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Chef simmers over burger ad

Published Oct. 10, 2005

The Big Mac attack chef Paul Bocuse had after seeing his likeness in a McDonald's ad was not the one the fast-food chain had in mind.

Hamburgers and haute cuisine went to the negotiating table Tuesday to discuss a settlement for the unauthorized use of a picture of Bocuse, France's best-known chef. The ad displayed at Dutch McDonald's restaurants late last year prompted the threat of legal action.

Lawyers for Bocuse met with a director of McDonald's Netherlands in Paris to discuss a settlement. Bocuse's lawyers in Paris have said their client was seeking $2.7-million in damages.

Bocuse has said in published reports that any settlement will go to his new cooking school near Lyon. "This way, McDonald's will be promoting the great traditions of French cuisine, which seems appropriate after what has happened," he told the New York Times.

Bocuse was traveling Tuesday to Orlando, where he has a vacation home and business interests. He and fellow French culinary stars Gaston Lenotre and Roger Verge operate the Chefs de France restaurant at Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center.

McDonald's Netherlands officials said they were willing to pay some compensation for using the photo of Bocuse and four other chefs in a kitchen examining chickens from the Bresse region of France, known for its poultry.

Above the chefs is a bubble with the words "Big Mac," implying that the gastronomes would prefer something on a bun.

"How can I be seen promoting this tasteless, boneless food in which everything is soft?" Bocuse is quoted by the Times as saying.

McDonald's spokeswoman Yvette Mol characterized the blunder as "human error" and said all the posters had been destroyed.

She said the ad campaign's developers were unaware of Bocuse's identity when they used the photo archive picture, despite the fact that the culinary legend and two other chefs have the name "Paul Bocuse" on their tunics.

Mol said the two sides would meet again later this week.

Bocuse has functioned as a sort of roving ambassador for France's haute cuisine. His frequent absences from his restaurant outside Lyon _ regularly given a three-star rating by Michelin _ were blamed by prominent food critic Christian Millau for a slight decline in the cooking.

Bocuse and other great chefs of France have been working in recent years to stave off the allure of convenience foods, including fast-food chains, and to keep the gastronomic history of their country alive.

Bocuse, known as the "emperor of cuisine," has been named a "chef of the century" by the Gault-Millau guidebook, and has been credited with being a major promoter of French food abroad.

This isn't the first such ad to misfire: After objections from the Dutch government last year, McDonald's canceled an ad showing Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers daydreaming of a Big Mac in Parliament.

_ Staff writer Chris Sherman contributed to this report.