Friday, April 30, 2010

The Final Straw!

I have a confession to make. I had no intention whatsoever to use this site as a way to rally against the large multinational food companies which I and many other people see as the biggest problems facing the health of North America. Nor had I any intension of saying which fast food chain restaurant I worked as a General Manager for. But as they often say, enough is enough!

To understand my sudden outrage I have to take you back with me to the scene of the crime I witnessed unexpectedly in my living room. My wife and I were sitting on the couch after a long day of work. We had gotten the kids fed, bathed, and in bed - no easy feat with a one- and two-year-old. Exhausted, we elected to watch a little television to unwind before heading to bed and starting the cycle all over again the next day.

As we sat there watching one of our favourite shows, a commercial came on the screen: the very reason for this post. It was for KFC’s newest gift to the world of culinary delights: The New KFC Double Down Chicken Sandwich. If you haven’t heard about it yet, here’s what it is: A sandwich with bacon, Pepper Jack cheese, Swiss cheese, the Colonel’s Sauce, and two (2!!) Original Recipe Fillets of Fried Chicken as the bun! That’s right, they’ve replaced the already unhealthy white bun with 2 pieces of fried chicken. The commercial has a bunch of different guys holding one of these monstrosities beaming with excitement about it, and one even exclaims “Colonel, you da man!”

At first, I wasn’t sure if it was a joke, but I had seen enough of these commercials to know the truth. This was for real. My wife sat silently beside me gaging my reaction which was the aforementioned moment of disbelief followed by a rant of epic proportions. One that she was good enough to sit through with full empathy and without complaint.

From October 2007 to April 2008, I was a Restaurant General Manager for Priszm Ltd. Canada. Priszm owns the largest chain of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Huts in Canada with over 300 locations. My restaurant was located in the west-end of Ottawa; it was a KFC. Day in and day out, I made and sold Kentucky Fried Chicken to the people of that community and prided myself with putting out nothing but quality chicken full to the standard that was laid out by the Colonel himself.

I can remember people who came in after seeing a similar commercial for the then-new Chicken Bowl. Instant mashed potatoes, topped with corn, Popcorn Chicken, gravy and cheese. My staff nicknamed it the “heart-attack-in-a-bowl”. One particular customer seemed extremely excited to come in after seeing the commercial on TV. Unfortunately (or fortunately), she came about 2 months too early, as it had only just been rolled out in the US and would take another couple of weeks before we would offer it in Canada. She was a regular customer who came in often. A woman in her late 50s who walked with the assistance of cane. She told me that she had limited mobility due to medical complications with her type 2 diabetes. When I told her that it would be a while before we carried the Chicken Bowl in Canada, her disposition became sour and even barked out something about maybe driving down to the border (a three to four hour drive) to get one. Instead, she got her usual 3-Piece-Meal with coleslaw, gravy and a large Pepsi to go.

It’s hard for me now to think back about the people I used to serve. I often feel like I was contributing to the continued downward spiral that our general health has seen here in North America. I was no better than a drug dealer. My products were at best unhealthy; one could go further to say they could make people sick or, even worse, if used irresponsibly, they could be fatal. It’s no secret that eating foods high in saturated and trans fats, as well as being over processed, as a staple part of your regular diet, will lead to a long list of health complications which may end in needing life threatening surgery or, at the very least, a reduced capability to enjoy life to the fullest.

Like a drug dealer, the products I offered were very addictive. Pumped full of chemicals which are engineered to taste “just so”, not to mention MSG, which is a key component to the Colonel’s secret recipe. Apart from a hand full of items like tomatoes, lettuce, and the salads, everything we made was deep fried - and I do mean everything. The chicken used for the Original Recipe Fried Chicken was the same chicken that you or I would buy at the grocery store before being marinated, breaded and, finally, deep fried. All of the other chicken products (Big Crunch, Chicken Strips, and Popcorn Chicken to name a few) came packaged in boxes and were delivered straight to the freezer.

Also, there are differing degrees of “users”. Some people we got to know by name and we would have their order together before they could walk from their car to our front door. Others, we would serve once a month and others once and then never again. One could argue that not everyone that eats KFC is unhealthy or even that it is only a minority that are. But the same can be said about drug users. I have known many recreational drug users (and in my youth, I was one, too). These people are fully functioning members of society that, on occasion, like to get drunk or high. I, in no way, want to use this platform as a way to endorse drug use of any kind, but that fact remains that not all drug users are dangerous menaces to society or even unhealthy. I believe that drug abuse of all kinds is a horrible epidemic that has ruined many lives and families. In the same way, I feel that fast food restaurants, like the KFC that I managed, has cost us in North America more than we care to admit.

Maybe the analogy of a KFC manager being the same as a drug dealer is a bit strong. But it always gives me pause to think of the damage I possibly did being a part of that company. After I saw the commercial for the new KFC Double Down Chicken Sandwich, I knew that I had to say something, even if no one reads this and my words fall on deaf ears. Things need to change! No longer can I stand by and play “nice” while we continue to allow ignorance and laziness to lead us down this collision course of unhealthy eating and living.

Some will no doubt label me an extremist. This is nothing that I am not already used to. Friends and family are still wondering if I’ll ever eat “normal” food again. A question I have learned to just laugh at. But if the new Double Down Chicken Sandwich is what we are willing to put in the category of “normal”, then I never want to eat “normal” again and, I hope, neither will you.


  1. Eric, this is a great post. You're right, our standards of "normal" are all wrong now...
    And when I first saw that commercial I was TOTALLY grossed out!

  2. I know, I've talked about this kind of stuff /w my friends for years now. I'm just glad that we live in a time where we have the internet and one can find alternative, truthful information out there outside of what the mainstream media sends us. I credit this to getting rid of/managing health problems I've had that MD's were truly useless in helping me with - and for showing me what real food is. :-)

    I've already told you this, but I'm so proud of you for making such big, sweeping, positive changes! :-)

  3. There is absolutely nothing "normal" about replacing a bun with two piece of fried chicken. I am still in disbelief that this sandwich exists. However, I am curious to know if you would have eaten it while you worked there?