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Farmhand. Army mule tender. Insurance salesman. Ferryboat entrepreneur. Failed political candidate. Motel operator. This unconventional resumé belonged to Harland Sanders before he founded KFC at age 65. He opened his restaurant alongside a new highway interstate, serving up what he called “Sunday dinner, seven days a week” to those on the go. The highlight of his menu was—and still is—the top-secret spice blend coating his crispy fried chicken. He kept the recipe under lock and key, but word of his irresistible chicken quickly spread across the country. In 1935, Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon recognized Sanders's contributions to the state's cuisine by awarding him the honorary title of Kentucky Colonel.
The Colonel passed in 1980, though he lived long enough to see his humble restaurant rise to worldwide prominence. Diners still dig into buckets of his crave-worthy fried chicken, though the menu has expanded to encompass extra-crispy and grilled chicken as well as hot wings and chicken sandwiches. And it wouldn’t be Sunday dinner seven days a week without trusty southern sides such as mac 'n' cheese, mashed potatoes, and biscuits. In keeping with the down-home theme, chocolate chips dot cake and cookie desserts, honoring the 13 chocolate stars Betsy Ross sewed onto the first American flag.