McDonald’s Unwrapped – Dinner at the Culinary Academy

6 Oct

Renowned Chefs of the Greater Bay Area Use McDonald’s Ingredients to

Create Gourmet Charity Dinner

I never thought I’d go to an event like this but sometimes you have to put aside your preconceived notions and just jump. A donation was made on behalf of each guest in attendance, which adds to the $2 million that local McDonald’s restaurant owners have already contributed to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bay Area over the past two years. I was a little more inclined to participate because of the donation. The dinner was held at the California Culinary Academy, where I went to school. Oh, and my photos are horrible, I blame it on the wine!

Southern Onion Soup & Parmesan Puddin’ Angus beef brodo, Big Mac Streusel

The dinners premise was that three chefs can make a gourmet meal from McDonald’s ingredients, and did they ever! Chef Ryan Scott, executive chef of Market & Rye in San Francisco and “Top Chef” Season 4 contender was the lead. Chef Beverlie Terra of Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz and Chef Sophina Uong of Picán in Oakland were the other two chefs. Dishes at the event included a Chilled Roast Tomato Soup Sip and Three-cheese Panini made with McDonald’s tomatoes and cheeses, a 24-Hour Braised Mickey D’s Sugo including gnocchi created from McDonald’s hash browns, and a Chocolate Hazelnut Chess Pie that used poached strawberries and an ice cream cone crust.

“I was excited to participate in this event so that I could put my creativity to the test and design three unexpected and enjoyable courses,” said Chef Ryan Scott, executive chef of Market & Rye in San Francisco and “Top Chef” Season 4 contender.

“The quality and variety of available McDonald’s ingredients really allowed all the chefs to create inventive dishes worthy of any of our restaurants while supporting great causes.” The chefs had access to the full range of quality ingredients used in McDonald’s restaurants to create their three-course menu. The multi-course dinner highlighted McDonald’s 100 percent USDA-inspected beef with no fillers or preservatives, white meat chicken, and quality ingredients used in restaurants everyday such as USDA Grade A eggs, dozens of types of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, blueberries and milk.

The charming Ryan Scott hugging my table mate one half of the cute site called

I have to say that this dinner has made me think a lot about fast food and how it fits in our culture. Fast food was developed years ago, as a nation we were not as savvy about nutrition and science as we are now, we just didn’t pay attention. We just knew it tasted good and it was cheap. Generations have grown up on fast food and taste buds have been trained to crave these foods. It is also affordable and easy, don’t forget how easy a drive thru is. Yes fast food is one of the reasons that Americans are overweight, I will say that, but it is also the individual’s responsibility to eat healthfully and not overeat. A restaurant can’t be responsible for a persons choices.  I am not saying that I would or wouldn’t eat there or have my family eat there I am just saying if you do, make smart choices. They can make it easier to make good choices and I do think McDonald’s is trying but changing the brain chemistry of millions of Americans isn’t going to be easy! A recent study of children showed amazing results. When shown a set of logos from popular companies, the pleasure area of the brain was immediately activated. They went right to pleasure when looking at just a logo, not Nike but food it is the trigger!

Poached egg, with pickled blueberries, buttered croutons and warm bacon vinaigrette

It is easy to over eat when the food is salty and sweet and when it is what you know, it’s what you go towards. Parents have to take responsibility for helping kids make correct choices. When you go to a fast food restaurant give a choice…of the healthier options. Your kids may react badly but they will come around eventually. Watch portions sizes too, kids are growing up thinking a large soda is ok for them and it’s not. 6-8 ounces is enough, soda is not necessary, give them water. Think about this, when you get a burger at a burger joint, not at a McDonald’s but a local place, how do you know what you are eating? because it is only one restaurant not a chain it may not be as “picked”on as a large corporation.

Chocolate Hazelnut Chess Pie. Bruleed meringue, poached strawberries, ice cream cone crust.



What I learned at the McDonald’s Unwrapped event was that the produce is fresh, no it may not all be organic but the lettuce and blueberries arrive fresh just like the ones you buy in the store. “It is true that many of the ingredients found in the restaurants are the same you’d find in your own refrigerator including the more than $375 million of California agricultural products purchased by McDonald’s in 2011.” I had the extreme pleasure to sit with two local franchise owners who are real people who care greatly about the community they serve. Kimberley Byrne is an owner of three McDonald’s two on Alameda and one in Oakland, she composts, she has no styrofoam in sight and she knows exactly what is in the food she serves. She was able to tell me where each item was grown and what was in most of the food. I was invited to tour her restaurant any time, and I may just go do that.

This opinion is all mine, I did not receive any payment to write this post.

One Response to “McDonald’s Unwrapped – Dinner at the Culinary Academy”

  1. ginarau (@ginarau) October 9, 2012 at 7:10 PM #

    Jen – I’m glad that you decided to attend the event. Having worked at one of McDonald’s ad agency’s on that account for 7+ years, I’ve seen a lot! And learned a lot.

    Around 2004 we did an economic survey which explored the impact a McDonald’s restaurant has in it’s community from an economic (think taxes for roads, jobs, etc.), charitable (schools + Ronald McDonald House), and agricultural perspective (the ingredients purchased locally). We learned that a ton of ingredients like pickles and potatoes came from the Northwest, along with blueberries and cranberries. No matter where you live practically, there is likely to be “local” products at a McDonald’s in your community. People felt good about that. We put farmer’s faces and names behind this campaign and helped them tell their story.

    I was also part of the team that brought Veggie burgers and a new menu called Salads and More to the Northwest restaurants. Women in particular said that they wanted healthier choices when their kids begged them to eat there. We had premium salads with Newman’s Own dressing, veggie burger, fruit & yogurt parfaits and apple dippers.

    We don’t take our family there often but if we do eat fast food, they’re high on my list. I’ve been in the kitchens, I know where the ingredients come from and the quality standards that McDonald’s has. We don’t eat egg from a carton in our family and McDonald’s Egg McMuffin sandwich is one of maybe two breakfast sandwiches carried by national chains that still crack a fresh egg to make. That means a ton to me!

    We primarily choose real, food and mostly organic or at least certainly free of artificial ingredients in our home. Most of our meals and snacks are cooked from scratch. These are the choices we’ve made because eating healthy foods is important to us. There are times that we’re on the road or need convenience, but I still want to know what is in the food we eat. For those times, they top our list.

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