A Tale of Chicken

By on August 31, 2020

The period between 4 BC and 2 BC was a tough period for many people. Folks struggled with life because of one reason or another mostly due to the numerous conquests that were going on. It was around this time that Alexander the Great died (Probably around 323 BC). It was also around this time that the Roman Empire was born while Greek expansion was peaking with Greek cultural influence and power spreading far and wide. 

If you lived in this period, there are many things you struggled with. First of all, the death of Alexander the Great, led to an endless power struggle as everyone suddenly felt they could become the King of Macedon. So there was quite a bit of war mongering around the time. At the time, to become the leader, you relied mostly on brute force, plundering, pillaging and basically running over whoever crossed your path enroute to whatever throne you felt you deserved. Of course you didn’t have nosy MPs questioning your every decision and neither did you have hundreds of opposition wannabes breathing down your neck with criticism of your rule. If they felt like you were doing a bad job, they simply expressed their dismay by going into battle.

War was a never ending song and death was its first verse, chorus, bridge and outro. And the song was on replay.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, food was a big problem. People barely had time to cultivate their lands so they didn’t have any decent food. The little food they managed to come up with was usually taken from them to feed the armies that were constantly in battle.

The Hellenestic Period was therefore not a good time to be a food blogger or food recipe enthusiast. And it was certainly not a good time to be a chicken lover. You see, before this period, chicken had never been bred for food. In fact, they were really not domestic animals and they roamed about freely. Imagine that! Chicken. Roaming about. Freely. Uneaten. Holy Christ!!! 

I am not sure which person woke up some day and figured chicken was a delicious fowl that could be domesticated and slaughtered for food at will but that person did the human race a lot of good. 

Several centuries later, Chickens are now one of the most common domestic animals with a whooping population of nearly 30 billion. The rate at which people breed and eat chicken is mind-blowing. Everywhere you turn, there is a brand new recipe for preparation of chicken and folks are falling over themselves to try it. Chicken has really become the proverbial bae.

When I was growing up, Chicken was reserved for big days like Easter, Christmas, Eid and (if you were lucky to come from a rich family) birthdays. Today, we all love and eat chicken just about all the time. And so KFC has become something of a second home for some of us. The truth is, during this lock-down, we’ve had to struggle with so many things but the one thing that has remained a constant is the mouthwatering chicken from KFC.

And because the guys at KFC kept churning out their delicious chicken I decided to pay them a visit to find out why, despite several businesses closing shop, they were still on everyone’s lips as a business that is delivering that delicious chicken.

Obviously, I picked a branch of theirs closest to where I live in Kiwatule, so I found myself at KFC Bukoto. Having made prior arrangements with the management, I was able to book myself a behind-the-scenes tour of the establishment to ascertain what magic potions and witchcraft spells were being used to ensure that quality never dropped. How are they able to maintain their standard and observe Ministry of Health SOPs at this critical time when other businesses seem to be taking things for granted and throwing all forms of safety out the window? How do they do it?

The manager of this specific branch is a humble fella called Wilson Bisaso. Before we got into talking about the work he does, I asked about his life outside KFC and it became apparent that he was hired because of his skill and knowledge about the business but also because of his personality. Such a charmer! He gave me the mother of all tours around the establishment by the time I left I was in absolute awe.

His Royal Humbleness – Wilson Bisaso 

Wilson works with 45 people at KFC Bukoto with 22 of them being female and 23 being male. During the lock-down, each person has been trained to execute some of the most precise roles to make sure the place performs at the top of its ability while maintaining the much talked about SOPs. 

It has become common knowledge that many people in Kampala are now taking the pandemic for granted. Not the guys at KFC. Not these clean freaks. 

Before I entered the place, I obviously had the Temperature gun pointed at my head for the mandatory temperature check before I was instructed to sanitize. I got in and noticed there were fewer people than usual. If you’ve been to any KFC outlet, you know that it can be quite a hub of activity with several folks waiting for their orders. Well, the situation here was massively different. Very few people were allowed in at a time. According to Wilson, KFC Bukoto encourages more Drive-Through and Bike-delivery customers than In-store pickups because they’re keeping the numbers of people in the establishment as low as possible. Before the lock-down, KFC Bukoto usually had anything from 20-40 people at any one moment. At the moment, they allow in no more than 15 people at a time. 

