DC’s award-winning chef’s cooking goes viral with McDonald’s fancy dish

Centrolina chef Amy Brandwein has racked up the accolades in recent years. She has earned several James Beard Award nominations. But only now has it gone viral.

Amy Brandwein, head of Centrolina has been racking up awards in recent years. She has received accolades from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and has been nominated multiple times for the James Beard Award.

But only now has it gone viral. And not because she made another great Italian dish using ingredients from local farms.



Instead, it’s because TikTok star Danny Grubbs, as he’s likely to, asked him to turn a Happy Meal into something indulgent.

@dannygrubs McDonald’s Happy Meal has gone gourmet✨ #McDonalds #FoodTok #FoodHacks ♬ original sound – Danny Kim

The social media video was about 2.5 minutes long. But in about an hour, she turned Chicken McNuggets, fries and apple pies into tortelloni.

“I once competed in Iron Chef many years ago and competed in many culinary competitions,” Brandwein said. “It’s the culinary exercise.”

That’s what she does every day. Although she admitted to loving the occasional McNugget, she said she cooks with a bigger picture in mind.

“That’s my challenge. I don’t create recipes, I create dishes from ingredients and create them in my head, usually on the fly, very quickly,” she said.

“The McDonald’s thing was one of the things I love to do, actually watching things and then the synapse starts working and I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to do this, this and this.

Watch the video of Centrolina chef Amy Brandwein cooking Crispy Eggplant with WTOP.

She orders food for her restaurant from farms.

“I look at the raw ingredients, what’s around me, and find a way to use them in interesting ways,” she said.

“An Exercise of the Imagination”

While millions of people watched her video on multiple platforms, there were also some criticisms.

Some of the complaints are due to the size of the finished dish shown in the video, even though that really wasn’t the point of the contest.

“It wasn’t meant to be a serving exercise. It was supposed to be an exercise in the imagination,” she said.

She also received a few complaints due to the way she pronounced tortelloni – some users confused it with “tortellini”, which is “a different pasta altogether”, the chef said. “Tortellini is a larger stuffed pasta, and it’s not folded over like tortellini.”

“It hurts me because I would love to go there every time to correct them, but I have things to do,” she said with a laugh.

So while Brandwein is famous in DC for what’s on the menu at Centrolina, in the rest of the world it’s the food on the menu that made it famous.

“Oh my god, that was so much fun,” Brandwein said. “Yeah, that was great. I liked it.”