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How Disney has used food to elevate its theme parks

A sample of cocktails available onboard the Halcyon.

From Dole Whip to Blue Milk: How Disney has used food to elevate its theme parks

Thrill-seekers of all ages are excited to return to theme parks, but gravity-defying rides and immersive attractions aren’t the sole things they need an appetite for.

In the last 20 years , food and beverage offerings became an increasingly important a part of the amusements business. and therefore the Disney Co. is that the one that’s led the charge in delivering innovative and delicious meals, snacks and drinks to parkgoers.

For decades, Disney has pushed the boundaries of food and beverage innovation, developing unique park favorites like Mickey Mouse-shaped frozen dessert bars and pretzels also as Dole Whips and themed candied apples and cookies.

“Rides and attractions are the amount one, then food and beverage are really neck and neck with why people attend the parks,” Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Parks Services, said. “It’s just a fact. And what parks have seized on within the last 20 years is building their new attractions around areas that provide food and beverage.”

Disney has taken this a step further with its new Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience. Unlike its themed lands like Pandora, Galaxy’s Edge and Avenger’s Campus, the Halcyon may be a two-day immersive experience. Guests aren’t strolling certain a bite or a drink, they’re living a Star Wars story for 48 hours.

That means chef Brian Piasecki and his team had to make an all-inclusive program of food that might be delivered to guests over the course of two days.

Onboard the Halcyon, Disney is showcasing a number of its more ambitious and delectable food and beverage creations.

Piasecki worked to make dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner that were accessible to guests, but also upscale. The lunch buffets, for instance , feature familiar dishes, like grilled cheese and tomato soup, spread and jelly sandwiches, and salads, but with a distinctly Star Wars spin.

The food trays, which are used for the breakfast and lunch buffets, are uniquely shaped with three rectangular depressions in order that dishes can slide into place snugly and not move when being carried into the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, the most eating hall onboard the Halcyon. they need a definite sci-fi aesthetic, but also are incredibly functional, especially for those that want to undertake a touch little bit of everything.

“It’s so important to the experience and it’s something that’s really under the microscope now in our industry,” Speigel said. “Everybody is watching ways to enhance and that’s quality, service, style, plating, everything. i feel that’s getting to be with us forever now.”

A history of innovation

While Disney has long used food design as how of elevating its traditional fare, it entered a replacement phase of innovation in 2017 when it launched its amusement park land supported the earth Pandora from James Cameron’s film “Avatar.”

With this new land, Disney had the chance to make its own cuisine. It wasn’t translating foreign dishes and recreating them at Epcot, it had been taking inspiration from a movie about an alien planet. Chefs used spices found in Argentinian, Brazilian and Chinese cooking to bring a definite flavor profile to its food.

“It expands the experience,” said Bill Coan, president and CEO of iTEC Entertainment. “Disney is playing this out and playing it up to advance the visitor experience and at an equivalent time generate incremental revenue.”

Guests tend to be less stringent about their diets while on vacation and can prefer to try menu items that they can’t get anywhere else, Coan said.

At Satu’li Canteen, guests make their own grain bowls, choosing between a base of quinoa and vegetable salad, red and sweet potato hash, mixed whole grain and rice or romaine and kale salad. Then they add either grilled chicken, roasted beef, shrimp or chili-spiced tofu on top also as a spread of dressing options.

The menu also features “pods,” better referred to as bao buns. Inside these steamed buns is either a cheeseburger or vegetable curry.

The culinary team also designed unique desserts for the themed land. there’s a blueberry cheese mouse with edible fruit curd and a cake with crunchy cookie crumbs and banana cream topping

Each has been designed to possess an out-of-this-world look that’s both appetizing and photographable. Instagram has become an area for parkgoers to share their food experience at the parks with others and to urge ideas of what they ought to try within the future.

Pandora also has an array of alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks available from Pongu Pongu, a themed Tiki bar located near the canteen.

Taste a galaxy far, far away

Disney continued this innovation when it opened its two Galaxy’s Edge locations, one in Florida and one in California, in 2019.

The main dining location is Docking Bay 7. Here guests can sample the Braised Shaak Roast (beef with pasta) or the Felucian Garden Spread (vegan meatballs with hummus), among other items.

There’s also Ronto Roasters, which is home to the famed Ronto Wrap. It’s a grilled sausage and roasted pork wrap with a spicy slaw. confirm you’ve got a drink if you opt to bite into this one, it’s got a kick.

If you’re within the California park, you’ll wash it down with a glass of Phattro from the Docking Bay. It’s a play on a half lemonade, half ice tea drink and features a touch of pear juice.

