1-on-1 Interview With The Most Powerful Chef in The World

The day before the Olympic started, the senior management team of McDonalds flew into Vancouver to host a global press event at the Games Main Press Center. McDonalds, as it is well known, has been a worldwide Olympic partner for over 40 years.

I was totally excited when McDonalds wrote to me a week before the Vancouver 2010 games asking if chowtimes would like to attend the global press event. I immediately said yes. I would not give up that golden chance to get into the highly secured Main Press Center and get close to the heartbeat of the games.

A few emails to and fro with several people within McDonalds follows after. They were asking about chowtimes and stuff like our traffic profile. After a while they asked … would you like to speak to Chef Dan Coudreaut? Chef Dan, you see, is the Director of Culinary Innovations. The man behind the food … and in many respect, considered as the most powerful chef on this planet.

Whoa! Play-acting as a journalist among hoards of journalists is one thing but being offered a 1-on-1 interview with The Man is yet another. As much as I did not know what to do, I knew I could not pass off this once in a lifetime chance. I replied “yes” first and then try to figure out something along the way.

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Truth be told … when I mentioned on Twitter and chowtimes of the 1-on-1 interview, there was one particular reader who wrote an email (albeit politely) that she will no longer support chowtimes because of my acceptance for the interview. She symbolically asked me to remove her name from our email distribution. That sort of set me thinking how much emotions that some people shows at the sheer mention of McDonalds name.

What is it that evokes such responses? Is it that McDonalds pushes unhealthy food? Is it that McDonalds epitomizes the successful corporate world? Why does it seems more acceptable to eat dim sum (as a random example) than to have a Big Mac?

I am not going to push for an answer. You know and I know that everyone can argue until the cows come home and we will never be in any agreement. I went to the McDonalds event with an open mind and no prejudice with the intention to hear the low down from the #1 chef of the #1 restaurant in the world.

I have a feeling this post might invite reactions and I welcome all views.

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It was a mad scramble getting the press credential. The media event was to be at 9AM and by 8PM the previous day, I had not received any instructions on what to do and where to go. I shot off an urgent email to McDonalds at night and that set a few wheels in motion. I think someone dropped the ball on chowtimes. I only got the go ahead at about 5AM — 4 hours before the event!

I was armed already with the questions I wanted to ask Chef Dan. Many of the questions were from chowtimes readers.

It was a wet day when I took the Skytrain to the Convention Center. I was given a couple of run arounds before I got to the right section to collect the press credential from. The volunteers were new on the job and had a hard time locating all the passes that were prepared upfront. It took 20 minutes to locate my pass — got me worried that they might not have my records and miss out on the event.

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Almost everyone in the broadcasting world you can think of is there. They were wearing shirts with logo of Reuters, NBC, etc! The photographers who were seated near me were all carrying big cameras … not one camera but two. And they seem to know each other. There I was a small time blogger — sigh, no one really bothered to talk to me other than saying “how is it going?”.

I don’t dress like they do and certainly don’t carry the right type of equipment. Next time, I am going to print a T-shirt with the chowtimes.com logo so that I can feel more like part of the gang.

LOL!

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While waiting for the event to start, we were served some food. It was early and serving full sized sandwiches was not quite right, one thing that I like was the Mini Mac. The bite sized Mini Mac tastes exactly like the Big Mac. It is amazing that they managed to make it so small — it was just like the size of a 25 cents coin.

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I see that no one really touched the fries. It is because it it’s still too early for fries. But I took it because I wanted to sample their new sauces.

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The new sauces were not to my taste. Maybe it is the name that they gave it — zesty mango, sichuan and thai. I was particularly interested in the Sichuan one. It was more peanuty than anything. It wasn’t spicy in anyway that can be associated with the word Sichuan. But I know … these sauces were not created for Asians but for the US market.

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The press event was somewhat short. There were speeches from McDonalds management, the IOC and VANOC. The speeches were quickly followed by some fun and games.

The McDonalds Champion Kids program flew in children selected from Canada and all over the world with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the Vancouver 2010 games first-hand. These 6-14 year old also have a chance to serve as youth correspondence to share their experience with their hometown news outlets.

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After the event, I was introduced to Chef Dan. He comes across to me as a down to earth kind of person. Very approachable.

As we settled down, I was shifty and nervous. I was nervous because of what I was about to say to kick off the 1-on-1. I just said three words … “Junk food. Why?” (more…)

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Spinach Beef Soup

Besides the Creamy Seafood Udon, Lorna also made a Spinach Beef Soup in the Gilmore Park Church Community Kitchen. This is a simple and quick soup that can be served in 30 minutes.

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Ingredients

  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and drain
  • 1 can chicken stock
  • 1 can whole kernel corn
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 pound lean ground beef, marinate with salt, pepper, corn starch and 1 egg for 30 minutes

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Source: Lorna

Prep time: 10 minutes;  Cook time: 20 minutes;   Serve 4

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Fermented Bean Curd Seafood Udon

Tanni worked hand in hand with Lorna to demonstrate an Asian Style Seafood Udon, flavoured with fermented bean curd. This is like killing two birds with one stone as the ingredients are almost the same except the main flavouring ingredient for the sauce.

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Ingredients

  • 200g Udon
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup broccoli flowerets
  • fermented bean curd to taste
  • 2 cups seafood (scallops, squids, mussels, shrimps)
  • 5 sticks imitation crab meat
  • 4 fish balls (halves)
  • 2 tomatoes (sliced for garnishing)
  • 1 green onion (chopped for garnishing)

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Fermented bean curd also known as fermented tofu, tofu cheese, or preserved tofu is a form of processed, preserved tofu used in East Asian cuisine as a condiment made from soybeans. The ingredients typically are soybeans, salt, rice wine and sesame oil or vinegar, and are sold in blocks 2- to 4-cm square by 1 to 2 cm thick soaked in brine with select flavorings. They comes in beige or red colour. I had used the red one in a vegetarian dish recipe. I remembered when I was young, my grandmother used to serve plain porridge with the beige colour fermented bean curd sweetened with some sugar and flavour with sesame oil.

Source: Tanni

Prep time: 20 minutes; Cook time: 20 minutes; Serve 4

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