Metro 67

Richard Herring: The fried chicken shop that proved there’s a job with your name on it

Friday 7 Jun 2013

Richard Herring's love of fried chicken shops extends back to an adolescent encounter in Weymouth

In the days before I met my first wife (we’re still married, I just like to keep her on her toes), I used to walk past my local Chicken Cottage fried chicken restaurant and look in the window at all the sad, middle-aged men eating their dinner alone, talking to no one. It made me realise there were people in the world worse off than me. I ate my dinner sad and alone, sitting in the window of KFC. It’s a slightly better quality of chicken, about 10p more for the two-piece meal. I had a bit more cash to flash than those Chicken Cottage idiots.

Occasionally I’d see a bloke staring through the window at me, a look of pity and disdain on his face, and I’d think: ‘He’s on his way to Nando’s.’

I’ve loved fried chicken shops. Ever since I was 16 and was on holiday in Weymouth with my pals (when we heckled Ted Rogers on the pier). We had limited money and no adult supervision, and consequently ate fried chicken and chips from the same fried chicken shop for every single meal.

It was one of those places that thought it could fool you into thinking it was a proper Kentucky Fried Chicken by giving itself a similar sounding name. Like Kansas Fried Chicken or Kennsy Fried Chicken. I saw one once, and you won’t believe this, called Ken Tuckey’s Fried Chicken. Like it was owned by a bloke called Ken Tuckey.

I didn’t really.

Anyway, I don’t remember what the Weymouth one was called – KenLivingstone Fried Chicken, maybe – but I can tell you the name of the man behind the counter: Dave Manager! At least that’s what it said on his badge. And every time we went in, my friend Phil Fry would say: ‘Is your name Dave Manager or are you Dave the Manager?’

And every time, Dave Manager (if that was his name) would give a weary look, as if working in a mock Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Weymouth wasn’t bad enough without having some cocky kid pulling his drumstick, and say nothing.

If he was the manager (and he might not have been, Dave Manager might just have been his name), then that was somehow more tragic. This was it for him. He couldn’t get a job in Kentucky Fried Chicken HQ because he was the manager (if he was) of a rubbish KennyEverett Fried Chicken. But no matter how much Phil baited him, he didn’t crack.

Every time Phil would say: ‘Is your name Dave Manager or are you Dave the Manager?’ And every time Dave Manager got us our KennyDalglish fried chicken and we left. Every day, twice a day for a week.

On our last lunchtime in Weymouth, we went into the shop and Phil said: ‘Is your name Dave Manager or are you Dave the Manager?’ and Dave’s face wrinkled. He was slightly irked. But he still stayed as silent as his KennethKendall fried chickens. Phil said: ‘We’re off home this afternoon,’ and Dave’s face broke into a smile, not of relief but of friendship. And I’ll never forget it. He winked. He was sad to see us go.

Either that or he flicked us the Vs. One of the two.

I’ve often thought of going back to Weymouth to see if the KennedyConspiracy Fried Chicken shop is still there and if it is, whether Dave Manager is still working there and if he is, whether he’s been promoted to manager (if he wasn’t manager already).

Because then his badge would read ‘Dave Manager, Manager’.

For details of Richard Herring’s live dates and his forthcoming new Edinburgh Festival show We’re All Going To Die! visit www.richardherring.com