- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 20, 2016

A handwritten list of 11 herbs and spices discovered in a scrapbook owned by Colonel Sanders’ second wife may be the top-secret “original recipe” that his Kentucky chicken franchise has kept under lock and key for the last several decades, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

Freelance reporter Jay Jones said he saw the recipe during a recent meeting in Corbin, Kentucky, with Joe Ledington, a 67-year-old retired teacher who worked as a kid for his uncle, Kentucky Fried Chicken founder “Colonel” Harland Sanders.

Mr. Jones was in town investigating Corbin’s fried chicken history for the Chicago Tribune when the local tourism office arranged for him to meet the legendary restaurateur’s nephew. Shortly after shaking hands, the journalist said Mr. Ledington began showing him the contents of an unassuming family photo album.

He said the scrapbook originally belonged to his late aunt, Claudia Ledington, who worked for Sanders and helped him launch the KFC empire in addition to to becoming the colonel’s second wife in the late 1940s. She died on New Year’s Eve 1996, and Mr. Ledington said he inherited the scrapbook when his sister passed around four years ago.

Along with various photographs and assorted clippings, the scrapbook reportedly contained a handwritten note on the back of the women’s last will and testament labeled “11 Spices — Mix With 2 Cups White Fl.” The Tribune published a photograph of the ingredients in Friday’s article.

“That is the original 11 herbs and spices that were supposed to be so secretive,” the colonel’s nephew said, according to the journalist.

Mr. Ledington said he wasn’t sure who had written the note, but knew it was authentic because he worked for his uncle as a kid and blended the ingredients by hand.

“I mixed them over the top of the garage for years,” he recalled.

“The big thing we did was mix it with flour and bag it up and sell it to restaurants,” the nephew added. “Actually, my job was cutting up chickens and bagging up chicken mix. That’s what I did as a 10-, 11-, 12-year-old kid.”

Following the meeting, Mr. Ledington reluctantly acknowledged to a Tribune editor that he might have disclosed one of corporate America’s closely guarded trade secrets, then reportedly expressed uncertainty when asked again about its authenticity.

“It could be; I don’t know for sure,” he said, adding that the document hadn’t previously been displayed to the media.

When emailed a list the list of ingredients, a KFC spokesperson told the journalist that the recipe used to be written above the door of Sanders’ old diner, but today the company goes “to great lengths to protect such a sacred blend of herbs and spices.”

“Lots of people through the years have claimed to discover or figure out the secret recipe, but no one’s ever been right,” KFC said in a subsequent email.

The Tribune staff tried out the secret blend in tandem with the article’s publication and said the chicken they made “certainly tastes like KFC.”

As of 2012, Sanders’ original recipe was protected by a 2-foot-thick safe beneath KFC’s headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, Bloomberg reported at the time.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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