Welcome guest blogger Jess Furtado with a review of Dine with an Imagineer at the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant!
If you’ve ever wanted to learn about what goes on back stage at Walt Disney World, this is one way to do it! Dine with an Imagineer is an unique experience where you can have a 4-course lunch at one of the best restaurants on property, private time with an Imagineer, and a souvenir! Don’t worry; you’ll be able to avoid the screaming kids here because no guests under the age of 10 are allowed. Even the price is reasonable at $60 a person, so you cannot go wrong for the experience and the food! Be forewarned though, Disney will not tell you who or what kind of Imagineer will be there on any given day; it’s a surprise!
This one-of-a-kind experience begins by checking in at the lovely Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Upon checking in you receive a name tag resembling a cast members very closely, that way it’s easier for the Imagineer to learn your name. After the restaurant opened, 10 of us were led into the Bamboo room, which is a secluded room off to the side from the main dining room. The “paparazzi” was waiting for everyone to sit down to take a picture (this will come into play at the end of the meal).
Once everyone was seated, we were handed personalized menus containing the choices for our 4-course meal, your name, date, and name of the Imagineer. Our imagineer for the duration was Roberto Varela, Architectural Designer, CAD-Tech, Walt Disney Imagineering. Roberto started out introducing himself by telling us where he came from and what his story was. His career began with the Walt Disney Company after coming from Puerto Rico in 1992. He worked in a variety of roles throughout the resort and eventually graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Architecture Design and the rest is history. His main work within Walt Disney Imagineering is with resorts, restaurants, and retail locations. And just because he is located in Walt Disney World, does not mean he is limited to it, he has worked on projects at the many Disney Parks around the world. He talked about his personal life which made the experience more special because he was letting us into his personal life and not just his work. After introducing himself, he asked each one of us to tell us a little bit about ourselves and what we do.
Throughout the entire meal, he left the floor open for questions, but warned us there might be some things he could not tell us. I’ll mention a few things that stood out in my mind. He said working behind the scenes for Walt Disney World Imagineering has not caused Walt Disney World to lose its magic; as a matter of fact he visits very often on his days off with his family. He mentioned his favorite project he ever worked on was the re-imagining the Grand Emporium at Tokyo Disneyland. It stressed the fact that everything in every Disney Park has a story even though we as guests may not be able to spot every detail. Someone had mentioned about Avatarland over at Animal Kingdom, and what I thought was interesting was that he didn’t even know about it until it was mentioned to the public! So just because he works behind the scenes doesn’t mean he knows about every project!
Now where would we be without the food! While Roberto was busy answering questions (don’t worry he ate too!) our first course was the Oyster and Brie Soup, followed by the Derby’s famous Cobb Salad. We had a choice of three Entrée’s: Filet of Beef, Noodle Bowl with Chicken, or Pan-Seared Grouper. And for desert was a choice of either the Grapefruit Cake or Crème Brulee. Food was excellent and I would highly recommend the Cobb Salad any day!
This once and a lifetime experience has no time limit and before we knew it we had been there for 3 hours! As a souvenir we were handed two things: a booklet and a plate. The booklet is similar to the menu and has the famous photo the “paparazzi” took of our group, as well as a background of our imagineer. The plate we were given had the option of being signed by Roberto or not. He wrote his favorite Walt Disney quote on the plate along with his signature.
So next time you’re visiting the World and looking for something different to do, learn about what goes on behind the scenes with an Imagineer!