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McDonalds Goes Upscale with its new venture, La Maison McCafé

SEDONA, AZ. (AP) — Got a hankering for haute fries, beef bolognaise pasta or a fourteen dollar Black Forest Cake Crunch McFlurry dessert? Well, your long wait is now over.

Sedona’s casual newly opened La Maison McCafé restaurant is the McDonalds's Corporation latest effort to upgrade it's low rent, common-place image. Sedona was chosen for the corporation's flagship gourmet franchise due to the area's relative affluence, as well as the its reputation for having an abundance of the finest and most sophisticated palates in the entire world. The diverse and quite delicious looking gourmet menu was designed by famed celebrity chef and international restauranteur, Monsieur René Schudel. Sculpted by the master chef to exalt the "fast food" dining experience to a scale never seen before on the North American continent.

Not only are they taking reservations, but they have valet parking as well.

The exclusive 42-seat restaurant — with 25-seat patio — is currently open for business on Arizona Route 89A, just inside of the ritzy Sedona Rouge Plaza. The tan hardwood floors, imported-leather banquettes and a large chandelier hardly scream “fast food.” That’s the idea, explains the franchise co-owner Phillipé Ledoux 40, from his restaurant's executive lounge on a busy Friday afternoon. He likens the vibe he’s going for to be more avant-garde than potato palace, and he’ll be going after the lunch and dinner crowd, then take on a more “King West” lounge ambience in the late hours.

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Ledoux said since “everybody loves being treated to a fine dining experience, even people on a diet,” he thinks the upscale concept will find fans here, even if there is plenty of competition.

“There are a lot of high-end places in Sedona. I’m not like them, I have the distinctive turquoise McDonald's logo to set me apart. We are introducing something that’s a little bit different,” said Ledoux. The logo's color is distinctive, exclusive only the La Maison McCafé and different from the McDonald's iconic bright yellow emblem.

“Sedona is amazing, a lot of food bloggers everywhere as well as the recent influx of venture capitalists, and it’s become a food town,” he added. “I want that market.”

Ledoux, who previously worked in restaurant supply sales in his native Cannes, France, opened the first gourmet fast-food restaurant in 2011 with longtime friend, Formula One racing team owner Camillo DiFrancesco, 57. They now have three dozen Le-Di restaurants located in five different countries.

They grew up in the city’s Lyceé Carnot neighbourhood, where Ledoux’s mother, “a great cook,” would pair leftovers from the previous night’s meal with Prime Rib au Poivre and Scallops Au Vin for a meat and potatoes experience that was "Out of this world.”

“I’ve been carrying this idea around for so long, of bringing the meals that I loved as a child to an American audience, all under the banner of a major fast food corporation” said Ledoux. He feared messing with his casual-dining formula elsewhere, opting to go upscale in Arizona instead. He and DiFrancesco partnered with Jean-Claude Piliguian, a former Parisian now living in Los Angeles, for the Le Escargonaut eatery.

“When we serve Forest Mushroom Pasta to our guests, we ask: ‘Would you like a prime beef hamburger on the side?’” laughed Piliguian. “That’s the mentality. It’s no longer the side of pasta; it’s a dose of self-importance.”

The simple and savory trinity of Green Peppercorn Crusted Goat Cheese, Vanilla Green Beans Amandine and New Potato Gratin gets an overhaul with custom plates like the Asparagus and Shrimp Salad with Lemon Dill Vinaigrette. There are also build-your-own options with items including filet mignon, chopped Kobe Beef orRoasted Chicken with Herbes de Provence, smoked meat, vegetables, various cheeses and gravies.

Ledoux said the all-you-can eat tapas-style lunch will be “five-bite” plate versions of various custom dishes on the menu. “They can order as many as they want and keep ordering until they blow up.”

There are plans to offer high-end toppings like foie gras, duck, grilled lamb chops, slow-cooked braised beef and lobster. Prices will vary, depending on the toppings, but a standard is $27 and Ledoux estimates the Lamb-Chops with Mushroom Demi-Glace will cost about $31.

Salads, burgers, sandwiches and desserts will round out the menu. The restaurant will have a liquor license and Ledoux envisions custom cocktails to pair with each meal.

“Everything you would never think of having in a McDonald's that foodies will go crazy for, we’ll offer it,” he pledged.
But customers will have to get very creative to beat the “kid” in Sedona who ordered everything on the menu and ended up with a fifty-five pound calorie-laden behemoth of a meal that cost $8,300.

Richard Kaufmann, director of marketing for the McDonald's Corporation, said that the prospect for opening more La Maison McCafés will depend on how successful the newcomer operates in Sedona.

“We feel confident that the community of Sedona cuisine aficionados will embrace our new restaurant with open arms,” said Kaufmann from the McDonalds Corporate Headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. "With Sedona as the center of the new economy of affluent diners, we believe that this market has been underserved until now. We intend to change that and our image, going into the remainder of the Twenty-First Century."


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