I remember the first time I decided to buy a Chicken Ceasar Salad for lunch from McDonald's. Because I'm not a big salad fan, I was a bit hesitant. I walked into McDonald's and heard the busy sounds of cash registers, fryers, people yelling orders, and the smell of fresh greasy fries. To my surprise, the meal was complete with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions, croutons and a succulent piece of chicken breast placed neatly above the forest of greens, partly sliced, and topped with spices. Not only did this salad look good, it was delicious! At this moment, the curiosity of what goes on inside the McDonald's kitchen filled my mind.

Meet Dan Coudreaut, the head chef and culinary innovation director at McDonald's headquarters. Chef Dan graduated top of his class at the Culinary Institute of America, and created elaborate meals at the Four Seasons Restaurants. He leads the staff of chefs at McDonald's sprawling kitchen based in the suburbs of Chicago. It is a lab of culinary creativity. Foods such as the Angus Burger, Snack Wrap and Asian Salad are the result of effort and prime ingredients.

The chefs come up with the idea, create the perfect blend of ingredients and finally market the final creation at an affordable price for more than 25 million customers who visit the 14 thousand McDonald's locations.

I think that the real challenge is to create complex, tasty meals at an affordable price. Usually, a quality meal that is healthy, like the salad, is priced too high for the average person to enjoy. McDonald's does this with simplicity and good ties with suppliers. The fast food concept helps cut cost because it ensures plainness when crafting meals at the main kitchen. For example, Chef Dan proposed making a basic sandwich with three sets of toppings as a general rule. This makes it easier for line cooks in all McDonald's chains to duplicate the recipe. All of the hard work is done at the headquarters.

This is a glimpse into the latest McDonald's strategy- affordable culinary innovation. It sometimes goes unnoticed because the menu remains constant for the most part. The company introduces new choices that blend in with the current menu options to not fully surprise customers. Dessert options have been rebranded with new milk shakes, sundaes, baked goods and now premium coffee. Now, of course, you will always get your usual fries and burger, but what's important is that you can be healthy with new alternatives. Doesn't sound like junk food to me.

Below is a clip from the CNBC documentary: Big Mac, Inside the McDonald's Empire. Our friends at SlashFood provided their commentary.


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