“If pulled pork was the dish of 2014″ begins KFC’s press-release – presumably typed with one hand while the other one fumbles around, trying to keep a finger on the pulse – “then 2015 will become the year of pulled chicken”
And with that, middle-class journalists and bloggers let out a collective scoff and churned out think-pieces and tweets ranging from dismissive nonchalance to disdain to the extent that you’d think they were reacting to the news of a new Royal baby.
I hadn’t seen such a negative response to a fast food promotion since 2009, when KFC (US) brought semi-pro level gluttony to the masses with its release of the Double Down – kicking off a trend of replacing the boring components of fast food meals – empty carbs like bread and crust – with more “EPIC” things like some meat, and some meat with some cheese on top of it.
There was an argument for the Double Down’s vilification though – replacing a bread bun with two pieces of fried chicken isn’t conducive to anybody’s healthy diet besides that of an Olympian in training, or an alligator. Its critics critics had an angle, at least.
With Pulled Chicken though, KFC are guilty of a much more serious crime than promoting excessive consumption – they’re trying to be cool
. They’ve seen a new type of fast food emerge over the past couple of years – served in repurposed warehouse spaces and NPC car parks on Friday nights, they think it looks fun, and they want to join in. The response they’ve been met with is a resounding “You can’t sit with us”.
In the spirit of investigative journalism, I went along to KFC and ordered the Pulled Chicken Ultimate Burger Meal – if you’re not familiar with KFC’s definition of Ultimate, it means that it comes with a slice of cheese. The Paprika slaw is perfectly adequate – in fact better than some of the versions I’ve eaten in dedicated BBQ restaurants a few doors further down Otley Road – and the two mini-fillets are obviously brilliant, as KFC chicken tends to be. They didn’t become as big as they are by accident.
Sadly, the mini-fillets are the main attraction of the burger, and the Pulled Chicken comes in such a measly portion that it can only really be considered a condiment in its own sandwich. So much for the dish of 2015. As for the bun; glazing a bread roll to try and disguise it as a brioche is the most literal application of “polishing a turd” I’ll (hopefully) ever encounter when it comes to dining.
It’s not an awful burger, and at £5.80 including fries and a drink it’s not bad value either, but the criticism was never levelled at the quality of the food – I seriously doubt any of the critics will ever even try the thing. I understand see where the confrontation stems from; posh fast-food developed organically from seemingly nowhere through a lot of hard work – it’s a lot of peoples livelihood, and contains a lot of close-knit communities. But this isn’t the first time “big-business” has nicked the “pulled” idea from the posh fast-food.
Greggs released a BBQ Pulled Pork Pasty a few months ago. I tried it, and it was disgusting; like eating a pastry full of sweet, sticky moss; nobody kicked up much of a fuss over that though, because it was a fairly low fanfare item which received little promotion. KFC’s attitude and approach to marketing is what has ruffled feathers – they’ve seen the glossy buns, chalk-board menus and other aesthetic nuances of the movement which people have worked hard to cultivate, and appropriated it in a pretty lazy way. What’s more their press-release is rife with anachronisms; Pulled Pork was so 2012! Scoff.