Though the festival is a wrap, garlic is making headlines as the prime ingredient in Gilroy Garlic Fries, now available at McDonald’s restaurants throughout the Bay Area.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Steve Peat, owner-operator of the McDonald’s restaurant on First Street. “We are very excited and thrilled to have launched the week of the garlic festival.”
That the very first tasting of Gilroy Garlic Fries happened at the First Street restaurant is no surprise, as the recipe was developed locally, with the help of local culinary sensations, Sam Bozzo and Gene Sakahara, more popularly known as SakaBozzo, the indefatigable cooking team that regaled audiences for years during their lively cooking demonstrations at the annual garlic festival.
Before hanging up their aprons, their final show was at the festival’s 38th annual event on July 29, but through McDonald’s their legacy will live on.
“I’ve known Sam and Gene from the festival for over 20 years,” said Peat. The pair had also worked on previous projects with the local franchise owner. The chefs had “deconstructed” McDonald’s products to create a gourmet lunch for Bay Area restaurant owners and local bloggers, so when the idea came up last year to bring out a product with ties to our region, Peat contacted the two old friends to help develop the recipe.
“They know the right taste and texture,” said Peat.
But Sakahara and Bozzo—who, according to local lore are “twins, separated at birth”—had to do some research first and contacted some old friends.
“We called up Bert Berry,” said Bozzo, during a brief phone break Monday. He and Sakahara were busy serving lunch to volunteers clearing up Christmas Hill Park after the festival. Berry, said Bozzo, was one of of the first people to serve garlic fries at the festival.
Then they called up Majid Bahriny, owner of Mama Mia’s Restaurant, which has locations in Gilroy, Morgan Hill and Campbell, for his ideas about the recipe.
“We talked about the recipe to see what we could add to it,” said Bozzo. One thing they insisted on, he said, was using fresh garlic in the dish.
The garlic used in the fries is locally-sourced from Christopher Ranch. “You can’t think of a better brand for garlic than Christopher Ranch,” said Peat.
Next, they worked on how the fries would be prepared.
“How does the item get fixed while people are going through the drive-thru?” Bozzo asked.
The solution was found after Sakahara and Bozzo worked on the dish at the First Street McDonald’s last year.
Each Gilroy Garlic Fries serving would be made-to-order and lightly tossed by hand in a stainless steel bowl.
The end result is crispy, thin fries lightly coated with a purée of garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, parsley and a pinch of salt.
Launched on July 27 at all 250 McDonald’s locations in the greater bay area, the fries have been a hit so far.
Made from North American-grown premium potatoes—including Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet, Blazer Russet, Ivory Russet, Umatilla Russet and Shepody, and with garlic provided by Christopher Ranch, the fries are very flavorful.
The purée is light and coats each fry; they are not soggy or greasy. For garlic lovers, the fries are a no-brainer as each bite emits that garlic-y goodness that tickles the palate.
Paired with a soda, Gilroy Garlic Fries hit the spot.
Bozzo tried an order at both the First Street McDonald’s and one in San Jose. He said he preferred the Gilroy version.
“They are still working on consistency,” he said.
The Gilroy-branded fries are part of McDonald’s goal to identify, develop and roll out products that have a local flavor.
A good example of this is the lobster roll available at McDonald’s restaurants in the Boston area.
Peat said the regional franchisees started brainstorming ideas last year, when the idea for garlic fries came up.
“Everyone has heard of garlic fries,” said Peat, whose work on the Gilroy Garlic Fries launch is the first time he’s been involved in developing an original recipe for the chain.
After the initial meetings, Peat said, the rollout came pretty fast.
Gilroy Garlic Fries sold out during a test launch in May at select restaurants in the South Bay.
In honor of their accomplishments, the Gilroy City Council has named August 2016 “McDonald’s Gilroy Garlic Fries Month” and Mayor Perry Woodward presented Peat, Bozzo and Sakahara with a citywide proclamation on Monday.
“Working with McDonald’s and Steve and Jan Peat has been great,” said Bozzo. “They are old friends and very community-minded.”
Sakahara and Bozzo are not receiving any remuneration for their efforts; instead the McDonald’s owners/operators in the Bay Area have donated $2,000 to the SakaBozzo scholarship fund available to high school students through the Gilroy Foundation.
Both Sakahara and Bozzo are former educators and the scholarship money goes to graduating seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in education or the culinary arts. The SakaBozzo scholarship fund has been active for eight years, and this year four $500 scholarships were distributed to local students in June.
“We are grateful for the relationship with McDonald’s and Steve and Jan Peat,” said Sakahara. “The bottom line, the kids benefit. And the proclamation? We are humbled.”