Before the world ever heard of “Watergate” or “Deep Throat,” Colonel Harland Sanders perfected one of the best kept secrets of all time: KFC Original Recipe. Sixty-five years ago this July, Colonel Sanders developed the Original Recipe formula when he operated a roadside restaurant and motel in Corbin, Kentucky. As a result of his special blend of 11 herbs and spices, millions of people worldwide enjoy the Colonel’s Original Recipe at KFC each day.

“The Colonel gave birth to a legend, and in the 65 years since, the world has made the Colonel and his secret Original Recipe cultural icons,” says Gregg Dedrick, President of KFC. “The man and his recipe are legendary, so it’s with all due respect that we celebrate the 65th birthday of his Original Recipe chicken.”

KFC security precautions protecting the iconic recipe over the past six decades would make even Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein proud. The formula for KFC Original Recipe is locked away in a safe in Louisville and only a handful of people know the multi-million dollar recipe. One KFC supplier company blends a formulation that represents only part of the recipe. Another spice company blends the remainder. A computer processing system is used to safeguard and standardize the blending of the products, but neither company has the complete recipe.

“Over the years, some people have tried to reveal his secret by digging for empirical and anecdotal information about the recipe,” Dedrick says. “They’ve even commissioned independent labs to analyze our chicken, reached out to former employees and engaged in worldwide Internet chats to glean nuggets of information. Some have erroneously claimed to clone the Colonel’s recipe.”

Truth be told, KFC Original Recipe almost didn’t come to be. In 1939, the Colonel’s kitchen where he experimented with recipes and cooking methods was destroyed by fire. After this devastating loss, the Colonel initially threw in the towel and decided not to rebuild, says John R. Neal, the owner of Sanders Cafe and Museum.

“KFC Original Recipe almost wasn’t discovered,” Neal says. “But people in Corbin knew what the Colonel was up to. They’d tasted his culinary potential as they’d been his willing taste testers for years. Adamant as his food fans were, they convinced the Colonel to keep at it,” Neal recounts.

The Colonel decided to rebuild, and in July 1940, the kitchen in which the Colonel perfected the now famous recipe and the cafe in which he served his soon-to-be famous fried chicken reopened.

“And KFC Original Recipe was born,” Neal says.

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