Sunday, November 26, 2006

The CIA's lovin' it

McDonald’s has enlisted a surprising ally in its ongoing struggle to cut prep times and thereby serve hotter, juicier meals: The Culinary Institute of America.

The Harvard of foodservice education revealed in the new edition of its alumni magazine that it’s been retained by the quick-service giant to find and test new high-tech cooking equipment.

The article noted that the school is exploring such NASA-caliber advances as “multi-wave/convection/moist-heat combination technology,” pressurized-steam apparatus, and hybrids that combine the function of a microwave with impingement cooking, or blasting all surfaces of the food with hot-air jets, usually as it moves on a conveyor.

In laymen’s terms: The gizmos cook food faster, without letting it dry out.

The discovery of a breakthrough grill or oven could satisfy the chain’s decades-long quest for a way to serve meals in a flash without batch-cooking the components ahead of time. The difficulties of delivering convenience without losing the positives of a fresh-from-the-grill burger or chicken sandwich was what tripped up the brand in the mid-1990s, when it began the tailspin that has only recently been reversed.

At the time, McDonald’s spent upwards of a quarter of a billion dollars to install a new high-tech cooking system called Made For You, a label that emphasized the added benefit of allowing units to customize orders, since they were cooked on demand. As has been noted other times in The Scoop, that system is in the process of being replaced by a new “cooking platform.”

The article in the CIA’s Mise En Place publication quotes a CIA official as speculating that faster kitchen equipment could also allow McDonald’s to improve the integrity of its ingredients. “These technologies that reduce cooking cycle time allow you to prepare foods that don’t have added hormones, steroids, or artificial additives,” said Ron Desantis, director of the school’s new consultancy service, the Industry Solutions Group.

The issue of Mise En Place notes elsewhere that the CIA has also consulted to Burger King, Wendy’s, Starbucks, T.G.I. Friday’s and Panera Bread.

And it observes that the McDonald’s outlet closest to the school’s main campus, in Hyde Park, N.Y., is managed by a CIA grad.

No comments:

Post a Comment