Dining at The Walt Disney World Resort is well-known for lending itself to creating an experience you and your family will never forget. From character meet-and-greets and accommodating dietary restrictions to the ambiance of each individual restaurant, our family has always been fascinated and has never grown bored or dissatisfied with our dining opportunities when “home.” On the bucket list, of course, has been Dining with an Imagineer. An “Imagineer” is the title given by the Walt Disney Corporation to one holding a position such as illustrator, architect, engineer, lighting designer, show writer, graphic designer and the list goes on! Our boys are fascinated with the background of the entire production and our middle son has a particular interest in Imagineering as he aspires to become one “when and if he ever grows up.” Since the moment we read about this dining opportunity, we could not wait to make reservations. This past August was our moment! Dining with an Imagineer – here we come!
We found ourselves first in line at one of the turnstiles at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that morning. That is an exciting feeling – to be one of the first! After making certain we rode a few of the rides we never want to miss when at this particular Park, we arrived at the The Hollywood Brown Derby just before 11:30 AM and prior to the official opening of the establishment. Upon our arrival and check-in, we were given personalized name tags that make fantastic keepsakes. We were also immediately met in the lobby by one of the Cast Member Chefs to discuss a few family food allergies. I love that about Disney – the personal connection between Chef and Guest.
DIStracted Tip- If you or a family member suffer from food allergies of any kind, be sure to make note of these allergies when making your dining reservations whether on the MyDisneyExperience website or calling the Walt Disney Reservation line directly. If you are dining without a reservation, be sure to talk to a Cast Member upon arrival to the restaurant and they will have the Chef come out to meet you at your table to discuss safe menu options. Because our son’s allergies are severe, I also go the extra step and contact Walt Disney World Special Dietary Requests as soon as our dining reservations are made. They will kindly assist any Guest in filling out a Special Dietary Request form that will be distributed to every Table Service Restaurant with which you have a reservation. I have even had Chefs contact me directly via email or by phone prior to our trip to discuss safe menu options! Safety first!
Once our allergy meals were set, the restaurant was opened with true Hollywood grandeur and we were guided with a group of about ten others to a small bamboo room off the side of the restaurant. It was there we met Pam Rawlins, our special guest Imagineer, who greeted us all with a smile. We quickly found our seats and our personal host proceeded to share the order of events and to introduce Pam.
The food served was delicious and exquisite. Personally, I fell in love with the famous Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb salad and cannot wait to have it again in the future. My older two sons and husband enjoyed the Brentwood Sweet Corn Bisque with lobster and corn relish served as an appetizer, while I enjoyed the alternative chicken noodle soup secondary to an allergy. I will say, I was a little jealous. That bisque looked and smelled fabulous! When it came to the main course, most of our family had the Charred-glazed Filet of Beef, which was done to perfection and served with a mushroom mashed potato and sautéed vegetables. We were quite satisfied with our choice. There were others in the group who enjoyed the Noodle Bowl with Grilled Breast of Chicken or the Pan-seared Coriander-crusted Black Grouper. Of note, it is quite customary for restaurants, such as The Hollywood Brown Derby, to change their menu; therefore, the menu items listed above may not be what you see on the menu during your visit. For dessert, we all enjoyed a small sampler of three delicious treats, including the famous Brown Derby Original! Grapefruit Cake, Double Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee and a Chocolate Sphere with Hazelnut Praline Chocolate and Orange-White Chocolate Mousse. Our youngest son was served a very special, personalized dessert in light of his food allergies. Though the grapefruit cake was not my favorite, I can certainly appreciate its uniqueness and would not pass on having it again, particularly that serving size. My favorite, however, was the crème brulee, which is always my go-to dessert when offered. All in all, I would say the food was exactly what I had hoped and expected it to be and very much worth the hype given.
As for our special guest, she was fantastic. At the time, Pam was an Assistant Producer for Walt Disney Imagineering and responsible for day-to-day administration and coordination efforts for creative deliverables for the expansion happening at Magic Kingdom. She shared her personal background and the projects in which she has been involved. For instance, she had just recently finished working on the New Fantasyland endeavor. I had actually recognized her upon our arrival as one of the Imagineers featured in a video sharing the progress of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. She was very patient, very understanding and accommodated all of us. Our boys were particularly inquisitive, including our then eight-year-old, and Pam took the time to answer each and every one of their questions. That impressed me as a mom. Of course, she took so much time to feed everyone’s curiosity that we did not have much time at the end to take pictures. She signed our commemorative souvenirs (which are beautiful and perfect for display) and was off to her next appointment. In addition to the signed souvenir, we also received a personalized menu and picture of our group. I always love the mementos! (PS – I did not give away the actual souvenir because I have to leave something to your imagination!)
We took a chance with bringing our entire family to such an experience, as this dining event is a little on the pricier side. If using any of the Disney Dining Plans, you will want to clarify whether or not it will be accepted for this meal as we were notified late that only two credits from the Deluxe Dining Plan were accepted. FYI – this is not information that is clearly noted on the website, so please be wary. Nonetheless, if you have a desire to meet with an Imagineer or have any dreams of becoming one, this is certainly an opportunity I do not think you should miss. Save. Pinch pennies. Plan. It is definitely a dining experience I will reserve again in the future.