Restaurant people know the problem. You can always use another reliable short-order cook. But until they've pulled a shift or two you never know whether they're going to provide a solution or a dozen more problems on the culinary assembly line.

It was that way at Walter Clark's Salad Bowl in Seattle. Clark had a whole chain of restaurants in this area and in the early 1940s he hired some guy from Kentucky.The other cooks quickly figured out their jobs had suddenly become complicated. During the peak hours they had to do the Possom Trot quick-step around the new guy who just stood there, either gnawing on a chicken bone or gazing off into space.

Finally, one of the other cooks decided he'd had enough. He jotted an angry note, which he shoved under the nose of assistant manager Jeannie Power.

"Get this clown out of the way!" it demanded.

The disgusted chef knew that Clark was a director of the National Restaurant Association. What he may not have known is that the new guy from Kentucky held the same office. But his restaurant had fallen on hard times. It was a diner on the highway and traffic had fallen off alarmingly because of gas rationing during World War II.

So Clark had offered him interim employment in Seattle. And after learning about the note of protest, Clark moved the new guy to the Twin Teepees restaurant in north Seattle, where Harland Sanders continued to gnaw on chicken bones and to experiment with improvements on his basic recipe for southern-fried chicken.

After 10 months in Seattle, the guy moved back to Kentucky, began to call himself "Colonel Sanders" and greeted growing crowds at his establishment, which featured a chicken recipe he'd developed partly in Seattle.

Colonel Sanders' original recipe was pressure-cooked in oil. The spicing is supposed to be a secret. One researcher concluded there are only four "secret herbs and spices" in the late colonel's recipe. Another, (The Recipe Detective, Box 152, St. Clair, MI 48079) offers an excellent approximation but contains 11 herbs and spices. And it's probably better for you because it is oven-cooked. Gloria Pitzer calls it "Colonel Sanders-Style Chicken."

A lot of people who frequented the Twin Teepees while Sanders was there liked his spaghetti even more than the chicken. So here's the recipe the colonel left behind.

That "clown" was a pretty fair cook.

COLONEL SANDERS-STYLE CHICKEN

Mix together these spices:

Spice mixture:

2 tablespoons paprika

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon basil

1 tablespoon onion salt

1 teaspoon sage

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon marjoram

1 teaspoon allspice

Fryer meal:

3/4 cup flour

11/2 tablespoons brown sugar

Mix together the 11 spices. This is enough to coat 4 chickens.

For one best-of-fryer meal, add 3 tablespoons of the above mix to 3/4 cup of flour and 11/2 tablespoons of brown sugar.

Shake the ingredients in a bag. Then wet the chicken, drain it and toss it in the bag. Arrange the coated chicken on an oven pan, brush with a cube of melted butter or margarine. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees without turning.

SANDERS' SPAGHETTI SAUCE

21/2 pounds ground beef

1 cup diced onion

1/4 cup bacon grease or cooking oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons salt

11/2 teaspoons black pepper

11/2 teaspoons paprika

3 tablespoons chili powder

11/3 tablespoons cumin powder

9 ounces tomato paste

Saute onions and garlic in bacon grease or canola oil, depending upon whether you plan to cook this in 1942 or 1994. After 3 minutes add the beef, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring once or twice, for another 5 minutes, then add the other ingredients. Simmer about 3 hours, thinning as needed with tomato juice.