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Finger Food: Chili at Wendy’s

If you buy lottery tickets, opt for the raffle at the firemen’s pancake breakfast, or save your change for the slot machines, why wouldn’t you order chili at Wendy’s?

Following the reported discovery of a human finger about an inch and a half in length in a bowl of chili from a Wendy’s fast food restaurant in San Jose, California, diners have made other choices. Despite the fact that the woman who fingered the chili has a history of suing (including a suit against another fast-food restaurant) and none of the restaurant employees were missing any fingertips, sales from Wendy’s restaurants have dropped so drastically that the company has had to lay off staff and cut back hours of operation in Northern California.

The efforts to locate the former owner of the finger read like an episode of CSI. The fingerprint failed to find a match in national databases, so now they’re doing DNA tests. A woman in Nevada whose detached digit vanished from the hospital came forward to have her DNA tested. One problem: her missing fingertip is only 3/4 inch long, so unless it grew mysteriously in the chili-pot, it’s not hers.

Wendy’s International’s corporate office initially offered $50,000 reward for information leading to the resolution of this mystery, then doubled it to $100,000 this weekend as their business continued to decline. It is apparently a woman’s finger, well-manicured and polished. Police have declined to say which finger it is. Judging by its effect on chili sales, though, one can guess.

According to Todd Wilbur of Top Secret Recipes, “Dave Thomas, Wendy’s founder, has been serving this chili since 1969, the year the first Wendy’s opened its doors.”

But then he adds, “Over the years the recipe has changed a bit…”

About DrPat

  • bhw

    If the woman making the claim is scamming Wendy’s, that’s some serious and costly fradulent behavior! I wonder what kind of legal recourse Wendy’s will have if she’s the one who put the finger in the chili.

    And if she did, where the hell did she get it?

  • Phil H

    I bet if they check the phone records of Ayala they will find calls to someone operating a funeral home or otherwise with access to bodies.

  • DrPat

    What’s needed is some real-life Gil Grissom to see if the chili spices and ingredients are sufficiently infused into the finger flesh to make it likely that the finger was actually in the chili.

    The reports initially pointed out that the finger appeared to have been “thoroughly cooked,” but that doesn’t say in what. Also, the first news stories about the extra morsel in the chili noted that it looked “chewed.”

    $100,000 is a pretty nice payoff for anyone who might have supplied a finger to this woman – I suspect that’s why Wnedy’s is offering so much for the information.

  • Tom Johnson

    Let’s not forget that this woman has a habit of filing frivolous lawsuits.

    I think her comment on Good Morning America should be looked at very closely: “‘Just knowing that there was a human remain in my mouth … it is disgusting. It is tearing me apart inside,’ Ayala told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ on March 28.” How would she know that the finger was a human remain? I would have immediately assumed it was a finger of a living person, not someone dead, that had been cut off by machinery in the manufacturing process. Very suspicious.

  • bhw

    Well, maybe she didn’t mean to use the word “remain” in the dead body sense. She just could have meant body part.

    Her prior previous history is a problem, though.

    DrPat, I hadn’t read that much detail about the story to hear about the cooked nature of the finger! Ewwwwww.

  • DrPat

    Your reaction mirrors that of the droves of chili-eaters who’ve been staying away from Wendy’s – also my spouse’s reaction when I suggested a nice bowl of Wendy’s chili yesterday!

  • MRBenning

    It was a mob hit at the Wendy’s chilli factory. Dave Thomas always seemed shady.

  • mike hollihan

    As a one-time former employee of Wendy’s I can say that either one of the store’s employees is pranking someone or Ms. Ayala is trying to scam the company.

    Wendy’s chili meat is unsold hamburger meat from the grill. The restaurant always keeps a few burgers on the grill, ready to serve to customers. If the meat gets overcooked and unsold, it is placed in a bucket under the grill.

    At the end of the day, the bucket is placed in the cooler overnight. The next morning, the opening manager places a large pot on the back grill, fills its with seasoning and water and sets it to boiling. The leftover meat from the previous day is put into a pan with water and boiled.

    The manager then drains the water and hand chops the meat, using the spatulas from the grill up front. It’s a very vigorous process to chop up the meat into bits. If any finger was in there, you’d know it, believe me. Or it wouldn’t look much like a finger any more.

    This was more than a decade ago, though, so I don’t know if Wendy’s has changed procedures since I worked there. But when I first heard this story, my immediate thought was “Scam!”

