Burger Lad® at the McDonald’s UK My Burger Final – 2014
What they say:
After showing your amazing creative skills to create a Burger on our online burger builder site, online votes have shown that you have created one of the most popular burgers. You have therefore been declared a potential McDonald’s My Burger Finalist!
I can’t remember the first time I discovered the My Burger promotion. I do recall it being offered by McDonald’s Germany as “Mein Burger” and have also seen it in a few other European countries. I’d asked McDonald’s UK and their Communications Director a number of times if we’d ever get to build our own burgers in the UK. Their response was always “no plans at present.”
This changed on Monday 19th May when during the 2014 Great Tastes of America promotion, the Golden Arches “sneaked” out the My Burger campaign. I’d actually had a tip-off a day or two earlier, but in my wildest dreams didn’t believe my build-a-burger fantasy would become a reality.
So I instantly logged in, created (obviously) The Burger Lad and went about shamelessly promoting my creation via Twitter and sharing it with family, friends and colleagues. My Burger received a modest number of votes, it was great to see it in the “Popular” and “Trending” galleries as well.
Towards the end of the voting period I checked a few in the “Popular” gallery and saw some with over a thousand votes. “Oh well” I thought… just to have been able to see my burger design on the website was enough for me (and the fact we’d get FIVE new publicly created burgers in October/November). I never thought I would be a finalist… until Monday 23rd June…
It was just a normal Monday morning in the office. Burger Bev was googling “McDonald’s Spain” trying to decide which promotional burger to review the next time she flies out. I was hard at work and during a designated lunch break checked my Bmail. I could not believe my eyes as I read the text on the screen…
Subject to verification, McDonald’s would like to invite you, Burger, to come to the McDonald’s UK head office kitchen, London, and make your Burger Creation with the help of McDonald’s coaches on 29th June 2014. Along with the other Finalists, you will present your Burger Creation to a panel of judges who will then judge the five burgers which will make it onto McDonald’s UK menu.
I was literally bouncing around the office and letting off more “Wooo’s” than Ric Flair in Greensboro, North Carolina. To say I was unbearable for the rest of the day is an understatement! Miss Milkshake and I celebrated with a delectable French Dip at The Tavern and got excited by the thought of our all expenses paid trip to London this upcoming weekend. After getting the confirmation on Tuesday that we would definitely be going this was a million miles away from the events of the exact same Monday and Tuesday some twelve months earlier…
It literally felt like something out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and I had scored a Golden Ticket (I knew for this mission I would be accompanied by our very own Veruca Salt) so, like Grandpa Joe I burst into song:
I never thought my life could be… anything but catastrophe
But suddenly I begin to see… a bit of good luck for me
Cause I’ve got a golden ticket
I’ve got a golden twinkle in my eye…
I never had a chance to shine never a happy song to sing,
But suddenly half the world is mine what an amazing thing
Cause I’ve got a golden ticket. I’ve got a golden ticket in my hand…
So for the next few days I was bursting to the point of explosion. I wanted to tweet it, I wanted to shout it out at the top of my voice. “I AM A MY BURGER FINALIST”. But I didn’t… I may have tweeted a cryptic tweet here and there though.
On Thursday we received the registration confirmation, itinerary and hotel details. We were gonna be staying at the luxury four-star Hotel Russell in Bloomsbury, Central London. OMG could this week get any better!? In the meantime I did a bit of research on who my “opponents” might be. A quick Twitter/Google search found one – some online community that had submitted multiple entries which were allegedly removed but one without their name in got undetected on the MMB radar. I also found someone complaining that they had “won” My Burger but it would not be made as it was Gluten Free. I think what they meant was that they’d got to the judging final on Sunday. They had won… N-O-T-H-I-N-G!!
At this point I’d like to add that all of the above was written BEFORE this weekend’s events and from this point now are after the events of Sunday 29th June 2014 – a date forever burnt into my memory. This is the tale of the boy from Upper Welland who went to McDonald’s UK Headquarters and met the Managing Director…
|Arriving at McDonald’s UK Headquarters…|
We arrived at McDonald’s HQ on Sunday morning. I should have felt nervous. After all, here I was about to make and present my very own McDonald’s burger creation to a panel of judges which included the MD, Phil Vickery MBE, a franchise owner and a number of select individuals. We waited in reception and every contestant for this session (the finalists had been split into two groups) had their names read out. “And lastly we have Burger Lad…” – yes I would be known as BL for the majority of the day.
I filmed a quick video/sound bite where I talked a bit about me and my burger and then we were introduced to our McCoaches (the chefs who would help us with our build) and three executive chefs who work closely with McDonald’s in the development of their products. It was the greatest honour to me to hear that the guy who was assisting me actually watches my YouTube videos and reads my reviews “this guy is my hero” – do days like these really get any better?
|Judging Day 29.06.14…|
I was also introduced to loads of press, PR and marketing people who were absolutely amazing, really friendly and very, very complimentary about this website! To hear the number of people that either followed me, read the reviews regularly and/or see my weekly Twitter update summaries truly was an honour for me and I can’t thank them enough for making us both feel so welcome.
At this point I still did not feel nervous. Miss Milkshake had basically taken one for the team and had absorbed all the nervousness I could have. I was so excited and in my element I just loved every single second. It was like one of those days you wish your eyes could record everything so that you can play it back over and over for the rest of your life.
