This year the annual Epcot international food and wine festival starts earlier than ever. The first day for the festival in 2017 is August 31, a full month ahead of where it was just a few short years ago!
The one thing that’s always on our FamilyFather “must do” list (and MUST register early) are the culinary demonstrations!
These classes are held in the festival center (Just past Mission:Space) daily and include a recipe sheet, a sample of the dish being demonstrated and a wine that the dish is paired with. Still a bargain at the new higher price of $17 per person. Classes fill up, make sure you book early!
Registration for these 45 minute seminars opened July 22. Once again I missed the early registration opportunity for us DVC members but I did make a few on “opening day for mortals,” July 22. The early registration is a nice perk to add to the list of benefits for being a DVC member, however it’s been my experience that those few days don’t make much difference.
I didn’t notice any widely known celebrity chefs this year (like Cat Cora or the “cake boss” Buddy Valastro that I’ve missed out on in years past.) Those few “famous” chefs were normally the only ones to ever book up ahead of general reservations anyway and they were usually sold out even ahead of dvc early booking.
Fortunately on most days at EPCOT there is even some (limited) same day availability for walk-ups to the culinary demonstrations. That said, some dates are already booked up and unavailable. The entire first week could be closed by the time you read this.
This limited scedule is disappointing but still represents a great opportunity. (Just a couple years ago there used to be 4-6 $10 demonstrations each day from noon to 6pm, allowing for after work/after school visits for locals.)
As Food & Wine became a wildly popular annual event, Disney saw the opportunity to utilize this culinary talent for higher dollar per seat events and started selling much higher priced exclusive dining opportunities.
Though expensive these too are still a bargain for the cost. ($400 for a dinner where I meet Wolfgang Puck and learn how he makes pasta might be out of my budget but I get the appeal)
Fortunately for shareholders (not so much for locals) Disney found out that people would pay much more than $17 for longer, more exclusive, evening demonstrations. So the lack of cheapies is to make room for more $100 desert tastings, $200 cocktail parties and $400 dinners. So there are still at least as many opportunities to learn from world renowned chefs, there just aren’t as many that only cost $15-17.
Still, I think it’s generous that Disney continues to offer ANY of these cheap “Master Classes for the Masses.” And I highly recommend going to one. It’s no exaggeration to say that I owe much of my current culinary ability to the few tips and tricks I’ve picked up from these culinary demonstrations over the years. The culinary demonstrations at EPCOT F&W are usually lead by the head chef of a four-star restaurant on Disney property, or other well known restaurants around the country.
How to book
One of the more frustrating things for me in the past has been trying to figure out how one goes about finding the list of demonstrations available and then booking reservations.
Reservations for the culinary demonstrations are done the same way that you would reserve any other restaurants on property. You can either call 407-WDW-DINE, log in to the website, or book on the “My Disney Experience” mobile app. You will need to know the date and time of the demonstration that you want in advance though, the details about each demonstration are not on the booking page. All demonstrations are simply listed as ‘culinary demonstration’.
To find out who is doing what (and when) you have to go here…
It’s a downloadable PDF and lists the date/time, food, chef, restaurant that they hail from and that restaurant’s location.
My wife and I always try to do at least one with chef T.J. Sidiswa, he is always one of the most entertaining. Also, a new favorite of ours, debuting last year, would be chef Valerie Enters. She’s the pastry chef at Golden Oak and is doing a few demonstrations this year (including kicking off the first of the demonstrations for the second year in a row.) Unfortunately, that date was already full on registration day in July.
Since she is a chef at Golden Oak Summerhouse, if you don’t catch her at F&W, the only other way to try her cooking is to buy one of the few remaining multi-million dollar mansions being built on Disney property. (And she’s an awesome pastry chef who puts on a good show) More on Golden Oak later.
So if you plan to go to EPCOT between now and mid November, look into attending a culinary demonstration. You won’t be disappointed!