  • Tom Johnson

    BHW: the way people phrase things says a lot about their intent. I’m pretty certain this woman is the guilty party here. No one says “human remain” like that – she’d simply have said “someone’s finger” or something casual like that. What she said sounds like something she prepared for, something created to invoke a reaction. “Human remain” is more shocking sounding than “someone’s finger” by a long shot. This is like Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinski.” I have seen countless experts (can’t remember who it was – psychologist/iatrists, speech therapists, whatever) who stated that Clinton’s guilt comes out in such an awkwardly phrased statement as that. This woman’s statement says as much as an admission of guilt would.

    I never saw anything about the “cooked nature” of this finger. All the color photos I’ve seen have shown a very pale finger. Any tissue simmering in chili would have been deeply infused with the color and contents of the sauce, to the point of it not washing off. I’m sure the police are conducting tests to see if that finger absorbed anything from the chili.

  • DrPat

    The news stories that discuss the finger at all (beyond its length and human source) state that the finger was “well-manicured” and “appeared to be cooked.”

    But I’ve made chili myself, Tom, and I know any white meat (long pig included) that is simmered in chili sauce is infused with the spices and sauce. It sould be pretty simple to determine if the finger was cooked in the chili.

    Please note that there is another possibility here: the finger could have been introduced to the chili just prior to serving it to Anna Ayala.

    Goes way beyond spitting on your burger just before they hand it to you, eh?

  • bhw

    But I’ve made chili myself, Tom, and I know any white meat (long pig included) that is simmered in chili sauce is infused with the spices and sauce. It sould be pretty simple to determine if the finger was cooked in the chili.

    I vote for a taste test.

    You go first.

  • visualsimplicity

    Wait… human meat is considered white meat? I never even thought about that before. Weird.

  • bhw

    I think that this finger came from a white person.

  • DrPat

    Long pig…
    Pork, the other white meat…

    It’s not racial, it’s a marketing slogan sublimininalized, popping up from my subconscious as I wrote.

  • KOB

    Why couldn’t this have happened at KFC!

    Imagine the Miami CSI episode:

    Horatio: “I guess he wasn’t ‘finger lickin’ good enough,” he says wryly.

    Megan (the ballistics experts): “Some people are picky.”

  • KOB

    ..continued.. (jumped out early)

    .. Horatio: “One thing is for certain. He won’t be picky with that finger anymore.”

    Megan: “You think? That’s in the Chilli, too?”

  • Leah

    There is another way that the finger could have end up in the chili. Who is to say that another customer didn’t slip it in her chili while she was getting napkins and spoons. Since they don’t put a lid on it for inside orders.
    Though personally I think she is quilty!

  • NancyGail

    Guilty of something, at any rate.

  • Leoniceno

    The lady has a history of filing lawsuits. I think it’s pretty likely that she just slipped the finger in there and then started screaming.

    It annoys me though, since I just bought some Wendy’s stock and now it’s gone ker-plop.

  • DrPat

    The woman involved has apparently withdrawn her lawsuit following an exhaustive search of her house for clues to the provenance of the finger.

    Ms. Ayala “acknowledged receiving a settlement for medical costs a year ago after claiming that her daughter was sickened after eating [at an El Pollo Loco restaurant].”

  • p

    I think it is something like somebody at a nursing home without any family died and Ayala’s confederate snipped off a finger with garden shears. That is what the police were looking for in the Las Vegas home – a container that the finger was stored in.

    I got to give credit. It takes the hoary old “there’s a fly in my soup” at the bottom of a bowl to a new level. People have been taking roaches into resturants and “finding them” after two thirds of the meal was eaten since time began. This is a nuclear level version of the scam.

  • DrPat

    Well, the finger-lady has been arrested for this.

    I guess we’ll find out whose finger she bit into any day now…

  • Eric Olsen

    finally fingered the bitch, have they?

  • DrPat

    Maybe the finger came from Mexico – this interview report dated 4/11/05 notes that Ayala had recently returned from a visit to Jalisco.

  • MrGreatness

    They just showed she got the finger from a cadaver in Mexico.

    At first when i heard this case, I thought it was a scam. But it got me thinking about Dave Thomas. He is so unknown he could have been selling body parts on the side. Dave use to carry ak-47s around with himself in the park. And while at work, he had butcher knives on his belt. He was a mean threat used to be really racist too. Only served whites till 1979. Oh and one more fact. He originally worked for KFC. Theres so knowledge for you all :)

  • Scott

    Hooray! The 99 cent menu has become edible once again! Screw you Ayala for making me ever doubt Wendy’s!

    Now, wouldnt it be really funny if she actually did find a finger now in some restaurant’s food? No one would buy it!

  • Blue Ant

    For more on the history of severed fingers in food, check out this blog.

  • DrPat

    The news stories that discuss the finger at all (beyond its length and human source) state that the finger was “well-manicured” and “appeared to be cooked.”

    So ask yourself. Did Ayala and her husband give the finger a manicure and a quick par-broil before she started on her scam?