Memoirs of a Hardee’s Fry Cook

Adi Sircar
6 min readSep 21, 2021


Wilber Hardee, opened his first Hardee’s® restaurant in Greenville, North Carolina, on September 3, 1960. The one-of-a-kind menu included 15-cent hamburgers, 10-cent fries, and 20-cent milkshakes. By the end of the 60s, there were more than 200 Hardee’s locations. By the end of 2020, Hardee’s hired Adi Sircar.

The best day of my life was the day I recieved my Hardee’s uniform: a grey form-fitted t-shirt that made my biceps pop, a black apron that shielded me from bubbling hot grease and pickle juice, and a crown bearing Hardee’s shining star insignia.

Boss makes a dollar, I make a dime, that’s why I take bathroom mirror selfies on company time.

The lighting in the bathroom was perfect. Down lighting creates shadows which outline cuts in the physique as shown in figure 1 and 2. The golden hue of the light gave a third-world olive tint to my beige skin.

In my interview, I spoke about the fascinating things I’ve built with computers and my innovative ideas for delivering exceptional customer service. The general manager was impressed but he was really just looking for someone who would show up to work. And so I did. Whether it was 5am or 10pm. I showed up. Except when I didn’t.

Convincing my boss to quit dip was a charitable cause I was passionate about. I dug deeper to find the reasons why he was so addicted to dip. Can you chew gum instead? Can you replace a bad habit with a better habit? Why don’t you do 10 pushups every time you dip? I get angry without it. Tim gets up right in my face, his mask barely covering his hairy nostrils. I can almost taste the tobacco stuck between his teeth. Believe me, I’ve tried to quit, I just can’t!

The Number 16 was a double cheeseburger and spicy chicken sandwich combo with fries and a drink. Every shift, we were allocated $6 for a meal, and I’d always get the Number 16. When it came time to make it, I’d go off script. I’d use the wrong formula. Instead of American cheese, I’d use Swiss cheese. I’d add bacon and chili instead of shredded lettuce and mayo. Instead of jamming twelve fries into a small box, I’d shove thirty into a medium box. I was entrepreneurial.

How many tomatoes do you put in a burger? One doesn’t cover the whole bun but does anyone really want two soggy tomato slices in their sandwich?

The bread room was my temple, a tranquil space with crates of buns on a tall rack with wheels. Indeed, I was safe from all possible harm. I would meditate in the bread room and reset my mind, body, and soul.

There were two freezers. Normal people used it to store pickles and patties but I used it as my personal cryotherapy chamber. I needed to rest and recover due to my extracurricular athletic obligations. I was the MVP of the Hardee’s Varsity Basketbun team. I’d consistently clock in an average of 2.3 buns per shift. Occasionally, I would go above and beyond the call of duty, tossing anything I could find across the kitchen.

I was the MVP of Hardee’s Varsity Basketbun team.

The chicken station had three main components. Buttermilk, breading, and raw chicken. I’d dip the raw chicken into a pool of buttermilk, and place it on the breading. Next, I’d mix everything around, covering the surface area of the chicken with seasoned breading. I’d then place them in a frying basket, dip the basket into the bubbling oil, and hit the timer for five minutes. I rigorously cleaned the chicken station after each session.

I was walking to work one day when I noticed a lady with a sky blue surgical mask and dark sunglasses and a walking stick cross the street without looking. Is she blind? Should I help her? Does she want to eat at Hardee’s?

My favorite work duty was sweeping cigarettes. There were thousands of butts scattered across the parking lot which likely accumulated over thousands of years. I pieced together human history when I studied the artifacts on the asphalt. I mapped out migration patterns, plotted royal family trees, and discovered the birth of religion, culture, and civilization. In fact, one of the cigarettes I found on the ground had been smoked by Her Majesty the Queen!

I loved sweeping cigarettes. But when the sun went down, and the wind got chilly, and the creatures of the night came out of their dens (college students), I didn’t want to be outside of Hardee’s fortress alone with my broomstick. Squeegeeing was my nighttime passion. There was a distinct pleasure I got from guiding soapy water across the floor, like a canyon directing a great river to the bank. Squeegeeing was a dance — an earthy, nocturnal rhythm that reflected the struggles and triumphs of every shift at work.

I realized I’d have to put my fitness goals on hold after I found out we got free donuts delivered every morning.

I used to wear four bracelets on my left wrist. Two were silver and two were silver/copper. My boss said I wasn’t allowed to wear them. I tried pulling the religion card (enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution) but he called my bluff. He didn’t actually mind, but said upper management is far more strict. The rule was there for a good reason. We make food. Bracelets, watches, and other accessories can distract us from our duty. But I felt like a King with those bracelets and so I kept them on. Whenever I’d drop chicken tenders into the fryer, I’d feel my wrists heat up. I worried that the bracelets might melt but in reality, my skin would melt far before the silver ever did. Chefs have an exceptionally high heat tolerance and an even bigger ego and so I’d challenge myself to see how long I could last before tapping out and getting back to work. My boss shared a story of a Hardee’s alumna who dropped her phone into the bubbling hot fryer and dug it out with her bare hand.

I got a lot of relationship advice from my colleagues at Hardee’s: don’t get married, don’t be a pansy, don’t be nerdy. Did I follow any of it? For the most part, no. The women of Hardee’s were an interesting bunch. They loved cigarettes, taking breaks outside every 15 minutes; they had sketchy boyfriends who would loiter around the parking lot, giving me death stares whenever I took the trash out; and everyone looked far older than they actually were. I assumed the soda, cigarettes, sugary donuts and dodgy boyfriends were the age-inducing ingredients.

I made two amazing friends at Hardee’s. I’d talk politics, culture, and women with Tim, my boss. He’s a phenomenal fisherman. He won $450 on his first date with his girlfriend at a trout competition. He keeps three guns in his pickup truck. He loves Mountain Dew and Copenhagen tobacco. Chris was a fellow fry cook. I’d talk Jackie Chan, cars, and careers with him. Chris doesn’t like people. Some of his quotes are too vulgar to transcribe on this blog. He loves Mitsubishi, but he doesn’t have a driver's license. His wife is a security guard. Chris never wore belts to work, so I had the misfortune of catching the full moon every time he’d pick up the frozen onion rings from the bottom of the freezer.

Chris currently works as a custodian at a local high school. Tim still runs the show at Hardee’s. I haven’t eaten there since my last day of work. I still get coupons in the mail. The apron, the shirt, and the hat I got on my first day are still with me — and the lessons I learned have guided me towards the light of life.

My time at Hardee’s was truly one-of-a-kind and I wanted to share a vignette of the magical winter I spent there. Hopefully you now have an idea of what it’s like to be a part of the Hardee’s family! They always seem to be hiring for whatever reason so if you enjoyed reading my memoir, consider applying.