KFC chef reveals his favorite item on the menu -- and it's the biggest success in decades

KFC Facts
KFC Facts

Nashville Hot Chicken is one of the best things that's happened at KFC in decades — and the chain's top chef agrees.

KFC Head Chef Bob Das told Business Insider that the spicy dish is his favorite new menu item in the 16 years he has worked at the chain.

The dish is based on an iconic Nashville, Tennessee dish that much of the country didn't know existed until it debuted on KFC's menu in January.

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"The whole idea of Nashville Hot was, unless you lived in Nashville and had an hour to wait in line, or had a bunch of money and lived in New York City or Los Angeles, you had no access to the Nashville Hot," KFC CMO Kevin Hochman told Business Insider.

KFC's new menu item was meant to change all that.

At first, some Tennesseans were less than impressed with the efforts, protesting against a chain restaurant adapting the regional delicacy.

However, KFC ultimately won over the locals — Nashville ended up being one of the top markets for the dish, according to KFC. The brand has called Nashville Hot Chicken one of the most successful menu item launches in the chain's history.

Das told Business Insider that the chain was entering a new era of innovation, kicked off, in part, by the success of Nashville Hot Chicken.

The change comes at a time when KFC is seriously investing in the culinary side of its business.

A year after launching a Colonel Sander-centric marketing campaign, KFC is doubling down on telling what Hochman calls the brand's "food story."

"I think we have a huge food story to tell, especially compared to our competitors," says Hochman."I think it's going to take time. You can't just pivot from Double Downs to 'We make fried chicken in the back of the house' overnight."

The company is attempting to make Colonel Sanders the symbol of this quality. KFC launched a "Re-Colonization" program in April, with a national employee retraining effort and a "Colonel Quality Guarantee" for customer satisfaction. New ads brag that KFC makes food "the hard way," and a recently launched blog called "Chicken Chattin'" is dedicated to addressing misconceptions about KFC's menu items.

The efforts have been complicated by uneven execution at locations across the US, something that Re-Colonelization and extensive remodeling efforts are trying to fix. However, KFC is confident that Nashville Hot Chicken, The Colonel's Original Recipe, and other dishes that haven't yet debuted will resonate with customers seeking genuine, authentic comfort food.

"The new 'healthy' now for people is 'real' — and we have real food," says Hochman.

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Originally published