager chose to serve it. It was a very poor decision, but he was young, in his 20’s (although that seemed old to me) with a family, and seemed to be in a panic. It’s not a decision I’d have made, though. Making hundreds of people sick probably doesn’t look good on a resume (although, as far as I know, nobody got sick). But we made it through the night and didn’t run out of chicken. I didn’t take any leftovers home that night, of that I’m certain.
Looking back, I learned a couple of things from my experience at KFC. First, eating at fast food restaurants is always a crap shoot (literally, if it turns out bad). And second, I really wish I was a teenager again.