The Magic That Happens in Walt Disney World Catering!

As some of you may or may not know, I spent the last 15 years working in catering at Walt Disney World.  It is where I learned to boil water, as people say when you know nothing about cooking!  I’ve been so fortunate to work with countless talented and creative people, and been able to be a part of many amazing events!

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I am now switching gears now to the Food and Beverage line of business at Walt Disney World, more specifically; I am moving on to being a Sous Chef at Sanaa, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I could not have landed in a more beautiful restaurant and flavorful cuisine!

I went thru my picture files for about an hour and grabbed some of my favorite pictures that capture just a few of my most memorable events.

I have been really lucky, truly, truly blessed! 🙂

Fortunately at WDW you never have to same good bye, just until next time!!!

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White Chocolate Bread Pudding- Straight from DAK Catering Recipe Book

I mentioned that I started my culinary career at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK) Catering department.  It was a super small team- at most 7 people.  We got to be very close, and have always remained like family.  We executed amazing events that we surprised ourselves with.  Hundreds and thousands of guests were fed out of a tiny little kitchen and with a pretty green bunch of cooks.   Luckily we had a few veterans that led us, and gave us all a great culinary foundation.  

Full of good memories and full of amazing food!  My favorite recipe that I took away from “DAK Catering” is the White Chocolate Bread Pudding.  I love this- so perfectly sweetened, lots of rum and deliciously rich.   Loved it enough that when Sir Wes and I got married (he was one of the seven that worked with me); we served it at our wedding as a nod to where we met.

After 7 years of happiness, Sir Wes and I are still celebrating with it!  Happy Anniversary to the guy, that drove me crazy every day; and who later became my best friend and partner in life.
Ingrediants

  • 12 oz. loaf butter pound cake, few days old is perfect as it absorbs nicely
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup Myers Rum
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8- 1 oz. squares white chocolate, cut in large chunks
  • 8- 1 cup oven proof mini casserole dishes

Directions

Slice pound cake into 1 inch cubes and place evenly into mini casserole dishes.  In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, cream, milk, rum, sugar and cinnamon and blend well.  Pour even amounts into the casseroles, filling to almost the top.  Distribute the chocolate evenly around the casseroles, leaving a few pieces on the top of each dish.  Put the casseroles on a baking sheet in case they bubble over and bake for 45-50 minutes until center is set.   Best to serve right out of the oven as they soufflé up and look awesome with the rise.

Makes 8 servings. 

Putting the white chocolate on top lets it get nice and toasted- this is the best bite of the dish. 

I think to this day, we would all agree it was the best team we have worked with, and probably had the most pride in what was accomplished.  And this bread pudding is definitely the dish that has been most requested in my life. 

Cheers to a wonderful family born thru work, and a continued life time of happiness to my best friend.  Happy anniversary Sir Wes!

Howard’s Vanilla Lemonade

I received an email last week for the yearly renewal of my domain name, WOW; Vanilla Lemonade is a year old.  And what a year its been!

Happy Birthday Vanilla Lemonade

Over the last 12 months the question I’ve been asked most is, why did I pick the name Vanilla Lemonade?  Well, isn’t it being super cute name enough of a reason?? Ahh- but there is actually a story…

I started at Walt Disney World in February 1998, on the opening team of DAK, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which was an amazing experience.  By the beginning of 1999 I joined DAK CAT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Catering.  I spent about 3 years on this talented team, which not only taught me how to cook pasta for 1000 people, or how to pack and load a truck, but they built the foundation and gave me the passion of the career I still love today.

DAK

We were a small team, a total of 5-7 cooks, a couple of chefs, 5 or 6 servers and a few front of house managers.  A perfect number of people for a family to generate.  Because we were such a small team that sometimes had huge events, surpassing even 10,000 guests, we did rely on a lot of extra help.  Extra culinary, servers from other locations, stewards, chefs would work with us frequently to execute our large events in the park.

We did have a few “outside” people come to work on a regular basis, which became extended family.  Howard was a Steward that was with us for over a year, 5-6 days a week.  He was a big guy, a really big guy, perfect for loading grills on trucks, throwing 80 quart mixing bowls in the dish sink and lucky for us, he had spent a lot of time in kitchens, so was also able to assist us out with prep!

Howard was a daily temp worker that had a hard life, battled with temptations, health issues, and the other challenges that a day-to-day life style can offer.  Like I said he was a big guy, rough and tough too, but after a while, we broke him down to a plush; Howard became somewhat of a fan favorite.

