LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Nothing went afoul when Colonel Sanders' handwritten recipe for fried chicken was returned from an undisclosed location to KFC's headquarters late Monday in a lockbox handcuffed to the wrist of a security consultant.
The single sheet of yellowing paper was back in its Kentucky home Tuesday after five months in hiding while KFC upgraded security around its top corporate secret.
"It was very nerve wracking," KFC President Roger Eaton said of the recipe's hiatus from a vault where it has been kept for decades. "I don't want to be the only president who's lost the recipe."
The recipe lays out a mix of 11 herbs and spices that coat the chain's Original Recipe chicken, including exact amounts for each ingredient. It is written in pencil and signed by Harland Sanders.
Sanders developed the formula in 1940 at his restaurant in southeastern Kentucky and used it to launch the KFC chain in the early 1950s. Sanders died in 1980, but his likeness is still central to KFC's marketing.
Not even Eaton knows the recipe's full contents. Only two company executives at any time have access to the recipe. KFC won't release their names or titles, and it uses multiple suppliers who produce and blend the ingredients but know only a part of the entire contents.
The iconic recipe is now protected by an array of high-tech security gadgets, including motion detectors and cameras that allow guards to monitor the vault around the clock.
"It's like an onion of security — many layers," said security expert Bo Dietl, who brought the recipe back to the building.
Thick concrete blocks encapsulate the vault, situated near office cubicles, that is connected to a backup generator to keep the security system operating in times of power outages.
Dietl said the security measures he installed replaced an "antiquated" system. For years, the recipe was kept in a filing cabinet equipped with two combination locks in the vault.
"The colonel could have used a pry bar to open that thing up," Dietl said.