The cynical guffaws from Milan's leading gourmets were almost loud enough yesterday to drown out its traffic with the news that city's – and indeed Italy's – most celebrated chef had got a job with McDonald's.
Gualtiero Marchesi, pictured, the first chef in Italy to earn three Michelin stars, announced that he had "created" two new hamburgers and a dessert for the Italian menu of the world's biggest fast food chain. "I simply asked what and where young people were going to eat," said the 81-year-old Milanese chef. "They were simple questions which led to my decision to team up with McDonald's."
Roberto Masi, chief executive of McDonald's Italia, could hardly contain his delight. He said the collaboration with Mr Marchesi was "a dream come true". But in allowing Italy's hallowed cuisine to rub shoulders with American fast food, Mr Marchesi must have known he could expect some flack.
Roberto Burdese, president of the Italian Slow Food movement, said the new menu was "a cynical marketing ploy". "Mr Marchesi has been a brilliant innovator in Italian cuisine. But this simply leaves a sour taste in the mouth," he said. He noted that the ingredients in the "refined burgers" didn't suggest significant nutritional improvements. One of Mr Mesi's creations was the new "Vivace" burger – with bacon, salted spinach, marinated onions and mayonnaise with mustard seeds.
Last month, figures showed that Italy has a higher proportion of overweight children than anywhere in Europe, with more than a third of children either overweight or obese by the age of eight.