Oga’s Cantina may be a place for Star Wars fans to embrace their inner scoundrel. Here, guests can order alcoholic drinks that are both familiar and foreign with names like Fuzzy Tauntaun, Jedi Mind Trick and Bloody Rancor.

Those looking to skip the booze can try mixed drinks just like the Carbon Freeze and therefore the Hyperdrive, which feature fruit juices, popping pearls and solid .

Reservations for Oga’s refill quickly and sometimes purchasable specialty drink mugs are out of stock.

″[Disney] understands that if you are doing it and you are doing it right, the theming and therefore the quality of what you’re serving, the guests will pip out ,” Speigel said

Additionally, throughout the themed land parkgoers can buy special bottles of Coca-Cola products. The beverage company worked with Disney to make stylized Coke, Sprite and Dasani bottles that fit into the planet of Batuu. The sodas are like thermal detonators from the Star Wars films and have the name of every brand in Aurebesh, the fictional language of Star Wars.

Down to Earth food

For Disneyland’s Avengers Campus, which opened in 2021, the amusement park was faced with a replacement challenge — innovating traditional American food.

Disney’s culinary team decided to lean into its superhero theme and believe Ant-Man and therefore the Wasp to make unique menu items.

The main area within Avengers Campus is named Pym Test Kitchen. Here, scientists use growing and shrinking technology to form monstrously large and surprisingly small creations. Guests can enjoy chicken sandwiches with massive chicken patties, spaghetti and meatballs with one large meatball, and soft pretzels that are the dimensions of a head, among other items.

Next door is Pym Tasting Lab, an area for adults to enjoy craft beers and signature cocktails. The mixologists play with flavor, offering a spread of ingredients that range from habanero and mango to lemon and vanilla.

There are two food carts. the primary is Shawarma Palace, a nod to the long-lasting mid-credits scene from “The Avengers.”

The other is named Terran Treats. This booth is found near the Guardians of the Galaxy ride and features items that play on traditional human foods. Circular rainbow churros and bright purple cream puffs are just a couple of of the delicacies available.

Venturing back to space

In creating the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience, Disney took everything it had learned from Pandora, Galaxy’s Edge and Avengers Campus and set the bar higher.

As a part of the entire cost of the two-day experience, all meals are included. So for breakfast and lunch, guests are treated to buffet-style meals. they will pick and choose between a dozen approximately options and eat the maximum amount , or as little, as they need .

“It fills you up and you’ve got fun eating it,” Speigel said.

The dining room is provided with a standard soda fountain also as free Blue Milk and Green Milk, which is featured within the Galaxy’s Edge park land. Special alcoholic beverages are the sole menu items that require to be purchased separately.

For dinner, there’s a group menu. And on the primary night on board the Halcyon, dinner comes with a show. While guests are enjoying colorful bao buns and noodles, the galactic songstress Gaya begins her performance, a mixture of pop, jazz, and rhythm and blues.

Chef Piasecki acknowledged that the different-colored bao buns reflect the colours in Gaya’s outfit.

The second course was served family style at each table and consisted of Bantha tenderloin , Tip Yip Chicken, Stewed Shrimp, Green Herbed Fluffy Rice and Surabat Spiced Flora.

The beef tenderloin was glazed with tamarind and came alongside potatoes, the chicken was glazed in bourbon and lightly fried, the shrimp was cooked with lemon grass and served with coconut-lime foam, the rice was cooked with herbs and therefore the “flora” was vegetables roasted with Harissa spice.

Dinner on the second night was a “taste of the galaxy,” featuring dishes supported different planets within the Star Wars universe. it had been during this meal that Disney’s culinary prowess was on full display.

Each course was served simultaneously, with dozens of crew members descending into the dining room directly to deliver plates. There was a dish of cheeses and bread, inspired by the molten planet Mustafar; blue shrimp from the jungles of Felucia that arrives billowing in cool smoke; and a beef and seafood plate drawn from the Wookie home world of Kashyyyk.

The Galactic Starcruiser does produce other options on its menu for those with less adventurous palates or dietary restrictions.

Alcoholic beverages are often purchased within the Crown of Corellia Dining Room also as at the Sublight Lounge. Guests will recognize many of the signature cocktails, as they’re supported traditional drinks, but they need been elevated.

The Hoth Icebreaker, for instance , is like a hard candy martini but is served during a unique glass, colored blue and features a vanilla and lemon foam also as an isomalt sugar garnish.

“What Disney has through with the starcruiser which menu and what they’re putting out, i feel which will trickle down in many, many various ways throughout the entire industry,” Speigel said.