Disney Culinary Program Spotlight: Sarah, Guest Experience Manager – Food & Beverage

Ever thought about a career in the kitchen? The Disney Culinary Program might be for you! To give you a taste of what working in a Disney kitchen is like, I spoke with Sarah who completed the Disney Culinary Program in 2010 as a sophomore studying at Johnson and Wales University. Currently a Food and Beverage Guest Experience Manager at Magic Kingdom Park, Sarah talked to me about how the Culinary Program helped launch her Disney career:

Why did you decide to participate in the Disney Culinary Program, as opposed to one of the many other culinary programs offered?

There were many options for companies I could interview with for an internship opportunity, but Disney offered the hands-on learning in the kitchen, a paid internship, and I knew no matter where my career led, the Disney name would look great on my résumé. I had always dreamed of working for Disney one day and loved going to the parks, so that was just a cherry on top!

What was your role and responsibilities?

My role was a Cook 2, and I actually got to work both at a table service restaurant, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, and for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. At Akershus, I started off working our backstage buffet prep making trays of meats, cheese and fruits. Once I mastered that, I was trained to work our pantry and dessert stations and worked my way up to being trained on the hot line.

During the Epcot International FoodandWine Festival, I had the opportunity to work in seven different “countries”: Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Poland and Brazil. I experienced cooking onstage in the kiosks in a guest-facing role. I also got to be a runner and travel all across our zone bringing ingredients and supplies to the kiosks to be prepared.

How did completing the Disney Culinary Program help you achieve your career and/or education goals?

The Disney Culinary Program satisfied the internship portion of my degree. I actually earned 13.5 credit hours for the time I worked at Walt Disney World Resort. Additionally, the program is a great résumé builder that actually exceeded my expectations for how it would springboard my career. It is because of the Disney Culinary Program that I learned about other opportunities in the company. For example, after I graduated college, I did a Disney College Program and then a Disney Professional Internship which then led me to full-time role. The program was definitely a great start to my career!

What were some of your biggest learnings during your program?

The program was a great opportunity to develop and hone my culinary skills; however, my greatest learnings were not physical skills like plating and knife cuts. I left with a lot of transferable skills like time management, effective communication and awareness of the bigger picture, all while delivering great guest service.

What advice would you give to students participating in the Disney Culinary Program?

To someone who is just starting their learning journey I would say, remember why you applied, work hard, but also take time to play as a guest. Push yourself out of your comfort zone; even as challenging as it may be to learn a new station in the kitchen, you will be proud to look back and see all the progress you made. Also, get to know your fellow cast members. Learn from them, as they have a lot of great experience to offer. Remember that whether you are planning to pursue a career with Disney or you are here just for a short time, always leave a good impression!