Gualtiero Marchesi in Bed with McDonald’s, Sell Out or Foodie Move of the Century?

So I ate a hamburger at McDonald’s the other day. Not exactly the most foodie of things to do, but in the interest of hands-on reporting I went in, ordered my burger and since the sun was shining in Milan I took it outside and sat down at one of the tables they have out on Via Paolo Sarpi (the main thoroughfare in the city’s Chinatown).

I never go to McDonald’s. That’s not hyperbole, I really never go. What drew me to the golden arches on this nippy yet sunny fall day in Milan was none other than Gualtiero Marchesi. The Gualtiero Marchesi. Three Michelin starred Gualtiero Marchesi, the first and perhaps still only Italian chef to get three stars. About a month ago Marchesi and McDonald’s got in bed together (hyperbole this time) and announced that the chef had designed two hamburgers and a tiramisu-like dessert to be sold at the American chain’s Italian locations.

Gualtiero Marchesi at a recent conference

Gualtiero Marchesi at a recent conference

My first reaction was, the old man has lost his marbles and wants to make a few bucks before bowing out to a sunny beach somewhere. That also happened to be my second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth reactions. Then I spoke at a conference a few weeks ago on methods for communicating quality (i.e. how do you convince people your high-quality product is worth the 50 percent more it costs compared with the low-quality competition) where the attendees included Marchesi himself.

Several speakers lauded him for his courage, ladida. Then Davide Rampello, chairman of the foundation that runs one of Milan’s coolest museums, the Triennale, got up and said: “Gualtiero Marchesi understands that excellence can be applied to anything. Those who have shown disgust with his decision don’t understand anything.”

I suppose the argument is something like this: lots of people go to McDonald’s, if you want them to understand quality you have to start there. Not very convincing to be honest.

Anyway, so I’m sitting out on Via Paolo Sarpi with my Adagio (classical music also seems to have inspired Marchesi for the name of the other burger, Vivace, and the dessert, Minuetto) and I’ll admit it, it was not without a good deal of curiosity that I took my first bite. One word, if I can steal a line from Otto in A Fish Called Wandadisappointed!

Adagio, how it's supposed to look

Adagio, how it's supposed to look

You could sort of taste the eggplant mousse, but other than that it was your standard fast food burger. The tomatoes, if there were any in there, went unnoticed, as did the ricotta salata and everything else. The bun, advertised as being covered with pieces of almonds, was your standard white bread bun, nutritional value = 0. All that for a cool 640 calories. Throw in the Minuetto’s 300 calories and you are close an even grand without even counting the fries (320 calories for a medium) and drink (200 calories for a medium).

Give them a 1,000-calorie lunch full of fattening foods and then be bewildered why Italians increasingly have waistlines commensurate with their American counterparts. Of course, let’s not forget that McDonald’s is the company that managed to make oatmeal, the healthiest of all healthy breakfast foods, bad for you.

Adagio, the sad truth

Adagio, the sad truth

A bit unsatisfied by my 4.70-euro, 600-calorie burger (maybe I should have tried the Minuetto), I left my table there on Via Paolo Sarpi and walked down the street where I satisfied my Chinatown craving with a 1-euro, ???-calorie pork bun.

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9 thoughts on “Gualtiero Marchesi in Bed with McDonald’s, Sell Out or Foodie Move of the Century?

  1. Bravo for you for having the stomach and/or palle to try it. Other than some fries which were comfort food in a downpour at the Duomo McD’s, I haven’t had a burger from the clown since 2004. It was in Macedonia, a land renowned for excellent and cheap grilled meat, and it gave me heartburn and burps and left me hungry an hour later. Marchesi’s involvement is ridiculous and anyone saying otherwise is just buying into it. Bravo also for remembering that this institution managed to ruin oatmeal. Also, don’t forget another moment of shame for McD’s with Luca Zaia singing the praises of the McItaly almost a year ago.

  2. As to my stomach/palle, chalk it up to the journalist’s commitment to his work.

    As to your sentiments on McD in general, I would direct you to a quote from somebody on my Facebook page: the Adagio sucks! Anyway, I think better for people to understand what fast food is and not try to dress it up as the entryway into good eating. Kind of like having a cigarette company sponsoring the cancer ward of a hospital.

    I hope to someday try a Balkan Macedonian BBQ, heard they are incredible. Macedonia is so close to Italy that I think I could justify including the experience here on foodieinitaly.

  3. Wow, Marchesi at McDonald’s? Things have changed. I understand the concept but I don’t love it. You sound committed though. I would have preferred the pork bun…
    Susannah (Karen to you)

    • Karen,
      So nice to hear from you. With your experience in the wine sector I’d love to hear what bottle I should be opening with my next Adagio. And yes, I agree, pork bun any day of the week and twice on Saturdays (my provider is closed on Sundays). Hope you are having a good Thanksgiving. I’ll be attempting to cook a 10-pounder on Saturday…

      • WOW!! Love the photos and the vicuiroas travel you allow us. Keep exploring Europe and taking and sharing the great photos I always look forward to seeing where you visited last.

    • As to my stomach/palle, chalk it up to the juisnalort’s commitment to his work.As to your sentiments on McD in general, I would direct you to a quote from somebody on my Facebook page: the Adagio sucks! Anyway, I think better for people to understand what fast food is and not try to dress it up as the entryway into good eating. Kind of like having a cigarette company sponsoring the cancer ward of a hospital.I hope to someday try a Balkan Macedonian BBQ, heard they are incredible. Macedonia is so close to Italy that I think I could justify including the experience here on foodieinitaly.

    • As to my stomach/palle, chalk it up to the journalist’s commitment to his work.As to your sentiments on McD in general, I would direct you to a quote from somebody on my Facebook page: the Adagio sucks! Anyway, I think better for people to understand what fast food is and not try to dress it up as the entryway into good eating. Kind of like having a cigarette company sponsoring the cancer ward of a hospital.I hope to someday try a Balkan Macedonian BBQ, heard they are incredible. Macedonia is so close to Italy that I think I could justify including the experience here on foodieinitaly.

  4. Bravo for you for having the scomath and/or palle to try it. Other than some fries which were comfort food in a downpour at the Duomo McD’s, I haven’t had a burger from the clown since 2004. It was in Macedonia, a land renowned for excellent and cheap grilled meat, and it gave me heartburn and burps and left me hungry an hour later. Marchesi’s involvement is ridiculous and anyone saying otherwise is just buying into it. Bravo also for remembering that this institution managed to ruin oatmeal. Also, don’t forget another moment of shame for McD’s with Luca Zaia singing the praises of the McItaly almost a year ago.

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