nathan denette/canadian press
Dan Coudreaut went from red wine reductions, hollandaise sauce and fine dining to two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame-seed bun.
He quit his dream job as chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Dallas, not to work in an upscale New York or Paris restaurant.
Instead, he set his sights on McDonald’s.
“You know when you’re at the Four Seasons you’re able to serve about 350 folks a night. At McDonald’s, you’re able to serve 25 million people in the United States and two million in Canada,” said Coudreaut, the director of culinary innovation for
McDonald’s since 2004. “It’s extremely exciting for a chef.”
A dishwasher at the age of 14, Coudreaut knew he wanted to work in restaurants. Moving his way up in New York bistros, he decided to go to school to become a chef. Little did he think he’d be at McDonald’s.
He said being a chef is a balancing act between art and science. At a four-star restaurant, he found there was a real art to food, as a beautiful presentation was half the work. But at McDonald’s, he finds the work is more about science.
“At McDonald’s, I think you’re having to make sure the science part of it — meaning that your recipes are able to be executed in 13,500 restaurants or the 1,500 in Canada — is bulletproof.
“It challenges my creativity on a whole new level.”
At top restaurants, the menu was a blank canvas Coudreaut could fill with the latest trends in cuisine, or set some new culinary surprises. But with his job at McDonald’s, he inherited a lot of recipes that have been around for decades. And even the slightest tweak may cost customers who expect the same sandwiches they had growing up.
His job isn’t to monkey with the core recipes, he said. Rather, he and his staff are looking ahead to figure out, based on consumer trends, what the menu will look like next year and even 10 years from now.
Since coming on board, he has tried to cater to the gastronomic desires of the public, offering items such as new chicken sandwiches and the fruit and walnut salad.
Last week, Coudreaut was in Toronto for the official Canadian launch of the chicken snack wrap, his latest addition to the menu.
Snacking seems to be a growing pastime.
The total number of snacks eaten around the globe is expected to rise by 9.7 billion over the next five years to 75.8 billion from 66.1 billion, according to a recent Data Monitor survey, which is being quoted by McDonald’s.
The company’s research found the afternoon snacking occasion has become a $1.5-billion business for the quick service restaurant industry in Canada.
Besides the golden arches, other companies are embracing smaller portions in an attempt to capitalize on consumer snack attacks.
Cadbury, Pringles and Ritz are packaging some products in smaller, 100 calorie sizes.
“People are less likely to do the three square meals a day and you are starting to see a lot more grazing — smaller meals,” Coudreaut said, adding people are eating on the go.