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!)

Life Under the Castle

I wish I could show you a live feed of the Magic Kingdom Utilidoors.

Yes, they exist. Underground tunnels beneath a thriving amusement park, tunnels filled with boxes and people and the sound of the AVAC system carrying trash through big metal tubes.

I wish I could show you the people lurking in the Mouseketeeria on their breaks. They’re loud, happy, tired, often sweaty and overworked but tireless, tenacious and dedicated to a crazy and magical company.

I wish you could see the smiles! I wish you could hear the stories they tell.

I wish you could stand in the Subway line behind Cinderella or have your door held open for you by Peter Pan. I wish you could hear the bus drivers call all the ladies ‘princess’ as they scan our ID’s.

I know that at Disney it is the job of Cast Members to preserve the magic, but that job is hard. Not only do I want to show a Guest our inner cogs and wheels to prove just how hard we work for their enjoyable vacation, but I want them to see the real magic that keeps this place running. Not the showmanship. Not the fireworks. The honest to goodness people that work here.

Because as lame as it sounds, this is where the magic is.

I just wish you all could see it.

It’s Food and Wine Time Again!

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.

Saturday Lunch Musings In The Mouseketeeria

I am a functional human being today, which is shocking. Its just one of those days where everything is going like it should: I woke up on time and wasn’t tired. I made a perfect pot of coffee! (I love when that happens). My breakfast was both delicious and nutritional (delicional? New word. Mental note: work on that one) and I didn’t leave for work over-caffeinated. Which does occasionally happen, and ends with me bouncing up and down while working the grill, jittering around the kitchen like a jumping bean on steroids.

And even at work today’s kitchen prep isn’t daunting. In fact, I dare say its…easy? No, I’m going to jinx myself. We’ll just say its “ahead of schedule.”

The only imperfect piece of the puzzle was my unsatisfying,  watery turkey lunch wrap. It sits, taunting me, next to the current copy of Eyes & Ears, the Cast Member magazine.

But a bad lunch does not a bad day make.

Instead, I am kind of enjoying my day, which is weird for a Saturday at work during the crazy summer tourist season.

Last night at Downtown Disney,  the musical group Nova Era spent their break chatting with my friend and me, sharing their Italian recipes and insisting the ONLY way to make risotto was with hot stock and very thinly sliced onion. They are Italian, so they would know.

I love when people share culinary advice, because everyone thinks they’re right.  That’s what makes cooking so great and so personal.

And they’re really cool musicians with great hair,  so that was fun.

If I am lucky, the rest of my day will be just as smooth sailing as the morning has been. Disney, work your magic!

(As if on cue, Peter Pan just walked by high fiving everyone.)

Here’s to hoping your weekend is just as magical. Cheers to Saturday!