Food & Vegetables

Meet a High Disney Chef Who Creates Instagram-Worthy Meals

  • Disney World debuted dozens of recent menu gadgets when its fiftieth anniversary celebration started final 12 months.
  • In truth, Disney cooks are all the time researching, creating, and testing gadgets for menus and occasions.
  • Insider spoke with Julia Thrash, one of many cooks who creates these gadgets, to be taught what her job entails.

As I sat in a restaurant at Disney World with a Monte Cristo sandwich in entrance of me, my first thought was: “Is that powdered sugar shimmering?” My second thought was: “How cool that they introduced again a menu merchandise from the day Disney World opened.” 

Disney World cooks created dozens of recent dishes, drinks, snacks, and desserts for the park’s fiftieth anniversary celebration final 12 months, and so they leaned closely into the historical past of the park and the “EARidescent” coloration scheme Disney dreamt up for the event.

One of Disney's culinary creations, which is red drink with blue coating around the rim of the glass, with tentacles sticking out of the top.

Walt Disney World

I needed to know the way they did it, so I went straight to the supply and spoke with Chef Julia Thrash. Thrash manages 24 kitchens on the Magic Kingdom park, which service quick-service eating places, out of doors merchandising carts, and particular occasions. 

Thrash has been cooking up magic in Disney World kitchens since 2009. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh, her journey started with the Disney Faculty Program, and she or he labored at quite a few parks and motels on the resort earlier than touchdown in her present position at Magic Kingdom. 

No two days are the identical, however each day begins with a morning assembly over espresso

“Issues change in a short time in my position, however there are particular issues which can be occurring each day,” Thrash informed Insider. She begins every day with a morning espresso together with her workforce to allow them to map out their plan for the day. From there, her workforce heads out into the park to go to the kitchens, discuss to forged members (what Disney calls its workers), and get suggestions from visitors. 

Chef Julia Thrash in the park, posing in front of one of the castles.

Chef Julia Thrash.


“It may be so simple as seeing somebody consuming a hen sandwich and asking them how they prefer it,” Thrash mentioned. More often than not it is nice, however typically it is not, and Thrash’s workforce wants that suggestions as a result of it lays the groundwork for “what’s subsequent, what do we have to take a look at, and what do we have to change.” 

Thrash additionally spends loads of time in what she calls “the conflict room,” dreaming up blue-sky concepts for what’s subsequent in Disney eating. a part of her day can also be spent within the kitchen truly creating the dishes coming down the pipeline within the subsequent few months. 

“A variety of my job is not the day-to-day operations,” Thrash mentioned. “It is checking in on issues after which planning and doing analysis and growth for future choices.”

Creating enjoyable, new menu gadgets could be very critical enterprise

The method of making new meals and drinks can start practically a 12 months earlier than they present up on restaurant menus. 

“We’ve conferences with all of our groups previous to the launch of any new gadgets … and it is not simply chef groups throwing out concepts,” Thrash mentioned. It may very well be the particular person within the workplace subsequent door, a front-of-house restaurant chief, or forged member from one other division who sparks a brand new meals idea as a result of “meals is part of everybody’s life and everybody has a distinct view to supply,” Thrash mentioned. “Gaining all of that data and bringing it into one central funnel helps us embellish on these nice concepts.”

One of Disney's culinary creations, which is a purple shake with a purple sprinkled donut on top.

Walt Disney World

It may be as much as a month into the method of honing these concepts earlier than Thrash truly will get into the kitchen to start out tinkering and determining learn how to flip her culinary fantasies into actuality. As soon as it is able to style, every merchandise goes by an inner tasting course of earlier than getting the stamp of approval.

In some circumstances, new gadgets could go on restaurant menus for a restricted time so Thrash’s workforce can get suggestions earlier than unveiling them for a particular occasion or giving them a everlasting place on the menu. 

“There are particular circumstances the place we’ll decide a restaurant and put this particular out for possibly a month-long check interval,” Thrash mentioned. “Then we ensure to have both a chef or front-of-house chief go to the desk and get suggestions from the visitor so we will decide whether or not or not it is a hit.” 

The chef is nicely conscious that you really want your meals to look good for Instagram

If you happen to spend even a couple of minutes scrolling by the #DisneyFood or #DisneyEats on Instagram, you may see that folks hardly ever take a chunk of their Disney meals earlier than snapping a photograph. I am undoubtedly responsible of that. It is arduous to withstand sharing pictures of a tub filled with ice cream or a waffle slathered with Nutella and berries, and Disney designs their dishes with that data in thoughts.

One of Disney's culinary creations, which is a chocolate-filled martini glass with a mound of miniature cookies on top.

