EPCOT – First Class

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The very first culinary demonstration at Epcot food and wine festival 2016 featured award-winning chef Valarie Enters and her assistant Danielle from Golden Oak Summerhouse. I can’t believe I’m only now learning about this fairy tale neighborhood. I was at least as excited to hear more about Golden Oak as I was to learn some pastry tips. I’m working on a much longer piece about Golden Oak but if you’ve never heard of it, this video should make your jaw drop… Golden Oak, Disney

img_4082Ticket in hand I went trough the line and found my seat. Each place is set with the utensils necessary for that dish, glasses (for the pitchers of ice water) and a recipe page.

The beverages are brought out first, often while the guest chef is still giving their introductions. Then, as the dish is explained and created in front of you, servers bring out 150 small plated versions that were made earlier. The guest chefs are normally enthusiastic, entertaining, warm and informative and Chef Valarie did not disappoint. Every demo that I’ve been to has not only allowed questions but encouraged them.img_4083

From my experience normally the first 15 minutes of a culinary demonstration is taken up by the Vineyard or sponsor, promoting the beverage that is paired with the food. Today however, there was barely a mention beyond the name of what we were drinking, Prosecco. That was fine because this time I was there for the food. Zonin Prosecco (Casa Vinicola Zonin S.P.A. – Italy) is a light and fruity sparkling wine that goes well with (or without) desserts. Personally, I find most champagnes and sparkling wines either too sweet or too tart & dry. The Prosecco was neither end of the spectrum, rather I found it a light, fruity, flavorful drink with a faint fizz.

Unless you too, plan to vlog or film your adventure, I would recommend taking notes, not pictures. I missed a lot by fumbling with my iPhone. I was able to reconstruct the lessons from that video but it wasn’t the same. There are monitors to the left and right of the stage that often show a top-down view that is important to watch. Most often in cooking, I find failure is as simple as not knowing exactly how something should look before the next step. These close up views as the chef is describing what to look for are going to be where we home cooks get our revelations. Size, color, thickness, consistency, shape… these are rarely described adequately in cookbooks. Most of my big changes in cooking quality came from learning what an item or mixture should look like before proceeding to the next step and “how” to cook something, not just how long and at what temperature. –

So pay attention to the chef and the side screens, and bring a pen to take notes!


When last we left I was enjoying a nice Prosecco and our chef of the day took center stage for the first time. This was the first demonstration of this year but what I mean is that it was the first time for Valarie as a celebrity chef at Food & Wine and it was a dream realized from a long career perfecting pies and pastries. Chef Valarie hails originally from the west coast but has spent most of her young adult life here in Florida working as a pastry chef for Publix then Pastry Sous Chef at Nikelodeon resort before coming to Disney. She’s been working her way up the Disney food chain since 2012 and has landed a job at a restaurant so exclusive that most people have never heard about it and very few of us could ever hope to dine at. You see, The Golden Oak Summerhouse is a private restaurant for the handful of residents who own multi-million dollar mansions, on property at Disney World Orlando. I know, right? When did this happen? Short answer, between 2011-2013. Long answer, read the upcoming story <insert link here>

Chef Valarie was noticeably excited to be there and her joy showed through in her cooking and her stories. She even alluded to family being present and a few Golden Oak residents were also in attendance. She gave us some insight into working at an exclusive, private dining facility like Summerhouse and she also told us about her success at the Celebration Pie Festival, one of our other Top 10 Annual Family events. Then it was on to the cooking. I’m not going to post the recipe page or notes unless and until I clear it with Chef Valarie because the last thing I want to do as a blogger is alienate a Disney chef and in theory, these recipes were meant for those of us who valued them enough to be there. However, here is a link to Valarie Enters’ Classic Cherry Pie recipe on FoodNetwork.com

The recipe calls for morello cherries and Chef explained that any cherry could be substituted. We were in for a special treat however because she had brought in a private stock of Boiron cherries imported from France. At the end she did tell us where to get them frozen locally in Orlando, Trader Joe’s. Besides our upgraded cherries, there was nothing secret or exotic about the ingredients. The cherries were cooked down with sugar as any other fruit pie would be and some lemon zest and juice, as many use. She added a bit of almond extract, pinch of salt and drop of red dye. Chef mentioned using any thickener like cornstarch or arrowroot but warned not to try gelatin or we would be sad, and our pie would be sad and runny. Later during the Q&A she confirmed for me that her go-to thickener is pectin. There was a huge container of apple pectin prominently displayed on the stage, so I’m sure that is what was used. There were also a couple simple tricks that are only, “of course” moments after we heard them…

  • Strain the cooked fruit through a strainer and let the glazed fruit cool on a cookie sheet before filling the pies, then spoon them in with a slotted spoon. The mixture will thin when baking as more juice escapes from the fruit. so if you spoon in the fruit with a lot of liquid, thats what you’ll get when its done, a pie with a lot of liquid bleeding out.
  • only fill the pie 2/3 of the way so that they don’t overflow during baking, adding a teaspoon of butter on top
  • cut any slits in the top crust before putting it on the filled pie  – this helps give a clean top without drips of fruit juice from the knife

The recipe for the crust was similarly straightforward; shortening, butter, flour, salt, egg, etc. with a few exceptions…

  • substitute cake flour for half of the flour required
  • this recipe calls for powdered sugar, not granular
  • one uncommon addition to the crust was lemon juice and lemon zest. Often used in fillings, Chef Valarie also uses them in the crust
  • also I don’t remember seeing vinegar in a pie crust before but it too is on the list

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not paid by Disney in any way but even if I do post a professionally edited version of this (or other) demonstrations in the future, my best work is still no substitute for being there. Theres no description or even video that can match seeing the cherries cook down, foam up or thicken. Nor could I describe what touching the dough felt like but now I know just how soft it is supposed to be. I’ll be doing my own video where I try to make a pie at home, based on Chef Valarie’s instruction, but again – no substitute for going to one at F&W.

Hopefully though I can do this for future lessons, as I know that cost and logistics, not desire, is what keeps this event on the “some day” list even for many die-hard Disney fans.

As always, thanks for reading to the end!

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