Monday, July 30, 2012

And so, it begins...

So, let's begin at the beginning.

Here's the plan.  I'm going to visit every full service restaurant on the Walt Disney World property, take some pictures, collect my thoughts about the food, and then share those thoughts with you, the dozen or so people who might stumble across this lonely blog on some lonely Tuesday at 2 am.

For the record, my name is Jack Butler, and I am a chef by profession.  I graduated from the Capital Culinary Institute, Tallahassee, Florida (a part of the Kaiser University system, and one of the three or four finest cooking schools in the southeastern United States if I do say so myself.  And I do.)  For the past decade, I've worked in various restaurants around Florida, managed a couple, created menus, catered special events, and did everything you'd expect a chef to do.

Me (on the left) and my friend and colleague, Tim Comiso, in the kitchen at Gasperillas
And now I cook for Disney.  Specifically, I work as part of the Main Kitchen Crew at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  We're responsible for the food in 1900 Park Fare, the Grand Floridian Cafe, the Garden View Tea Room, and Gasperilla's Grill and Games.  Its a great job, lots of fun, and I really love it.

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
I openly admit to being a huge Disney fan.  I love going to the parks, and working at one of the hotels is the culmination of a dream come true.  I mean that literally... the last part of my culinary education was a professional internship; I and two of my friends were competing for two available internship slots at Walt Disney World.  Unfortunately, I lost the competition.  Years later, here I am, at Disney (and for the record, both of my friends are still here, too, and are still my friends).

Anyway, my love of Disney combined with my love of cooking gave me an idea.  There are over a hundred full-service restaurants on the Walt Disney property, and I hadn't been to more than a handful of them.  That had to be remedied.

Now groove on my clever plan:

As I said up at the top of this post, I will visit a different Full Service restaurant on Disney property (be it in a theme park, a hotel, or one of the Downtown Disney restaurants) at least once a month.  The Tour will begin in January, 2012, and will continue until I have been to every full service restaurant on Disney property.  During each restaurant visit, I'll take pictures, make notes, and generally come up with some sort of opinion of not just the food, but of the total dining experience.

And then I'll come back and tell the dozen or so folks who stumble across this blog just what I thought of it, and make a recommendation as to whether you should try it yourself or stay the heck away.

That's the plan.  But there are three rules.  These are:

  1. Barring unusual circumstances, I will always take at least one person with me.  Usually, this is going to be one of my family members (especially my siblings or one of my kids), but it could just as easily be a friend or a co-worker.  Unusual circumstances would be something like "Sorry, but absolutely no one was available to go along with me", or possibly "Holy crap, have you seen how expensive this is per person?  There's no way I can afford to bring someone along with me!"  (At this point, I only expect this second problem at Cinderella's Royal Table, which averages $60 per person, the Garden View Tea Room. which is $150 a person, Victoria and Albert's, which is $250 a person.)
  2. With one exception, I won't ever repeat a restaurant.  The single exception is when the restaurant in question is a buffet that has a breakfast and dinner service.  In that case, I'll make one stop for breakfast, and another stop for dinner.
  3. I'll attempt to go during lunch hours, just because lunch is the one meal everyone eats.  You'll skip breakfast, and you'll go without dinner, but you'll only rarely go without lunch.

And hopefully I'll be able to experience some fun times and eat some great food while we're at it.

Given that I am not staying in an on-property resort, I am only able to make reservations 180 days in advance.  Thus, the schedule, which I will be updating as things progress, only covers a six-month period.

As of this writing, I have already visited:
  • 15 January 2012:  Whispering Canyons Cafe, at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
  • 12 February 2012:  Le Cellier, at the Canada Pavillion, Epcot.
  • 15 March 2012:  T-Rex, at Downtown Disney.
  • 15 April 2012:  Teppan Edo, at the Japan Pavillion, Epcot.
  • 29 April 2012:  The Rose and Crown Pub, at the Great Britain Pavillion, Epcot.
  • 13 May 2012:  The San Angel Inn, at the Mexico Pavillion, Epcot.
  • 29 June 2012:  Chef Mickey's (Breakfast Buffet), at the Contemporary Resort.

I will be posting the reviews for these restaurant visits soon.  There was no restaurant visit in June owing to the deaths of both my grandmother and my Aunt Christine.

For the rest of the year, here's the schedule.  I'll be posting these reviews as they happen.
  • 5 August 2012:  The Grand Floridian Cafe, at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
  • 9 September 2012:  Fulton's Crab House, at Downtown Disney.
  • 14 October 2012:  Bongo's Cuban Cafe, at Downtown Disney.
  • 11 November 2012:  The Liberty Tree Tavern, in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom.
  • 16 December 2012:  Olivia's Cafe, at the Old Key West Resort.
  • 13 January 2013:  Tony's Town Square Restaurant, in Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom.

And there you have it.  My ambitious plan to visit every Disney full-service restaurant, then tell you nice folks all about it.  Wish me luck!

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