Walt Disney World

“Ten years in the past, photo-worthy meals wasn’t even a factor,” Thrash mentioned. “You’d by no means see somebody take out a cellphone on the dinner desk and take a photograph of it, however now it is an enormous a part of what we do.” 

Thrash in contrast discovering the steadiness between scrumptious tasting meals and photogenic meals to making a murals. “A bit of artwork has many various layers that exist in there; completely different colours and textures,” she mentioned. It is the identical with meals. “We use contemporary, high-quality components and completely different layers and textures to make it eye-catching.”

In some circumstances, this quest for steadiness leads Thrash and her workforce to surprisingly scrumptious discoveries. 

“We’d begin out figuring out we wish to put sure colours on the plate after which serious about which components we will use to realize that coloration,” she informed us. “Generally, there’s this distinctive factor that occurs the place we put collectively a taste mixture we would not have considered in any other case.”

One of Disney's culinary creations, which is a small gold pig.

Walt Disney World

I do know she wasn’t straight referring to the new canine from Casey’s Nook that I had on Disney World’s fiftieth anniversary, however for those who’d informed me strawberry-bacon jam, funnel cake items, and powdered sugar would pair so nicely with a sizzling canine, I would not have believed you till I tasted it for myself (and polished off each final crumb).          

The meals needed to look further particular for Disney World’s fiftieth Anniversary

Every time there is a particular occasion on the horizon that requires new meals and beverage gadgets, Thrash’s workforce will get a “snippet of data” after which use that data to realize inspiration for the occasion. Within the case of Disney World’s fiftieth anniversary, that meant leaning into the park’s wealthy historical past and the “EARidescent” shimmery gold, blue, and purple coloration scheme Disney utilized in decor and costumes all through the anniversary festivities.

With Thrash, I needed to get that one query answered that had been on my thoughts since my go to to Magic Kingdom for the fiftieth: How did they make the meals shimmer like that? 

Seems, all of it goes again to Disney’s rigorous menu growth course of. 

A hamburger with a pickle slice acting as a tongue and two olives on top of the bun, meant to resemble eyes.

The Wild Toad Brat Burger served on the Friar’s Nook is a throwback to the now defunct Mr. Toad’s Wild Experience attraction.

Walt Disney World

“We truly did some R&D and created this iridescent edible powder,” Thrash mentioned. “It is nearly the consistency of powdered sugar, nevertheless it has a shimmer impact to it. We knew iridescence was an enormous a part of the celebration and we wish to carry that into meals and beverage, as nicely.”

And, as a result of it is flavorless, they’ll use it nearly wherever to boost a dish (or drink) and actually make it pop. “It is simply sort of cool to play with so we began placing it in several issues,” Thrash mentioned. It was used to create a shimmery “EARidescent Sip-a-Bration” drink and likewise sprinkled on cupcakes, donuts, and even a Monte Cristo sandwich.

Like most issues at Disney World, there’s extra to the story than what you see on the floor

“There’s a backstory to each meals merchandise for the fiftieth anniversary,” Thrash mentioned. “At first, we’re a storytelling firm. We’re all about that and we wish to guarantee that we’re being true to who we’re.”

The aforementioned Monte Cristo was truly an opening-day merchandise served on the City Sq. Cafe (now Tony’s City Sq. Restaurant). Thrash’s workforce is aware of that each visitor who visits the park will not know that backstory, so the iridescent powder served as a extra apparent tie-in to the fiftieth anniversary that can provide the brand new menu gadgets a bit of further aptitude.

Tarah Chieffi's child stirring the drink.

While you stir within the colourful dice that comes with the EARidescent Sip-a-Bration drink, the fruit-flavored lemonade begins to shimmer and alter colours.

Tarah Chieffi

One other excellent instance are the Firehouse Doughnuts served at Tony’s City Sq.. “The story behind that dish is, it is themed to the fireplace engine on Essential Road which you can see throughout the best way on the Essential Road Fireplace Station,” Thrash mentioned.

To weave in these historic particulars, Thrash has executed loads of analysis over the previous few years. She’s dug into gadgets from the Walt Disney Archives and even gone on backstage excursions on the parks. 

The author, Tarah Chieffi, wearing blue and gold mouse ears and holding the white sundae.

I needed to attempt the Uncle Orville Nice Massive Lovely Tomorrow Sundae at Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies as a result of it got here in a bath.

Tarah Chieffi

“I am an enormous historical past buff,” she mentioned, “so having the ability to look by the archives and skim concerning the historical past was wonderful.”

Subsequent time I dine at Disney World, I am going to take a look at my meals in a complete new means

Understanding the thought and care that goes into creating new Disney World dishes, I am certain I will be serious about all the pieces I’ve realized earlier than I take a chunk. After snapping a photograph for Instagram, in fact.

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