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Dining profile: Gilroy garlic fries are proving to be a big hit at Bay Area McDonald’s

Recipe is ‘brainchild’ of culinary team Sam Bozzo and Gene Sakahara

Published in the August 31 – September 13, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Lauren Newcomb

Garlic-Fries-at-McDonald's-

Photo by Lauren Newcomb Manager Carmen Jimenez prepares the new Gilroy garlic fries at the First Street McDonald’s in Gilroy.

The 38th Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival is in the rear-view mirror, but that doesn’t mean the world has got its fill of South Valley’s famous herb. Gilroy garlic remains in the culinary spotlight thanks to the introduction of a new Gilroy garlic fries option to McDonald’s fast-food menus in 250 Bay Area locations.

Gilroy garlic fries showcase a unique blend of Parmesan cheese, olive oil, parsley, salt and puréed garlic from Gilroy’s Christopher Ranch. Immediately after being removed from the fryer, the thin and crisp French fries are salted by McDonald’s kitchen crew members and then hand-tossed in the garlic mixture. The fries are never pre-cooked but are made-to-order for every customer.

The fourth-generation, family-owned Christopher Ranch in Gilroy is the largest garlic production operation in the United States and grows the garlic used in the fries.

Introducing the Gilroy garlic fries the week of the Gilroy Garlic Festival has helped generate interest. “We are absolutely thrilled to have been able to launch the Gilroy garlic fries during the week of the Garlic Festival,” according to a release from the Peat Organization, which owns the McDonald’s restaurants in Gilroy.

The recipe for Gilroy Garlic Fries was conceived at the First Street McDonald’s franchise in Gilroy. It was the brainchild of Sam Bozzo and Gene Sakahara — the Gilroy Garlic Festival culinary team known as ”SakaBozzo” — in cooperation with Steve Peat, the owner of the McDonald’s location on First Street.

“The recipe was created in this kitchen,” said Gabriel Vesci, Peat’s son-in-law and the owner-operator of another McDonald’s franchise.

So what do local customers think about the latest introduction to the McDonald’s menu? Customers at the First Street location as well as the Morgan Hill location on Condit Road said that while the extreme herb flavor is terrific, the fries aren’t as crispy as regular fries after being tossed in the garlic mixture. This tends to be a problem with many recipes for garlic fries, so it comes with the territory.

For Lizzie Osiakowski, the fries left something to be desired. “They’re not as good as the regular fries,” she said. “They’re a bit soggy.”

But she admired the idea of putting garlic fries on the menu. “I don’t see garlic fries everywhere — it’s nice to see something new,” she said.

For Steve Taylor, a customer at the Condit Road McDonald’s location, the Gilroy garlic fries had a great flavor. “I love the amount of garlic,” he said. Taylor compared the fries to some he had at Gordon Biersch as well as the Pacific Grove Golf Course, saying that they were also very similar in flavor. Considering that McDonald’s is a fast food restaurant, pitting McDonald’s Gilroy garlic fries against the garlic fries at other restaurants and having them come out on pretty equal footing is impressive, he said.

According to Vesci, the Gilroy garlic fries debut has been extremely successful. “We’ve received lots of positive feedback from our customers as well as customers throughout the region,” he said.

“The Gilroy-branded fries are part of McDonald’s goal to identify, develop and roll out products that have a local flavor,” Vesci said. “A good example of this is the lobster roll available at McDonald’s restaurants in the Boston area.”

Gilroy garlic fries are perfectly suited for customers in the Bay Area, because the recipe caters to what people want locally, said Nick Vergis, McDonald’s co-op president for the San Francisco Bay Area.

“McDonald’s Gilroy garlic fries is a unique, regional offering that is tailored to Bay Area tastes,” Vergis said. “The innovation of this new menu item is due in large part to our local franchisees and their commitment to providing food our customers want.”

If the 82,000 Gilroy Garlic Festival attendees this year are any indication, Bay Area customers definitely want Gilroy garlic in their food — including at their local McDonald’s.