Happy Meal Chefs McDonald’s Headquarters Experience
McDonald’s® Happy Meal Chefs Grand Prize contest winners, Elayna Saley (9) and Sarah Ralston (12), recently visited McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, IL to work alongside our Executive Chef, Dan Coudreaut, as his apprentices helping him come up with new, nutrition-minded Happy Meal choices. Joining Chef Dan’s team in the Happy Meal creation process, the passionate young chefs engaged in a culinary brainstorm; cooked-up tasty new Happy Meal concepts; discussed kid nutrition considerations; participated in a taste panel and shared their ideas for the future of the Happy Meal.
McDonald’s Headquarters – Day 1
Sarah, Elayna and their parents kicked off their trip in Chef Dan’s kitchen where the creative process begins. They brainstormed ideas with Chef Dan for a new Happy Meal dish. Focusing on pocket foods, they discussed different ingredients, portion sizes and flavors that would appeal to kids. The Happy Meal Chefs then picked their favorite ideas and got cooking with Chef Dan and Chef Shannon. They prepared Meat Ball and Spinach Ravioli, Mozzarella and Tomato Ravioli, Spinach and Artichoke Turnovers and BBQ Chicken, Corn and Bacon Empanadas.
Next, the Happy Meal Chefs met with McDonald’s Director of Nutrition, Dr. Cindy Goody to learn about the role of nutrition in the Happy Meal creation process. Through a blind taste test that compared McDonald’s menu items to grocery store items, they learned about the nutrition facts and recommended food groups of some of McDonald’s balanced choices. Sarah and Elayna also shared ideas on how to incorporate recommended food groups from MyPlate into new Happy Meal menu items. Sarah suggested a chicken wrap with a wheat tortilla and Elayna thought strawberries would be a good addition to the Happy Meal.
Day 2 at McDonald’s Headquarters
The Happy Meal Chefs started day two at McDonald’s Headquarters with a behind-the-counter tour at a McDonald’s restaurant. They saw first-hand how menu items are made, the different types of equipment and how employees ensure that every meal is served to meet McDonald’s quality standards. Then, Sarah and Elayna participated in a mock focus group featuring secret Happy Meal recipes that Chef Dan and his team are currently exploring. They tasted four different menu items and shared their thoughts on the taste, appearance and how McDonald’s could improve the recipe to be more appealing to kids.
Of course, a critical aspect of the Happy Meal creation process is selecting the right ingredients. Next up for Sarah and Elayna was learning about a key ingredient of the Happy Meal – apples. They discovered how McDonald’s apples are grown, selected, stored and preserved so that every package of Apple Slices in the Happy Meal is fresh and tasty. Their experience culminated with a creative session led by McDonald’s marketing team. The Happy Meal Chefs learned about McDonald’s new Happy Meal commercials featuring new “Champions of Happy” characters and shared their ideas for future ads.
While the Happy Meal Chefs Headquarters trip is over, their apprenticeship is just beginning. They will continue to partner with Chef Dan and the Happy Meal team leading up to the introduction of the next nutrition-minded Happy Meal choice. Stay tuned!