Mike Haracz dishes on becoming a chef, McDonald's Szechuan Sauce and Wendy's breakfast
Mike Haracz says he always wanted to be a chef though, as a young child, he couldn’t have predicted that his culinary training would land him in a national TV commercial.
“I remember at 5 years old, peeling potatoes and trimming green beans and stuff like that,” Haracz says on the latest episode of the Marketer’s Brief podcast.
Growing up, Haracz says he enjoyed cooking comfort food, including Polish staples like pierogi, and putting his touch on dishes such as meatloaf and casseroles. He took college-level culinary courses in high school, then graduated from Johnson & Wales University, where he studied culinary arts and culinary nutrition.
Haracz says he decided not to open up his own restaurant in order to have more time for his other passions, which included being in a metal band, playing Dungeons & Dragon and, later, having a family of his own.
As Haracz discusses on the podcast, after working a job in the food manufacturing business he headed to McDonald’s, where he became manager of culinary innovation for the U.S. menu. His tenure at the Golden Arches including working on the Signature Crafted burgers, as well as products such as chicken tenders. But he might best be known for a single tweet that helped spark a bit of a sauce craze.
After McDonald’s gave away bottles of Big Mac sauce, a McDonald's insider suggested to him on Twitter that the chain consider giving away Szechuan Sauce, a '90s flavor that had been mentioned in a 2017 episode of “Rick and Morty.”
“So I simply replied, ‘I’ll see what I can do,’” Haracz recalls.
Soon after, McDonald’s sent some of the sauce to the creators of “Rick and Morty.” Later that year came an in-restaurant giveaway of the sauce.
“The launch with McDonald’s wasn’t necessarily ‘Rick-and-Morty’-approved,” he says.
Haracz left McDonald’s last August, after about four years in his role. He briefly worked as a corporate chef at Bell Flavors & Fragrances and is now searching for a new full-time role.
Meanwhile, Wendy’s—which is once again trying to make a name for itself in breakfast—asked the social-media-savvy chef if he wanted to work on a collaboration. He first tried a few of Wendy’s breakfast items just before shooting footage, which first ran on Twitter and was then edited to run as a TV commercial right before the official March 2 breakfast launch date.
“They’ve got some winners on their hands,” says Haracz, who adds that he’s a fan of the chain’s biscuits and gravy.
Haracz notes that he doesn’t have any pending plans with Wendy’s but is open to ideas, such as attending events for the brand including Comic-Con. “I thought the activation with Critical Role was awesome,” he says of Wendy’s “Feasts of Legends” role-playing game, launched at New York Comic-Con last year.
These days, Haracz tries to play Dungeons & Dragons once a month with friends and listens to podcasts including “Dragon Talk” to keep up with the game.
Haracz is also a certified barbecue judge and enjoys spending time with his family while smoking a brisket. He says he likes to cook with Aleppo chili flakes. “It’s a nice medium heat, but it’s very well rounded,” he says. However, they can be harder to get since they come from Syria.
Hear more from Haracz on the Marketer’s Brief podcast.