Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pebble Beach Resident Remembered for Quarter Pounder

MONTEREY, Calif. - Al Bernardin, a Pebble Beach resident credited with bringing the world the "Quarter Pounder", has died at the age of 81.

Bernardin passed away at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula on December 22; he is said to be responsible for the creation McDonald's "Quarter Pounder", the frozen french fry, and deep-fried pies. Bernardin was a McDonald's vice president, and led the company's training facility, "Hamburger University".

Not all of his ideas became menu stables. McDonald's corporate office nixed the The Lite Mac - a one-fifth pounder consisting of 15 percent less beef fat - and the McGobbler, a sandwich made of ground turkey meat.

"He always wanted to make things better," said Bernardin's son, Mark, who owns three McDonald's in Fremont. "He spent two years making prototypes to spread butter on corn-on-the-cob."

While the Quarter Pounder became an international sensation, Bernardin said his most important contribution to fast-food fare is the frozen french fry.
"Before that, the (restaurants) had to store potatoes in the basement," Mark Bernardin said. "It was a real pain."

Bernardin and his wife, Joan, were major benefactors for CHOMP; he spent time volunteering at hospices in Northern California.

You can read the story at kion.com. Or There is this moving tribute by Doug Speirs of the Winnipeg Free Press to help remind us of Al’s contributions.

To say I like cheeseburgers is an understatement. It's like saying Tiger Woods likes to play around once in a while, if you catch my general drift.

I will try to explain. You see, one of my wife's New Year's resolutions is for me to do something about my weight. I tried to show her how serious I was about this resolution the other night by putting on my parka, stumbling into the backyard, knocking the snow off my barbecue and grilling some cheeseburgers.

I should point out grilling in subarctic weather does involve a certain amount of exercise in the sense that, if your barbecue is positioned too close to the side of your house, you will burn up quite a few calories dodging falling icicles. You will also have to sprint into the house quite frequently to ensure your beer doesn't freeze.

But my wife didn't see this frosty weight-loss regimen in a positive light. So she decided to motivate me to go to the gym. She did this via the standard motivational technique of telling my boss, Bob, to drive to our house, pick me up and physically take me to the nearest gym.

Which is how I ended up on the treadmill, which is where, to the sounds of my sneaker-clad feed thumping like pistons and my lungs wheezing like a runaway locomotive and my heart pounding like the drummer for a heavy metal band, I started thinking about Al Bernardin.

I started thinking how much I was going to miss Al, even though I'd never actually met him.

If you don't know who Al Bernardin was, then you are probably what health professionals and exercise experts refer to as "a woman." Whereas if you are a guy like me, a middle-aged newspaper columnist who adores a great idea and a perfectly grilled burger, you will know that Al Bernardin was the Albert Einstein of the hamburger world.

But instead of giving the world the theory of relativity, Al gave us something much more useful -- the McDonald's Quarter Pounder. According to recent news reports, Al went to work at McDonald's corporate HQ in 1960 and quickly became the dean of Hamburger University, the burger chain's training centre.

As a vice-president of product development, he played a key role in the creation of McDonald's fish sandwich, french fries and their hot apple and cherry pies.
But that wasn't enough for Al. He was not the kind of guy who could look at a basic hamburger and think to himself: "Yummy!" No, Al was the kind of guy who thought to himself: "How can I build a much bigger burger?"

So that's what he did. In 1971, as a franchise owner in California, he gave the world the Quarter Pounder. In short order, he also gave the world the Quarter Pounder with cheese. The world has never been the same.

Here's what he said about his invention in a 1991 interview: "I felt there was a void in our menu vis-a-vis the adult who wanted a higher ratio of meat to bun."

That's what made Al great. He approached hamburgers the way we should approach life: Demanding a higher ratio of meat to bun. Seriously, think about it: More meat, less bun! If those are not words to live by, then I am a vegetarian, which I'm not.

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