We've reconvened the V.I.A. Fast Food Panel to review one of the most talked-about sandwiches in recent memory. Yes, we're here to discuss KFC's Double Down, which consists of two fried chicken breasts that pose as buns, with bacon, cheese and some sort of sauce sandwiched between.
The founding members of the panel include its chairperson, reporter Brendan Kergin, whose credentials include working at Romeo's Pizza and the snack stand at Victoria's All Fun Waterslides, video reporter Thor Diakow, who self describes as "a frequent purveyor of fast food," and me, because I'm not the most health-conscious person and I unbag this food in the lunchroom then piece together everyone's thoughts on it into easily-digestible reviews.
Junior members of the panel are our Managing Editor Lindsay William-Ross, who attended culinary school and was is on VanMag’s restaurant awards jury (we try not to hold those two things against her), reporter Elana Shepert who eats fast food “about once a week,” and reporter Cameron Thomson who once held the esteemed position of “slopping up the scrambled eggs” as an employee in BC Ferries cafeterias.
I would challenge you to find a more qualified bunch of experts in this field but I know it to be an impossible feat, so I won't.
THE LEAD UP
Diakow, preparing for a video shoot in the morning, looks nervous as he mentions that he's "dreading" taking part in this particular review. He doesn't explain why and uncharacteristically refuses to make eye contact when the issue is pressed further.
The other members give each other nervous looks then mostly stare at the floor as I lay out the paper plates and place their meals onto them.
The first thing that strikes us as we open up the foil packaging that our sandwiches come in is that the photo KFC provides of this sandwich in their advertising versus the way the thing actually looks has a heavy "expectation versus reality" vibe.
William-Ross notes that her sandwich appears "pale and flaccid," while Diakow is more generous, asking "It could probably be a little crispier?"
Confusion mounts as some members completely remove the papery foil packaging while others use it as a buffer between the fried chicken and their fingers, like one would do when consuming a burrito.
There is no consensus on how it's supposed to be handled, and as we approach our first bites few words are exchanged. Cheese begins to drip off of six flaccid fried chicken sandwiches and one gets the sense that chaos is on the very near horizon.
It's the calm before the storm, hearts are racing, and if you listen hard enough you can hear the sound of blood rushing through not-yet-clogged arteries.
JUST A 'TASTER'S BITE'
William-Ross manages to centre the group and bring us back to earth by calmly dropping knowledge, once again proving her value by bringing actual food judging chops to the table. She lets it be known that she has an appointment to go to and that she will be judging this by way of a simple "taster's bite."
We lean in as she explains that's what they do on cooking shows on TV. They take what she describes as "one perfect bite" that contains all the components of the dish, and they judge it off of that.
She takes said bite, surprises everyone by exclaiming "That's f**king delicious!" and we're all off to the races, digging in.
The chaos that was impending arrives, and it's a lot tastier than most expected it to be.
Four out of six on our panel finish the entire thing, and all are surprised to learn that it "only" has 610 calories. Compared to a Big Mac which has 570 or a Whopper that has 660, somehow it seemed like it should have been quadruple the amount of the most-calorie-intensive sandwiches on other fast food menus.
Despite its perceived low calorie count, and nobody truly hating it, none of the members of our panel would ever eat it again.
Diakow might be convinced though. He thinks "it could do without the cheese," and one has to wonder if he wouldn't order one after a night out on the town, but ask for no cheese.
Panel newcomer Shepert says she knew she was "going into a bad thing," that it's “surprisingly good," but "never again.”
William-Ross may have had more than a taster's bite, but solemnly nods her head "no" as we go around the table sharing our final thoughts.
An audible gasp is heard as the other panel newbie, Thomson, reveals that he cut back on fast food during the pandemic, and that he "almost never" eats it anymore. He would obviously never eat this contraption again, but his opinion on the matter is disqualified based on the current makeup of his diet. Sorry, Cameron, but I don't make the rules (I actually do).
Kergin proves why he's the chairperson of this committee, offering the suggestion that instead of this being packaged like a sandwich, KFC should instead serve the "pretty decent" sauce that's in it on the side with chicken strips, which they already make.
I'm convinced that the Double Down is a marketing gimmick, only meant to be consumed by people once in their lifetime, and that it's simply a way for the fried chicken brand to get people talking about them.
KFC wins this round.
The V.I.A. Fast Food Panel is a lighthearted series of stories, published once per month. We are not connected to or compensated by the chains we feature, however a PR agency supplied us with the sandwiches for this review. Our aim with the panel is to offer honest takes about fast food available in Vancouver, while having a bit of fun.