All I wanted my whole life was to work at Walt Disney World. That was it. The goal. The shining beacon lighting the way to my career and certain-to-be-perfect life.
So when the pleasant culinary recruiter at the Casting Center shook my hand and uttered the words, “Welcome to Disney!” I thought I was going to up and fly away with excitement. When I donned my chefs uniform with Epcot emblazoned over the heart, I took a shameless selfie because this was it! This was the dream!
My first day of work was a hot, hazy buzz of sweat and lobster butter as I learned the buzzwords of the kitchen–it was my crash-course in culinary etiquette. I learned how to yell, “FOUR LOBSTER ROLLS ALL DAY! HEARD!” and “WE HAVE TO EIGHTY-SIX THE BREAD PUDDING!”
(‘All Day’ is a total count, ‘Heard’ is an instinctive response to hearing an order fired and ‘Eighty-six’ is to remove something from the menu.)
The second day of work was, admittedly, one of the worst days of my life. I was thrown into a position I had no idea how to handle, and I’m honestly surprised I didn’t collapse on the hot pavement behind the Moroccan Pavilion and just cry.
Good news: nobody saw me break down. Because I didn’t.
At the end of the day, they put me in charge of training another Cast Member on a job I had no clue how to do myself. But you know what? I did it.
And after that, it was easy.
Highlights of the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival include (but are not limited to):
– Rocking out to Sugar Ray, live, as I plated up food in the Hops & Barley Kiosk
– The time I got to meet John Lasseter and give him a Bratwurst in the Germany Kiosk. I will probably never lose excitement over the fact John Lasseter was eating the food I made.
The time a Cast Member who totally deserved it accidentally melted a bottle of caramel all over the hot box and had to clean up the mess by hand. (Hehe. That still makes me laugh.)
– Of course, the time I spilled the Godiva alcoholic coffee drink all over the pavement behind Morocco, which turned out great, because that’s how I made friends with the food runner, Stephen, who is now one of my best Disney buddies (and, coincidentally, my neighbor.)
– Every single night, singing along to Illuminations.
– Being given free Mickey Ear popsicles for breaking an all-time Food and Wine record.
– Making Guests birthday waffles in the Belgium Kiosk. They had extra whipped cream Mickey ears, and made people’s day.
– Every wonderful, amazing Cast Member I met. I’m dead serious. I love every single one of them.
Maybe there’s not really a way to express what a wonderful, meaningful experience the Food and Wine Festival last year was. I learned so much about the kitchen.
And, most importantly, I realized that Disney may not always be pixie-dusted behind the scenes (staying late after the dishwasher broke to wash every single Biergarten dish and Food and Wine dish by hand was less than fun) but it is so worthwhile, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
All of this sentimentality, I’m sure, will go right out the window when I get slammed as a Food Runner on a Saturday in the middle of Orlando’s “autumn” season (upwards of 90 degrees, in full uniform) where I will be running in and out of the Conex Boxes, sweating and swearing in my head at Mickey Mouse.
Which reminds me, I haven’t come outright and said it yet, but I am officially working the Festival this year. Woohoo!! Please feel free to clap and cheer along with me. I’m thrilled. My next three months will be free from Columbia Harbour House and I will be submerged in the seasonal excellence and insanity of Food and Wine 2014.
I really just don’t know if this year can top last year.
But I’m definitely going to try.
(Also feel free to virtually high-five me for reaching my one-year mark with Disney. I can’t believe it’s been a year! It’s been magical.)
More details to come on my location for this year’s festival. Stay tuned. You will not want to miss all the shenanigans.