Kentucky Fried Chicken, the national fried chicken chain known as KFC, is synonymous with Colonel Sanders, its mascot that appears in the logo and advertisements. In fact, Colonel Sanders is more than a mascot because he's actually based on the fast food chain's founder, Harland Sanders, who started the company and later opened the first KFC franchise restaurant near Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1952.
So, it might come as a surprise that Sanders had a falling out with the chain after he sold its 600-plus locations to former Kentucky governor John Y. Brown Jr. and another investor in 1964 for $2 million and an annual salary of $40,000. He seemingly had a good relationship with the company for a while because he continued to appear in ads and visit KFC locations as the chain grew in the U.S. and Canada. Despite that relationship, Sanders was unhappy with changes in the recipes and opened a new restaurant called Claudia Sanders, The Colonel's Lady Dinner House with his wife Claudia Sanders in 1968.
In 1971, KFC was absorbed by Heublein, and the company wasn't happy about the Colonel using his image with his new restaurant venture. Heublein took Sanders to court, but he ended up countersuing the conglomerate for more than $122 million in 1974. The lawsuit claimed that Heublein prevented Sanders from franchising his new restaurant and that it was unlawfully using his image for products he didn't develop. The lawsuit was eventually settled for $1 million and the couple was allowed to keep their eatery.
KFC And Colonel Sanders' Troubled History
However, that wasn't the only lawsuit between the two parties. During many of his appearances at KFC restaurants, Colonel Harland Sanders made it clear that he wasn't happy with how the chain had changed up its recipes for gravy and fried chicken. According to The New York Times, he allegedly referred to the gravy as "sludge." He even went on record in an interview with The Courier-Journal newspaper (via The Day) describing the chain's chicken breading as "a damn fried dough ball stuck on some chicken" among other insults. He further criticized how KFC made its gravy, referring to it as "wallpaper paste."
The remarks led the company to sue Sanders in 1975 for libel and defamation. However, the lawsuit was unsuccessful because a judge ruled that his criticism came via newspapers and could not be regarded as direct libel. By then, Sanders and his wife had opened their own eatery under a name new called Claudia Sanders Dinner House, in Shelbyville, Kentucky — but when plans got out about franchising it they were sued again.
The pair eventually sold the restaurant, though it still operates in its new location where you can enjoy dishes like fried chicken, catfish, and fried green tomatoes. Sanders died in 1980, but if you want to take a bite of his historic fried chicken made with KFC's secret blend of 11 herbs and spices still used today, there are over 25,000 KFC restaurants operating in more than 145 countries as of 2023.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.