All Day, ALL DAY

Disney, don’t get me wrong. I love you. Making magic with Guests is what it’s all about.

But do you have to keep scheduling me for overnight party shifts?

At two AM this morning (tomorrow morning?) do you know where I’ll be? I’ll be in Patagonia, drizzling oil on the permanently-leaning flat top, dancing to Taylor Swift or Ke$ha (last year it was a lot of Ke$ha) after chugging red Powerade and eating my weight in gummy worms, trying to stay awake.

Tonight I will watch the sun set over a splendid view of World Showcase, and I will still be there when it rises. Epcot, my darling, you are always beautiful, but at five in the morning I will probably not notice that. I will only notice one thing: I either need more sleep or more caffeine. Or both.

The Wine and Dine Half Marathon is this crazy dream of Disney’s that involves esteemed, high -paying Guests running 13 miles straight at wee hours of the morning, culminating in a big, final feast at the Food and Wine Festival where they eat, drink (a lot) and “protein spill” into the bushes.

Those poor custodial Cast Members. Sometimes I wonder what genius sat down and said, “You know what would be fun? Making people run a half marathon and then loading them up on lots of food and alcohol!”

But Guests seem to find it fun,  and so here we are. I really commend you who do it, I can only handle the eating part, minus the running.

And don’t get me wrong, Cast Members don’t suffer abuse working this event. We treat it like a party — Epcot’s usual chirpy elevator music is replaced by pop hits and bright lights, and even though we’re working, most business is slow enough to accommodate dancing, laughing, Guest interaction and a lot of really good people- watching.

Inebriated Guests can be funny. And this is the one night a year Epcot feels a lot like a party, less like a family -oriented educational experience.

Plus a lot of us are on overtime, so that’s always nice.

Last year I partied Wine and Dine style in Belgium, this year I’ll be in Patagonia. For a good long while this will be my final Food and Wine Festival. I’m terribly sentimental about it and I have stories to regale you with, and I will.

But first? I must survive tonight. Wish me luck! (And if you’re running, come say hi!)

Advertisements

It’s Festival Prep Week! *Scary Music Here*

It’s all coming back to me now.

The heat! The sweaty grossness! The dirt and grime and long hours!

I have a tendency to romanticize the past, make things that were difficult all so wonderful and rosy in my mind. And the Food and Wine Festival is no different. Only here’s the thing: the festival has a weird effect on Cast Members. Everyone is a walking-talking-working zombie at times, but when the Festival ends, everyone is sentimental and absolutely enamored by the events that have just occurred.

I won’t lie. I am charmed by Epcot. I think the Food and Wine Festival is the best experience in the world.

But it’s so hot. It gets so hot you forget what it’s like to feel A/C. Sometimes you’re so hot that you even forget that you’re hot until someone opens a cooler and you feel a nice breeze and you just want to move to Antarctica on the next available flight.

This year I’m working under a new team of chefs, and they’re… um, intense.

And if you haven’t heard of Chef Jens, the Executive Chef of Epcot, let me just tell you that man strikes fear into my very being. (When he shook my hand today and welcomed me back to the Festival, it was all I could do not to just throw out a slew of, “YES CHEF! HEARD! ALL DAY!” and run across the kiosk. As it was a managed a surprisingly cool, “Yes, Chef, thank you Chef.”)

My new chef team is based out of the Norway kitchen (Akershus, the princess dining in the Norway pavilion, is a name that everyone has a hard time pronouncing, so we just call it “The Norway Kitchen” to keep it easy.) They are, for the next three months, my immediate superiors and nothing that goes on in my work life occurs without their explicit approval. My fellow Cast Members, who will be running the left-hand side of World Showcase with me–that’s Patagonia, New Zealand, Australia, Florida Fresh and South Korea–are my family for the next 53 days.

I will do nothing but eat, sleep, breathe and dream of the Food and Wine Festival. I will get to know my team inside and out, and converse with nearly no one else.

“Here are the ground rules,” one of my chefs said to us today. “First, if you have family here, tell them goodbye for the next three months. You’ll get two days off a week if you’re lucky. Two, you’re being moved and placed and judged on your performance. You don’t walk, you stride. You don’t talk, you communicate. Understood? Third, this is your restaurant. You’re inviting thousands of guests over, and you’re their host. Take some pride in your work. And, lastly, don’t try to out-drink the Norwegians, or any of the International College Program Students, okay? They’ll drink you under the table. If you come to work hungover, I’ll send you home. If you come to work drunk, you’re fired. Clear?”

“Heard!”

“Yes, Chef!”

My other chef is a slim, snappy woman who has probably heard the line, “You’d make a great hostess!” as many times, if not more, as I have. But that’s where our similarities stop. She’s tough. She takes no crap. She is the most fierce chef I’ve ever encountered, as if she’s making up for her looks by being as strict and tough as possible. She scares me a little, but I also have tremendous respect for her. I kind of hope she has a little bit of mercy for me–you know, a girl-chef-to-girl-chef kind of way. (We’ll see how that goes.)

Anyway, all I can recall about last year is being thrown into the festival without hope of a life raft. I had none of the on-site training I needed. I just showed up and was told to grill lobster in Hops and Barley, my first kiosk. (Awww.) I learned the hard way last year.

This year, my new area and my new chefs seem to very adamant that we learn the menu back and forth, that we learn how everything is to be produced and that we make no mistakes and have little leeway. I, like the crotchety old grandma I am on the inside, keep thinking things like, look at these newfangled contraptions! as I look at my menu lists and listened to the safety spiels. I was actually given a tour of the kitchen. I was shocked. (Where was I last year? How did I miss all the important stuff like, where do we store the food?)

As the chefs educate everyone on their jobs and the upcoming 53-day culinary boot camp that is Food and Wine, I find myself nodding along like a redundant bobblehead. Of course, the second I realize I’m doing it, I stop, because I don’t want to be that guy” that thinks he/she knows everything. I detest those people.

So I stand, in the front, trying to look both eager and serious at the same time. It’s hard, because on the inside I’m jumping up and down and skipping and singing and thinking, “Yes! I’m back at Epcot! Oh, how thrilling!” On the outside, I’m just trying to keep my, “Yes, Chef,” as even and monotone as possible, because I’m pretty sure everyone would think I was crazy otherwise.

As it stands, folks, there are FIVE days until the official opening.

Less than a week.

Are you ready? I’m ready. I was born ready.

LETS DO THIS THING.