It’s down right sweaty hot here in Florida and don’t forget we are outside doing events, setting up tables, pushing trams thru the parks, standing in front of a hot grill for a few hours- you’re certain to be “glowing”.  On any hot day you would find Howard over by the truck handing out glasses of his lemonade to anyone that needed something to cool them down.  Howard’s lemonade was a crowd favorite, all the extra help knew to look for the giant orange thermos.   The lemonade was on our checklist before our truck ever pulled off the dock, and if Howard happened to have the day off, and us without the lemonade someone always had something to say about it.

And then one day Howard didn’t make it for an event.  “No” he didn’t forget, or run out of time, he told us angrily.  Howard explained, that the Chef told him “no more!”  And then we got a lashing from the chef…

Howard’s Recipe
1 Half Gallon Lemonade concentrate
6 Half Gallon Water
15 Vanilla Beans

…..The chef was not happy with his food cost floating Howard’s Lemonade Stand.

Ooh- but that Vanilla Lemonade was delicious …. DEE-licious.

Vanilla Lemonade, is not only a refreshing twist on lemonade, but to me it represents a time when I figured out what my future looked like.  I graduated from college with 2 B.A. Degrees in Art, took the first job I was offered, and spent 10 months filling drinks, scooping mashed potatoes and wondering what I was going to do with myself.  I was then welcomed into a family that would nurture, teach and allow me to grow. My love of cooking, food and catering came from that team, and equally important came the lesson of being able to learn from anybody, no matter who they are or where they came from.  Thank you  Howard, the Rough and Tumble Temp Working Teddy Bear for showing me that everyone has a lesson to teach if you are willing to learn.

Since then I’ve worked on a few different vanilla lemonade recipes.

Howard’s Vanilla Lemonade

  • Frozen Lemonade Concentrate, or Favorite Powder Mix
  • Vanilla Bean/Vanilla Extract

The quick and easy method- and sometimes that is just what we need!  Make the lemonade as the container directs, add a vanilla bean split open down the middle for every 2 quarts made, or add a teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Refridergate and serve over ice.  Perfect for a day at the beach!

Howard’s Vanilla Lemonade

Fresh Vanilla Lemonade

  • 4 cups water, divided
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups fresh lemon juice (about 15 lemons)

In a heavy saucepan, make your simple syrup by combining 2 cups water, sugar, and the split vanilla bean and bring to a boil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool.  Stir in lemon juice and remaining 2 cups water; refrigerate until serving. 

Garnish with citrus, fresh herbs or cherries.

Makes about 2 quarts

Fresh Vanilla Lemonade

Vacation Vanilla Lemonade

  • 2 oz coconut rum
  • 3 oz vanilla lemonade

…Over ice..Sip and enjoy.

Vacation Vanilla Lemonade

Cheers to learning and loving what you do with your life!

Lunch at The Living Seas

Since I started in the beginning of January at Park Event Operations we have done quite a few Sustainable and Local focused events.  Having the vendors and partners to get such fresh, flavorful and responsible products is great-and important!  Anytime you can get your groceries from a local farm will not only help your community, but they are guaranteed to be a better tasting and fresher product! 

Dining Room With A View
A lot of people have been to The living Seas, but the lucky ones have been able to enjoy the tanks in their dining room! 
This was a Salad Bar filled with Goodness!
The Chefs prepared so many salads, marinated and pickled vegetables, the cheeses were amazing- and the breads…oh, the breads!

The Display of Citrus Beet Salad is Gorgeous!

 
I love the detailed knife work!

Citrus Beet Salad

 
The food is beautiful enough to stand alone, but the props and decor add so much!

Beautiful Spread!

 
Rabbit, Duck, Artisan Sausages…But the BEST was the Blue Cheese and Pecan Focaccia Bread- So good!
The guests raved about it all-

A Different Kind of Flower...

 
Love the Fireplaces!
And the hot food….Amazing…..

2012 Casseroles...

 

Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Cheers to the South Carolina!  Gotta love the Shrimp and Grits!
Florida Yardbird- Looks soo good!
I loved the shaved fried mushrooms- surprising to me as I really don’t like fungus 😦
Grilled Pork Belly
It’s hard to beat a slider for lunch- I see them as a way I can eat multiple plates!

Slider Trio

 

Duck Fat Fries- Crispy, Delicious!

 
The fish to make these sliders came from The Land- Fresh and Sustainable!
Having The Land right next door is pretty awesome!

The Waygu Beef came from Ocala, another local product!

Waygu Beef is considered to be as delicious as Kobe Beef-  Great part is it comes from this side of the world! 
Dessert on the Piano!
Well, that’s a little glimpse into an event in a park, a look at some creative, beautiful dishes and a shout out to using all the local and sustainable products you can!!