This is the first year that Disney has offered a behind-the-scenes tour and look into the making of the food for the food and wine festival. The Disney Culinary Adventure Tour was advertised as a 90-minute, walking tour.
My husband purchased a ticket for me as a gift for our 15th wedding anniversary.
This is a recap of my experience and why you may want to wait until later in the festival season, or until next year, to take the tour giving Disney time to work out the kinks in the delivery of the event.
Registration for the Disney Culinary Adventure Tour was fairly simple. Within the event description page is a button that takes the user to the ShowClix website. ShowClix is a third party event registration system for events.
On the Disney Culinary Adventure ticket page, the user goes through a regular sign up process similar to Ticketmaster to register for the event.
A confirmation email is sent to the registrant to confirm the order.
The ticket will be in PDF form for the registrant to print and take to check in.
They can also use the QR code that is sent to the email used for sign up.
The day of the event attendees were asked to be out front of the Carthay Circle Lounge 15 minutes prior to the start of the tour. A table was set up outside Carthay Circle where they had a release form to sign, basically a release stating you understood that if a cast member was taking pictures that your picture may end up in promotional material printed later for other events.
Each Attendee was handed an orange wristband and name tag so that other cast members would know you were part of The Culinary Tour.
Each group had approximately 10 people.
The tour covered the booths, the special events kitchen, and the prep kitchen where attendees had the opportunity to create one of the menu items available at the food and wine festival. Due to Disney proprietary privacy, no pictures were allowed during the backstage/behind the scenes portion of the tour.
In order for the group to keep the guide in sight while walking the park, the tour guide help up a small sign for us to follow.
There was a lot of walking involved in the tour, and it did state that in the event signup. The tour started at Carthay Circle, took attendees over to the festival food booths, then over to the special events kitchen behind Guardians of the Galaxy, and ended in a mini prep kitchen behind the Monsters Inc. ride.
Part of the tour involved walking us through the myriad of food booths for the Food & Wine Festival. The tour guide stopped at a few of the booths and explained the process that it takes to find and approve each menu item.
“Everything here [menu items] is acquired by cast members that have traditions that are passed along through family members.”Talia (Tour Guide)
The two booths above offer the Impossible Burger (vegetarian) and jicama tortilla tacos (GF).
Each year Disney has focused on adding more plant-based and gluten-free (GF) items so those with special dietary needs or desires can enjoy the festival.
“There are a lot of dietary needs that we have…you have options and won’t be stuck with one item. [We want to] make [the experience] more special by adding items like the Impossible Burger.”– Talia (Tour Guide)
The prep kitchen was quite interesting. Every chef, or kitchen prep person, had a station and specific task assigned to them for the day. There was hustle in the kitchen but no one was running into others as they went about their work. All festival prepped items were kept in large warming units and cooling units with pictures of the various menu items taped to the front of each of the units.
We were shown the dry foods area where ingredients for all the dishes, and then some, were stored and easily accessed by the chefs and prep cooks. For those concerned with non-GMO and organic contamination, it was probably nice for them to hear that Disney keeps the organic separate from the non-organic food items.
Demo and Hands On
Upon entrance to the mini prep kitchen we were asked to place purses and jackets on the table provided. We were all given Food & Wine Tour Hats to wear to cover our hair. (The hats were the keepsake/take away.) Then we were directed to hand washing station where we washed our hands and then donned disposable kitchen gloves.
The setup of the food demo and hands on experience was awkward. They had two long, metal prep tables in a small kitchen area. The tour guide, who was also the person demonstrating, was stationed in the middle of the two tables. Unless you were standing directly by her it was not ideal for all to see what she was doing.
Each “station” had a marketing, disposable placemat. The six corporate people, standing in the background during the demo, were barely getting the tables set when we showed up. As the demo progressed it was obvious that several stations were missing ingredients and supplies.
The food and wine menu item Disney chose to use for the demo was the Watermelon Poke. The demo included showing how to cut watermelon, onion, and cucumber. The tour guide made sure to spell out the names of the seasonings used in the dish, as they were oriental with unique names. It would have been nice if the ingredient containers had been labeled so we could read it as well. Basic learning principles of VAK would have made the presentation stronger, as some learn by hearing (audio) and others learn by seeing (visual) along with the hands on (kinesthetic).
Assembly of the menu item was haphazard, as the tour guide kept saying it was up to us and using our creativity. General assembly of the dish was provided but not much beyond that. Some of the attendees waited until the tour guide was completely finished with the demonstration. Others just threw all the ingredients together and put it into the little plastic display dish provided and called it good.
After all attendees had prepped their dish, the group was walked back out to the front near Monsters, Inc. and released to go about their day.
Our tour guide was Talia. She was quite personable and energetic. It was evident that she loves her job, loves Disney, and loves food. She did an excellent job interacting with attendees and answering questions.
If you have any issues with crowds, loud people, are hard of hearing or have difficulty walking this tour may not be for you. The tour takes you through the festival booths area, which can be wall to wall people. You will walk a good portion of California adventure. Depending on the members of your tour group, some may speak at the same time the tour guide does and might be shouting, even during the indoor portion of the tour. The tour guide does not use a microphone, so unless you were standing right next to the guide it is very difficult to hear them.
Hands on experiences can be fun, but there is improvement to be done. It was difficult to see the demo of the food prep if you were not standing right next to the tour guide. Having the tour guide up front would have made it easier for all to see the demo. This would be easily accomplished by placing the tables for the attendees in front of the tour guide rather than the side.
It was a disappointment that the prep kitchen for the demo was not fully setup up when we arrived. The lack of organization, and needed supplies, made it difficult for some attendees to create the menu item along with the tour guide.
A demonstration by an actual Disney chef and then samples of the created menu item handed out would’ve been better, much like one sees on a TV cooking show. It would have been much more interesting to see a professional chef create one of the full menu items from the festival, not a tiny portion, and then have each group member served that specific menu item. That way the group gets to taste the actual menu item and not their “own creation.”
I was disappointed that Disney chose a very basic item, but I understood the reasoning behind it. Given the attendees were preparing the menu item Disney most likely didn’t want it too complicated. Also, the item they chose did not involve heated ingredients, so they didn’t have to keep anything warming while waiting for the tour group to reach the kitchen.
Would I recommend taking the tour? For me, I wouldn’t do it again. The only interesting part was seeing the behind the scenes and seeing the special events kitchen. The hands on experience was lacking for me, partly because my station was not properly set up but also due to the simpleness of the hands on activity and the simplicity of what the tour guide demonstrated. Maybe as Disney does more of these over the years it will improve. Right now it, to me, is not worth $99 plus the ticket fees and taxes by the third party ticket vendor Disney used to sell the tickets.
- Fascinating information about how the menu items were chosen each year.
- A tour of behind the scenes and seeing cast members in the kitchen.
- The food and wine cap each attendee received.
- The opportunity to “sort of” create one of the menu items.
- Not recommended for anyone with social anxiety, sensory issues, hearing issues, or walking disabilities.
- Difficult to hear the tour guide as they had no microphone, especially out around the festival booths.
- Attendees of the tour group tended to talk loudly so it made it difficult to hear the tour guide.
- The prep kitchen where attendees created one of the menu items was not fully set up on arrival. Some stations were missing items.