When you meet Anne Parks the first thing you notice is the sparkle in her eyes. Easy-going and in love with life, she infects you with curiosity. And then she talks about her vegetable gardens and beekeeping, her gourmet cooking and passion for finding new food trends when she travels. You would never guess that this vibrant, youthful woman with a phenomenal mane of blond hair has worked with McDonald’s Restaurants for 34 years and is now the Director of Menu Management for McDonald’s Canada. But then again, every executive I’ve met with at the company has been there for at least 30 years. Listening to Anne talk at the Vancouver picnic-style launch of the newly developed Signature McWrap® gave us all a window into her passion and the reasons why McDonald’s Canada retains the great people who work there.
UrbanMommies ran a contest inviting readers to share their favourite must-have picnic items, and ten lucky parents attended the special lunch. We learned so much from Anne about what goes into the process for choosing menu items and we were intrigued to hear about the Canadian palate. In coming up with flavours for the new grilled or crispy chicken McWrap, she took into account Canadians’ penchant for spicier foods, and also our love of different textures within each bite. (Think: crunch with a bit of bite and smoothness in the same mouthful). The sandwiches also come with a whole wheat wrap – a first for McDonald’s globally and only the second whole wheat item apart from the bun of the Premium Chicken Sandwich.
Anne Parks and her team travel to different parts of the world to explore fresh street markets, flavours and trends, and then bring their findings back to the McDonald’s test kitchen. Working with dietitians and specialists in areas of pastry and baking, the team comes up with items that are tested for taste, quality, nutrition and consistency. With the Signature McWrap, I loved the diversity that made me feel as if I were travelling. I get in different ‘food moods’ so being able to pick Asian, Mexican or North American-themed flavours is a bonus. The Signature McWrap comes in three flavours Fiesta, Sweet Chili, and Chicken and Bacon.
The luncheon was special in that guests got to ask very specific questions, and Anne was incredibly receptive to suggestions. Comments about lower-sodium ketchup and options for healthy Happy Meal side dishes started to flow, and the lunch whizzed by. We drank frozen Chai Iced Frappés and Iced Frappes that were also developed by Parks.
In an interview about her job and life, Parks clearly shows her love of food, people, and bees!
So for our picnic-loving readers, the contest was an incredible opportunity to gather and curate a ton of ideas about summer lunches. We have compiled the ideas to help you plan your own picnic basket and make beautiful memories with your kids. As much as I love making sandwiches, though, I’m personally counting on picking up a bagful of the grilled chicken Sweet Chili Signature McWraps, as they are certainly better than anything I can produce at home. Thanks Anne!
20 Picnic Basket Essentials
1. Baby Wipes (almost everyone included this!)
2. A game like ‘Spot it!’
3. Celery sticks in a lidded jar with peanut butter or cream cheese at the bottom
4. Cloth napkins in fun colours cut with pinking shears – fun and great for the planet
5. Extra bags and ziplocks for treasures the kids find during the picnic
6. A blow-up ball. It’s lightweight and great for encouraging activity
7. Afterbite, bug spray and a first aid kit
8. Old quilts and soft sheets
9. A small vase for found flowers
10. A jambox to connect to your smartphone for music
11. Microwave popcorn cooked still in the sealed bag
12. A blank book and pen for the family to write memories and share ideas
13. Lemons and limes already cut up with ice water (we use frozen water bottles that you can drink as they melt)
14. A scavenger hunt printable (we found one HERE).
15. Tin dishes. You can often find them at yard sales or camping supply stores
16. Old-fashioned games (think: etch-a-sketch, cards, cat’s cradle)
17. A trash bag
18. Loveys for the kids in case the picnic sneaks into nap time
19. Vintage mismatched silver plate cutlery
20. Candles in tall jars
We’re looking forward to hearing picnic tales throughout the summer and having photos sent to us too! Enjoy the memories and make sure that your meals have some crunch and some spice!