Story of a classic

By ZACHARY AYERS

Always an innovator, Chick-fil-A Founder and Chairman Emeritus Truett Cathy created his original recipe for the chicken sandwich in the early 1960s at his Dwarf Grill in Hapeville, Ga.

It all started when Truett Cathy was asked by owners of Atlanta-based Goode Brothers Poultry, Jim and Hall Goode, to help them solve a problem.

An airline had asked them to provide a boneless, skinless chicken breast that would fit in the plastic trays it used to serve meals on planes. The Goodes met the request, but their process left boneless breast pieces that didn’t meet the airline’s size requirements.

“I learned that Truett had considered adding chicken to the menu at his Dwarf Grill restaurant, but cooking the chicken was too time-consuming to meet the needs of his customers,” said Chuka Aniemeka, the general manager at the Chick-fil-A at Macland Crossing. “Truett thought back to his mother’s method of cooking chicken, which created something of a pressure cooker. He found that the chicken cooked faster and remained moist and tender, and to this day we cook the chicken in a pressure fryer.”

Still looking for the best way to serve the chicken, Truett put the hand-breaded, pressure cooked chicken on a buttered bun. But it still wasn’t exactly right.

For months, he experimented with different seasonings and breading for the chicken. Soon, he was up to more than 20 ingredients – nearly twice as many as Colonel Sanders had in his secret recipe.

Each time Truett changed the formula, he tested it with his customers. He surprised them with the addition of two dill pickle slices, which they said added just the right touch.

After years of experimentation and testing, Truett folded up the recipe and put it in his pocket. The boneless breast of chicken sandwich was born.

“It occurred to him that the sandwich was made from the boneless breast part of the chicken and since the best cut of beef is a filet, why not call it a ‘chicken fillet’ or ‘Chick-fil-A,’ with the ‘A’ at the end symbolizing top quality and freshness,” said Katie Evans, a veteran employee at Chick-fil-A.

As of January 2014, Chick-fil-A has nearly 1,800 Restaurants in 39 states posted sales of more than $5 billion in 2013. The flagship menu item, though, remains the Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich, which is made following the same original recipe that Truett folded up and put into his pocket five decades ago.

The 50th anniversary of the Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich was on Feb. 3, 2014.

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