In an attempt to knock the notion that their food is substandard, McDonald's marketing executives had a renowned chef make a five-course meal with ingredients used by the fast-food chain and invited a group of food critics to give their opinion.
About 40 foodies who were invited to the event had no idea what they were walking into, other than that Los Angeles-based chef Neal Fraser, a former Top Chef Masters competitor and chef/owner of the well-respected Redbird restaurant, was preparing the "experimental" meal.
It was only at the end of the dinner - which included courses of chilled avocado soup and coffee custard - that Fraser revealed the fact that he had used foods which make up McDonald's stalwart dishes such as Quarter Pounders and Egg McMuffins.
The reveal left some in the room genuinely shocked, while other critics felt betrayed by Fraser for selling out and luring them into what amounts to a McDonald's advertising campaign.
Fraser told the OC Register that he initially declined McDonald's challenge to craft the dinner, but eventually agreed when he realized that the chain's ingredients weren't so different from the products he uses at Redbird. Redbird even uses the same chicken supplier - Tyson - as McDonald's. He was also paid an undisclosed amount to take part in the event.
The dinner was held on February 3 at the Carondelet House in Los Angeles and an invitation for the event promised only "a night of culinary exploration".
The first course was a chilled avocado soup with a dollop of sour cream. Fraser says the addition of sour cream was the only ingredient not used at the chain that was included on the menu.
Next came a green salad with bacon, tomato, garlic croutons and a buttermilk dressing.
A trio of spicy meatballs in a tomato sauce, followed by bacon-wrapped chicken on a bed of corn and potato hash made up the more hefty portion of the meal. Diners were given a final course of coffee custard with blueberries and a maple crumble for dessert.
At the end of the meal, Fraser came out and asked his guests to guess what the meal was made from and someone reportedly yelled out "Golden arches".
While that suggests Fraser didn't trick everyone in the room, the publicity stunt was apparently successful enough that McDonald's plans to post video of the dinner online later this month.
Throughout the meal, diners were encouraged to tweet and Instagram their meal with the hashtag #atasteofsocal, and many of the reviews were positive.
However, critics who attended the event and spoke out after the big reveal say that it was clear something was "off" with the meal and some even feel betrayed by Fraser for selling out and luring them into the publicity stunt.
"It seemed a little off from what he normally serves," Danielle Salmon who writes for a food blog called Follow My Gut said, according to The Guardian.
"We were thinking it was a weird secret ingredient."
Sarah Bennett told LA Weekly that she knew right off the bat that something was wrong, and is upset with how the dinner has been portrayed as a genuine surprise in some media accounts.
- Daily Mail