So I was taken on a tour of a McDonald’s kitchen – at HQ they’ve pretty much got a mini restaurant setup with fully functioning kitchen as well. The menu boards were adorned with ‘My Burger’ promotional pictures, there were balloons in the MB colour scheme and cardboard advertising. I even gasped when I saw one of the oblong MB burger cartons in the kitchen. This was seriously getting good.
|Are you ready…?|
We tested a variety of chipotle mayonnaises that would feature on my build and made a few tweaks here and there but the development chef looking after me said that my creation really didn’t need that much alteration. I was worried about mushrooms being featured on The Burger Lad as they are one of those ingredients that are very much either loved or hated. But on the day, a lot of chefs and photographers commented that they were pleased to see them on-board as I was the only one of the finalists to have them. So fingers crossed if you do like mushrooms…
It was an amazing day! Truly amazing! I got to see how the burgers are cooked and the buns toasted. But then the magic really started to happen. I watched on in amazement as right before my very own eyes The Burger Lad was constructed like it would be in any McDonald’s restaurant in the country. There sat in front of me was The Burger Lad!!! Dan (my McCoach) who was an absolute star and gentleman cut the burger into four so we could do the all-important taste test – don’t worry we made at least another six after that on top of the additional six for the judging! We were all really pleased with the taste combination and I received some very complimentary feedback.
Over the next hour we cooked up a few variations (mainly just re-ordering the layers) but the combinations and taste remained consistent. I rushed out a sample or two to Miss Milkshake who took some amazing photos of what could possibly be the only Burger Lad burgers we’ll ever see. Fingers crossed it will make it to the final five that will go on-sale in October/November. Imagine it…
|Hopefully we’ll get to see inside the box…|
Another great experience was seeing the girl who does the build which is used for the promotional photographs. This was done meticulously with the deftness, precision and patience that I am sadly lacking. As I watched I don’t know how she didn’t turn around and ask me to look away for a while. Eventually mine was done and was put with the other five finalists in my group. They all looked BRILLIANT – truly brilliant and not one had been altered with Photoshop or anything. They had been constructed using the EXACT same ingredients that would be used at any time these would be being served.
I sat watching other finalists doing their pitch and again should have felt nervous. But I didn’t. I don’t know why… I suppose it was because I knew I was talking about something I was interested in and passionate about. Not some dull, lifeless statistics about the number of females applying to teach Chemistry or some jip like that…
It was my turn. Miss Milkshake was feeling the pressure but I just felt relaxed and was enjoying the experience so much it just didn’t faze me. Like I said to many people on the day, to me I had already won just by being there and sampling this unique opportunity.
My pitch went really, really well. It was great to talk about my inspiration for the burger, why I had chosen the ingredients etc. But like Miss Milkshake commented “it actually turned from being a pitch about my burger to a job interview.” I didn’t see how “if you were in charge of McDonald’s for one day what would you do?” was related to The Burger Lad at all. But considering the MD asked me this it was an absolute honour and privilege to give my response. I just hope I didn’t sound too much like Chunk with his hand in a blender. I was impressed with myself how I coped with the questions but also displaying some fairly decent product knowledge of various burgers around the globe.
|I did the pitch without the glasses…|
I’d watched the judges tasting The Burger Lad trying to gleam some sort of response from them. Oh I forgot to add that prior to this I’d participated in a blind-folded taste test and having scored 6 out of 10 was later declared the winner for my group of finalists. Scoring a bottle of Moët & Chandon in the process! Could this day get any better!?
Well as the day came to a close we were starting to gather our things (I’d also taken off the My Burger cap and apron which now proudly hangs in the kitchen at Burger Lad® HQ). “I have to meet this guy” and with that I turned and there was Mark Hawthorne, Managing Director of McDonald’s UK!!! We chatted about various things to do with McDonald’s plans, my website, Coke Freestyle (Miss Milkshake had already spoken in length with Mark about this) and other products offered around the World. I won’t divulge in detail what we spoke about but it was very interesting and again an absolute honour and privilege.
And of the six finalists (in my group) it was only your very own Burger Lad® that got his photo taken (in front of the McDonald’s kitchen) with the MD. There had been video cameras and photographers around the whole day but this to me was a very special moment.
|BL and the MD…|
With that we said our goodbyes to the lovely people who had made this day such a unique and fantastic occasion and set-off to Paddington to get the train back to Cheltenham. I celebrated late into the night and finally felt like I could tweet about the occasion and experience. I’d kept my proverbial mouth shut until I got back to HQ!
So now we have to wait and see if The Burger Lad will go on-sale in October and November. I hope so! But like I said earlier just being able to experience the weekend (especially Sunday) and seeing and tasting my burger creation meant I truly felt like a winner any way. If it does get made it will just be an added bonus! Fingers crossed…
If you could bottle (and sell) the euphoria I have experienced over the last 72 hours I would be a very, VERY rich man. That feeling is not going to go away any time soon, if ever…
|Truly amazing experience…|
So I hope you enjoyed this once in a lifetime tale and I can’t thank everyone at McDonald’s enough for making this a truly spectacular weekend. THANK YOU!!