CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: KFC's Anne is making her gravy gloop

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Hold on to your breakfast… KFC’s Anne is making her gravy gloop

Inside KFC At Christmas

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Christmas At Hampton Court

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Why they call it fast food is a mystery. True, if you visit the KFC drive-through in Chorley, Lancashire, they aim to greet, serve and despatch you within 90 seconds.

But their Christmas burger in your cardboard box took two years to perfect. That’s two years of brainstorming sessions with Ira the Director of Innovation, product meetings with Amy the Brand Manager and Dawn from Development — as well as appraisals from Jack the Marketing Director who is ‘representing the customer in this, really’.

All this, we learned on Inside KFC At Christmas (C4), where diners in their cars can tuck into a festive Gravy Burger. 

The hospitality industry has been battered this year, so you can’t blame them for trying to drum up trade for their drumsticks on Inside KFC At Christmas. Pictured: Mario and Dylan at the chain’s Gatwick branch

The gravy looked like pale brown sludge, but Assistant Manager Adam swore it was better for breakfast than a mug of tea — and drank a cup to prove it.

So far, so corporate. But then we watched the gravy being prepared. If you’re still eating your own breakfast, you might want to pause here.

In the kitchen, Team Member Anne, 56, was scraping the detritus or ‘crackling’ from the bottom of the chicken fryers. 

It looked like melted milk chocolate mixed with gravel. Anne dolloped it into a plastic tub of water, added a bag of powdered ‘magic ingredients’, whisked and microwaved.

The warm gloop that emerged was poured over a hash brown with a knobble of breaded chicken in a bun. One dismayed customer murmured that she didn’t want to say what it looked like. She didn’t have to: we were all thinking it.

Things got worse when we were introduced to ‘gravynaisse’ — a mayonaisse sauce flavoured with chicken stock. Testers checked the consistency by spreading it like butter on cardboard.

Apparently, it has a delicious ‘umami’ flavour. That’s pronounced ‘eurghh mummy’.

Naked bravery of the night:

Jenni Murray rode in a sleigh like Mrs Santa as she joined The Real Full Monty: On Ice (ITV). Minutes later, she wasn’t wearing so much as a Christmas stocking. Who’s to say she didn’t present Woman’s Hour like that, too…

Somebody senior must have given the go-ahead for all this product placement. Managers certainly shoehorned the firm’s catchphrases into their conversation, parroting ’11 secret herbs and spices’ and ‘finger-lickin’ good’.

With their indoor restaurants closed across much of the country, the chain — like the entire hospitality industry — has been battered this year, so you can’t blame them for trying to drum up trade for their drumsticks. 

But they ought to have remembered the cynical chef’s warning that no one would ever want to eat in a restaurant if they saw inside the kitchen.

A better policy was the one used by Franchise Owner Caroline, who had her staff dressed as chickens outside the branch and waggling their tail feathers at passing drivers. It’s better to raise a smile than turn your stomach.

Chicken was too ordinary for the banquet table of Henry VIII. Historian Tracy Borman, on Christmas At Hampton Court (C5), checked the royal menu and discovered that Good King Hal not only dined on swan but was an early fan of turkey — first brought to England from the Americas in 1521. So we can thank him for that.

The Christmas ornaments included a tubby stuffed monarch made from felt and his six wives. 

They looked like spin-off merchandise from the BBC’s Wolf Hall. Hampton Court should hire Jack the Marketing Director to sell them as Tudorcorations.

There wasn’t much history — no mention of Cardinal Wolsey, who built the place, for instance — but we did learn that Queen Elizabeth I loved to get presents at Christmas.

She issued all her courtiers with a list… not of the gifts she wanted, but of how much each noble was expected to spend!

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