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Big Mac Creator Dead At 98; 'All I Got Was A Plaque'

The man behind the Big Mac died this week at age 98.

Michael James Delligatti invented the Big Mac, which debuted at a McDonald's restaurant in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in 1967.

McDonald's tweeted a message on Wednesday celebrating Delligatti's contribution to the fast-food company where he was a franchisee.


U.S. media reported that Delligatti died at his Pennsylvania home on Monday.

In a 2007 interview with Reuters, Delligatti said it took two years to convince McDonald's that the Big Mac was a good idea.

"I felt that we needed a big sandwich," he said. "But you couldn't do anything unless they gave you permission."

The contents of the sandwich, immortalized by the popular jingle "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on as sesame seed bun," are generally the same worldwide, although prices and nutritional value varies.

The U.S. version of the Big Mac contains about 540 calories, 28 grams of fat and 25 grams of protein, according to McDonald's.

Over the years the Big Mac's ubiquity has come to mirror that of the Golden Arches itself. It is used to track the value of foreign currencies against the U.S. dollar in a "Big Mac Index" published by The Economist magazine.

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"Mr. Delligatti, who opened the first McDonald's in western Pennsylvania in 1957, owned about a dozen franchises in the Pittsburgh area by the mid-1960s, but he struggled to compete with the Big Boy and Burger King chains," William Grimes writes for the New York Times.

"He proposed to company executives that they add a double-patty hamburger to the McDonald's menu, something along the lines of the Big Boy, that could put a dent in sales of Burger King's Whopper.

"He met with resistance. Top executives worried that any addition to the limited McDonald's menu would gum up the works, and that a higher-priced burger - the basic McDonald's hamburger cost just 18 cents - would alienate customers. After lobbying by Ralph Lanphar, a regional manager in Columbus, Ohio, headquarters gave Mr. Delligatti permission to test the Big Mac in Uniontown, using only McDonald's ingredients.

"Two patties, etc., did not fit on a standard McDonald's bun, so Mr. Delligatti went rogue, ordering a large sesame-seeded bun from a local baker. He split it in three and assembled the Big Mac as the world knows it today, with a special sauce of his own devising."

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"In 1955, he traveled to Chicago for a restaurant convention. Fatefully, it was the only year that Ray Kroc and McDonald's had a booth at the show," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

"Mr. Delligatti sold the first Big Macs (originally called 'The Aristocrat' and the 'Blue Ribbon Burger') for 45 cents in 1967 in his McDonald's in Uniontown . . .

"Mr. Delligatti would go on to own 48 franchises, and although he sold most of them back to the company in 1982, his family still runs 21 in Western Pennsylvania. Though fast food has been maligned for its association with an unhealthy lifestyle, in 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the Big Mac, Mr. Delligatti told the Post-Gazette that he still ate at least one a week - at age 89.

"That year the McDonald's Big Mac Museum Restaurant opened on Route 30 in North Huntingdon; it features a 14-by-12-foot replica of the burger."

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"Contrary to popular belief, he didn't get a percentage of Big Mac sales or a big raise from his invention. 'Everybody thinks I did. But no way. All I got was a plaque.'"

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From ABC News:

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on December 1, 2016


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