You’re not getting anywhere until the gun has been pointed at your head. Yes, that’s my bald head right there.

As we began to make our way to the back-end of the restaurant, I noticed that each of the folks working there had a routine. There was a bell that was sounded every fifteen minutes and folks would go to the sink to wash up. Apparently all KFC employees are required to wash their hands every time they hear the bell. And it was Wilson’s job to make sure no one skipped it. 

Whoever is working at this location must wear gloves and headgear the whole time they are in the building. Obviously as a bald person, I said I didn’t need the head gear but it was made clear to me that I wasn’t getting into the back-end without the head gear. And I obliged. We entered the back end right when the 15-minute-alarm was going off. And one by one, the employees went to the sink to wash up. These guys always kept a distance from each other and whether it was at the sink or anywhere within the kitchen, there was always a fair distance between one person and another.

The standards that are being maintained are second to none.  

It is possible that KFC Bukoto maintains a more robust approach to cleanliness than many clinics and hospitals in Kampala. According to Wilson, if you’re going to feed people, cleanliness must be top on your agenda because people’s lives are at stake.

To emphasize his point of cleanliness and quality, Wilson showed us a standard procedure they use to produce the delicious chicken. If anything is off by even a tiny bit, they discard the chicken right away. Apparently there is a standard that KFC has got to maintain whether it be in Nigeria, USA, Scotland, Uganda, South Africa, Italy or Rwanda. There is a constant worry that if this standard is not met, the entire franchise’s reputation is put under the spotlight. For this reason alone, there are several things that happen at KFC and nowhere else. For instance the period of time that items must stay in the cold room, the amount of time required to prepare the chips, the quality of the buns used for the burgers, the quality of the chicken, the duration of each order, the ingredients for each recipe.

There is a special clock to monitor the progress of each item from  the time it arrives at KFC to when it is served to a customer. The time must never exceed a specific limit. 

While still on the subject of quality, Wilson explained how the various kinds of chicken are prepared, right from when they arrive and are put into the cold room and eventually taken out of the cold room for actual preparation. The process involves tagging items and ensuring they are always where they are supposed to be at the right time and for the right duration. Of course while he was at it, I paid attention to the difference between the moist chicken and the crunchy chicken – a difference that always fascinated me – something about cooking the chicken under pressure vs cooking it in an open fryer. Very technical stuff but quite fascinating.

The whole time Wilson was taking me around the kitchen, I couldn’t help but observe the attention to detail by each of the employees. It seemed almost impossible to get anything wrong and any item that came out slightly off the pace for one reason or another was instantly discarded. I attempted to appeal to Wilson to possibly allow me to sample some of the ruined chicken because to me it was really all okay.  The appeal fell on deaf ears because apparently everything must be accounted for – whether perfect for the customer to consume or imperfect and therefore discarded. Ah! 

Look at this yummy perfection!

When you visit KFC Bukoto, you’ll notice that most of the customers are drive-through customers. During this COVID 19 time, this is where the most numbers are. You drive through to the back, place your order via an intercom and by the time you get to the end of the drive-through your order is ready. Such precision. You’re in and out almost immediately. The well oiled machine that is the KFC Bukoto Drive-Through works seamlessly because everything is done in sync. During this pandemic, the precision has probably doubled because not only do they have to cater to the needs of hungry folks, they also have to make sure people are safe and protected at all times – both the customers and the employees. This means that even the riders who deliver chicken around the city are usually wrapped in all sorts of protective gear and they move around with sanitizer, disinfecting whatever they touch and making sure the virus does not catch them unawares.

Three things that are a constant at the KFC Bukoto Kitchen – 15 Minute interval hand-washing, Face Mask and Veil on the head.

By the time my visit was done, it was clear that no matter what happens, the COVID 19 pandemic has got nothing on the guys at KFC Bukoto. And as I walked away with my order, I thought about how much the guys from the Hellenistic Period suffered with no chicken. 

Chicken might some day become a thing of the past but the guys at KFC Bukoto are not about to let that happen, not on their watch.

“And believe me, a good piece of chicken can make anybody believe in the existence of God.” ― Sherman Alexie,

Bernard Ewalu Olupot
a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
Follow @beewol on Twitter, @beewol on Instagram and Beewol on Facebook 

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