Last week, I wrote about one chef’s tips on how to manage food allergies when visiting the outdoor kitchens at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. Since that meeting and post, I’ve had opportunity to put Chef Daniel’s tips to the test. Over the weekend, my family and I visited the festival and had quite the experience when trying to find foods our son with severe, life-threatening food allergies could have.
For those of you visiting Walt Disney World this spring, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs until May 28th this year. There are so many beautiful character topiary trees to admire and creative gardens to explore. Not to mention, there is so much delicious food to taste! There are 15 outdoor kitchens strategically placed throughout World Showcase.
If you are interested in finding out more about what is being featured at the Festival this year, click here to read my post.
This particular visit, however, had a purpose. I wanted to put Chef Daniel’s tips to the test so I could provide you with an accurate, real-life experience. If you had glanced at my previous post, you would know that he recommended that Guests:
- Mention food allergies at the time of placing your order.
- Be sure to specify if the food allergies are severe.
At that point, the Cast Member taking your order would call the Chef and have him/her come directly to you in order to discuss options. If the allergies are severe enough or cross contamination is an issue / concern, they would be more than willing to prepare the special meal in the traditional kitchen rather than the outdoor facility.
PUTTING CHEF’S TIPS TO THE TEST
So, we made our way around World Showcase. When we reached THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbecue and Brews located in the American Adventure, our son decided he was finally ready to call for the Chef. Earlier in the week, he had found something that piqued his interest on THE SMOKEHOUSE menu in the Garden Passport I had shown him.
We did exactly as we had been instructed. I approached the register and immediately notified them that we had someone with multiple food allergies. I asked that a Chef come out to discuss the situation in light of the severity of my son’s condition. At that point, one of the Cast Members smiled and said she would gladly make that call for us. She asked that I simply check with her in about ten minutes for an update. No problem! We placed the rest of our order and made ourselves comfortable at one of the picnic tables nearby.
MEETING CHEF RAHMAN
About ten minutes had passed when I saw someone who looked like a head chef making his way toward our location. I got up, went over and introduced myself to him as he approached the Cast Member who made the initial contact with him. Chef Rahman looked me eye to eye and smiled as I explained our situation and shared with him what I had been told by Chef Daniel. I asked if he would be willing to go through the Garden Passport with us and point out options that could be safe for our little guy. He was more than willing to accommodate our request! Things were rolling along quite well!
We made our way over to the table where we sat down and began to discuss the various kitchens. He told us there are about seven or eight outdoor kitchens that are Disney-affiliated and would be best at trying to accommodate food allergies and dietary restrictions. The other kitchens are not run by Disney, so he could not account for their ability to do so.
The kitchens I remember Chef Rahman mentioning included:
- The Honey Bee-stro Hosted by the National Honey Board (Showcase Plaza)
- Pineapple Promenade (Showcase Plaza)
- La Isla Fresca (Showcase Plaza)
- The Berry Basket (Showcase Plaza)
- Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market (Germany)
- THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbecue and Brews (The American Adventure)
- Florida Fresh (Between Morocco and France)
Quick note: It is possible there may be one more kitchen in there, but I apologize…I can’t remember which one and don’t want to give the wrong information.
Chef Rahman and our son went through each and every page that held the menu for a Disney-affiliated kitchen. Chef used his phone to check ingredients and disclaimers and marked each food that could be made safely in the traditional kitchen (egg-free, tree nut free and peanut-free for us). From there, Chef spent the time with our son reviewing what he would like to eat and they came up with a handful of really great ideas!
Since the two dishes selected were going to be made from two different outdoor kitchen menus, Chef Rahman explained that he would make one in the kitchen in the back half of the World Showcase and then, when we made our way to the entrance of World Showcase, he would make the second plate for him so that he did not go home hungry.
After taking a few quick photos, we let Chef Rahman head off to the kitchen and we spent the next fifteen to twenty minutes watching Starship with Mickey Thomas at the American Gardens Theater. Once the concert was over, we made our way to the designated meeting point, which we had decided would be The Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market near the Germany Pavilion.
~DELIVERING THE GOODS~
We found a table near the water and patiently waited for Chef to arrive. When we caught a glimpse of him, he had TWO plates in his hand. He had gone and prepared TWO full dishes of beef brisket burnt ends with pulled pork and hash for our son. TWO! We were floored!
Now, normally, our son doesn’t have the largest of appetites, but he seriously went to town on this dish. If you saw the live Facebook feed , you would think I never fed the child!
Before Chef Rahman left us in Germany, he had provided a means of contacting him when our son was ready for his second plate of deliciousness. This time, Chef was going to prepare the Honey Tandoori Chicken Flatbread ~ something I had tried at the media day event and something hubby and my other son had tried earlier that evening.
We enjoyed our stroll through the remaining pavilions and finally reached a point where we made contact once again. Chef met us at The Honey Bee-stro about twenty minutes later. While Logan enjoyed his HUGE plate of pixie-dusted flatbread, Chef Rahman took some time to chat up a storm with us! We talked about Chef Daniel’s tips, if Chef George P. was still around (the first Chef who made us believe in Disney Magic) and other news about the Festival itself. The moments were filled with laughter, smiles and personal attention. We had a great time and it was if we had been friends for years!
~A HEART FULL OF GRATITUDE~
Chef Rahman was extremely accommodating and so personable. I could not be any more thankful for the magical experience he provided our son….and ME!!! Chef went above and beyond and pixie-dusted our evening with so many smiles and treasured moments. He gave us something we didn’t know we could have. He gave us success at the outdoor kitchens in spite of our son’s food allergies!
Logan enjoyed every bite he took that night. He walked away full and with the brightest grin on his face. He felt as if his health condition had been taken seriously and as if Chef Rahman actually cared about the experience he had!! Serious bonus points!
So – to those with food allergies or dietary restrictions – DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR A CHEF AT THE OUTDOOR KITCHENS! If your comfort level is such that you feel you want to explore the option of eating at an outdoor kitchen, I highly recommend you speak directly with a Chef. We never knew this was possible and now we do. Simply go to one of the outdoor kitchens and ask for someone to call the Chef to speak with you. Make sure they go through the Garden Passport to find options. Then you can decide together what he/she may be able to safely prepare.
If you are not comfortable ~ please do not stress about it!! Food allergies are not something with which to play games. Having a reaction while on a Disney vacation is certainly not worth it. We typically bring food for our son just in case he (or mama bear) is not comfortable with the situation. You have to be willing to speak up and state your allergies and severity clearly. You must also have a level of trust in the Chef with whom you are speaking.
~ IN CONCLUSION ~
I’m grateful for our magical outdoor kitchen experience and we will likely do this again soon. Our son is excited and already has an idea of what he wants to try next. Fortunately, we have the marked up Garden Passport to help us.
If you visit the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival and take heed of any of the tips above because of food allergies or dietary restrictions, I would love to hear your experience. If a Chef or Cast Member go above and beyond, be sure to share your #CastCompliment. You can share it on Facebook or Twitter and be sure to let @WDWToday on Twitter know! They love to hear these things. The compliment goes a long way!
Disclaimer: As I have noted before, I am not a medical professional ~ just a food allergy mom with a son who loves Disney. I would never advocate the ingestion of potentially dangerous foods without meticulously assessing the situation. Each family has to make a well-informed decision based on their own comfort and severity of allergy. This piece was written to encourage the asking of questions and to share that Disney Chefs do try their best to accommodate Guests with all forms of dietary restrictions.