When 41 “food influencers” from Southern California were invited to the Carondelet House in Los Angeles to sample a free five-course gourmet meal from Top Chef Masters finalist Neal Fraser, they were told the meal would have a “surprising twist” at the end.
After sampling courses like chilled avocado soup, a buttermilk-dressed romaine salad with bacon bits and bacon-wrapped chicken, none of the food writers had any inkling about the truth: They were secretly eating McDonald’s food.
What started out as a simple press dinner from one of Los Angeles’ well-known chefs, ended as a marketing campaign for the mighty (and currently struggling) fast food chain. According to the Orange County Register, chef Neal Fraser created the meal from ingredients found only in the McDonald’s repertoire. Unbeknownst to his guests, Fraser used bacon, avocado, cheese and more to transform ingredients that usually become quarter pounders or Egg McMuffins. During the meal, McDonald’s operators watched behind the scenes, and listened to chatter about the meal from hidden microphones and cameras.
“It seemed a little off from what he normally serves,” Danielle Salmon, a blogger for a restaurant discovery website called Follow My Gut told the Orange County Register. "We were thinking it was a weird secret ingredient."
The “hidden” McDonald’s marketing officials represent about 600 restaurants in the Southern California area, and with permission from corporate headquarters, they hosted the press dinner to “shed light on the quality of McDonald’s food,” according to The Register.
“Unfortunately the perception is that it (our food) comes through the back door processed,” said Clay Paschen III, president of the McDonald’s Operators’ Association of Southern California. “But we cook. We have a kitchen. Starbucks doesn’t.”
A video of the fancy dinner-turned clever marketing gimmick will be posted later this month.