When a Michelin starred chef lavishes McDonald’s with praise, something very peculiar is simmering in someone’s skillet somewhere.
“I’m lovin’ it,” Pierre Koffmann said after tasting a baguette sandwich at a McDonald’s in Paris. “If I was hungry walking by, I’d buy it with pleasure,” Koffmann said.
Pierre Koffmann held three Michelin stars at La Tante Claire in London in the 1990s, and cooked at Le Gavroche before becoming head chef in 1972 at the Waterside Inn, which holds three Michelin stars.
He won three stars of his own at La Tante Claire in London. He now cooks at Koffmann’s at the Berkeley Hotel in London.
“The garnish is good: There’s plenty of salad and plenty of everything. The bread isn’t a pure baguette because this one is shorter, but it’s good bread. Not the top bread in Paris but it’s good. I’m not disappointed by it,” said Koffmann.
McDonald’s has included a baguette sandwich on its menu in France in an effort to appeal to locals. France is McDonald’s most profitable market after the U.S., with 1,228 outlets in 934 towns.
“We are looking for a balance between our DNA, our roots, and points of local reference,” Nawfal Trabelsi, chief marketing officer of McDonald’s France, said in an interview.
“Local reference is a path that has to follow certain steps.”
A Bloomberg news report points out that a McDonald’s campaign to cajole the locals coincides with a French economic slump and a 13-year-high unemployment rate that’s forcing growing numbers of the country’s citizens to suspend their native culinary cravings for a fast-food replica.
The McBaguette features ham, cheese and potato, topped with lettuce and mayonnaise. It costs 4.50 euros with a drink. It appears on a new “Casse-Croute” menu, and Koffmann preferred it to a baguette from a local baker.
“I’ll go with McDonald’s,” Koffmann said. “The garnish is better. This other one was probably made this morning at 6. It looks better, with good-quality bread, but McDonald’s has a lot more garnish. The McDonald’s is warm. Bread is always better warm. It’s a trick, but McDonald’s is doing the trick.”
Back on planet Earth, Lionel Picot, whose bakery sells REAL baguettes, is a baker at Boulangerie Julien — which has won the “Meilleure Baguette de Paris,” or the “best baguette in Paris,” award — says McDonald’s is perverting French fare.
“A baguette is long: It’s not this,” he said in an interview. “It should be forbidden. It’s unbearable that they were allowed to use the word baguette. It’s not real baguettes they use, so using the word is terrible.”
Picot and others have complained about the ever increasing penetration of McDonald’s in France. “Jose Bove — an activist farmer who ran for president in 2007 — famously accused McDonald’s of serving up ‘malbouffe,’ or junk food.”
Picot insists McDonald’s shouldn’t be allowed to co-opt the term baguette. “We try to keep the artisanal side and these people use everything without asking anyone,” he said.
“They would probably sue us for a small thing if we used something from them, but we let them do whatever they want here. It’s not normal.”