Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dine with an Imagineer - dining experience at the Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney's Hollywood Studios

There are a number of special dining events at Disney world (the Wishes Dessert party for example) - but one of the most difficult to reserve is the "Dine with an Imagineer" experience.  It's difficult because it's not held every day - right now it's just Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  It's also only at one place (right now - for lunch at Hollywood Studios - but sometimes during the busier months, they do early dinners at the Flying Fish by the Boardwalk).  And.  There are only 8 guests.  Elusive is putting it mildly.
My 14 year old daughter Katie not only wants to be an engineer - she wants to be a Disney Imagineer!  So.  I thought this would be the perfect middle school graduation gift for her.  Only to find that every opportunity on our almost 2 week trip was full.  I even looked at staying longer.  Or even changing our dates just to do this experience!  (And no, my "clout" as a travel agent did nothing for me!)  But.  I was quite persistent.   Checking almost daily for two months.  Yes.  Two months!  And finally.  My tenacity paid off, and I managed to get lucky.  I wonder how many minutes after someone released their reservation was I able to snatch it up?!

And then, I was so excited that I got the reservation, my whooping and hollering did not allow it to be a surprise graduation gift.

We planned our day with much glee.  We spent the morning as a family at Hollywood Studios.  We rode Toy Story Mania.  We rode Rock 'n Roller Coaster.  We drew some characters.  And when our time was drawing near, my younger daughter and my husband embarked on their own adventure of conquering all four parks in one day.

When we checked into the Brown Derby we were each given personalized name tags (you can see my excited graduate with hers here)

and as soon as everyone had arrived, we were escorted as a group to the private "Bamboo room" in the back of the Derby.  (If you ever eat at Starring Rolls - the Bamboo room is behind those blinds by the outside tables!)

We were each given personalized menus.  There was a soup and a salad course.  Then we had three options to pick from for our entrees and two options for dessert.

While we perused the menu, our imagineer introduced herself to us: Cathy Carver, the principal interior designer for Walt Disney Imagineering.  Initially I was concerned that Katie might be bored - she really, really wanted to meet someone that designed rides - but I think she was quite taken with some of Cathy's projects.

Let me tell you some of what she has done:  She designed the Cinderella castle suite for the "year of a million dreams celebration" - and when she was given the task, they had to accomplish it in record breaking time of only 6 weeks!  After hearing that she designed the suite, I just knew she had to be responsible for the rooms we were staying in at Port Orleans - the Royal Rooms - and she confirmed that she also designed those.  She designed the room we were using for the lunch - the Bamboo room; she did the main building at Kidani village and the Sanaa restaurant; Captain Cooks at the Polynesian; the Emporium on Main Street; and many more projects.

She also had a hand in the new "Be our Guest" restaurant that will be opening as part of the Fantasy Land expansion - but she was very very closed lipped on any details about it!

While she told stories and answered questions, we had our amazing lunch.

Everyone started with the Asparagus soup with jumbo lump crab:

I wasn't too sure about this.  I like asparagus.  But I only like it grilled - not mushy.  But this was fantastic.

Next was the classic - the Cobb Salad.  The presentation for this is gorgeous!

Katie said this was the best salad that she had ever had.  I thought it was great - except that I wish I had read carefully and asked for it without bleu cheese.

Next up was our entrees.  I had the: "filet of beef glazed with a red wine reduction topped with a cabernet and roasted shallot butter over white truffle forest mushroom whipped potatoes."

Again - absolutely delicious!

Katie ordered the: "Coriander-dusted grouper, cauliflower risotto, pea tendrils, crunchy sunchokes, and a yellow tomato coulis."

Katie's reason for ordering this was she wanted to get something different from me (I have trained my girl well - we could both try each - and we could share more information with you!) - and she LOVES risotto.  She really liked her meal!

And finally, it was time for dessert.  I decided to try the Derby's specialty of the Grapefruit cake

and it was okay.  I am not a fan of grapefruit - and it has a very strong grapefruit taste.  But I am so glad that I tried it.

Katie got the vanilla creme brulee with dark chocolate dipped biscotti - which she deemed perfect - but was way too full to finish.

Now let me say just a few words about the service.  We go out to eat.  We go out to eat a lot at Disney.  I have had fantastic service both at Disney and at home.  But I don't think I've ever had the caliber of service that we had in the Bamboo room.  It was completely impeccable - and I can see why our servers were chosen to help out with this experience.

As our dining experience ended, we were each presented with a small plate that was signed and personalized by Cathy Carver.

We LOVED our "Dine with an Imagineer" experience - fantastic talk with Cathy Carver, amazing food, superb service!

So...what about you?  What kind of imagineer would you like to meet?  For more Disney related posts, be sure to check out Deb's Focused on the Magic!


  1. Looks like a great time with some amazing food!

  2. Looks fabulous!! Thanks for sharing this :)

  3. Wow what a fabulous experience!! Loved reading about it and someday I'll try it as long as it's at the Brown Derby;)
    Thanks so much for sharing and for joining in on the Disney Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop fun!

  4. That sounded like such fun. My daughter to wants to be an Imagineer. I'm going to be booking it she will love it, Thanks for the tips..

  5. That sounds awesome! She is lucky to have such a persistent mother. :D

  6. Well, if you also rode Star Tours and saw Fantasmic that night, I'd say sounds like My Perfect Dream Day at Hollywood Studios!

    (I'm not so sure about that purple cauliflower, though?? ;)

  7. I am so glad I ate dinner already because your mouth watering pictures are so ready to eat. What a wonderful experience and how cool to have Cathy Carver's job.

  8. We have never been able to fit in this experience, but it sounds wonderful! (Just the name tag alone would be worth the price!!) Thanks for sharing the details.

  9. You get major brownie points for scoring this experience for you guys! Forget the food...I would LOVE to sit down with an Imagineer and hear about the things they've worked on. Ashlyn & I watched an episode of HGTV "My House Goes Disney" and she got her first lesson on what an Imagineer does. I hope her love of inventing and building continues so she'll be interested in an experience like this in about 6 years!

  10. Your persistence paid off! What a cool experience, must have been fascinating talking to Cathy.

  11. And now you know why the Brown Derby is my very favorite restaurant on property. (And I dream of the Cobb Salad.)

    I'd never be able to dine with an Imagineer...would want to ask a bojillion questions & would have to stifle myself and that's nearly IMPOSSIBLE. Great grad gift for Katie, though--so glad y'all were able to have that experience.


Thanks so much for saying "hello!" I like to know that I am not talking to myself :-)