A Dutchman in Orlando – Part 5: Epcot Food & Wine Festival

By Sam Vlas

Welcome back dear Disney Avenue pedestrians to another appetizing installment of A Dutchman in Orlando. This time, we’ll talk about my experiences working at one of my personal favorite things: the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, more commonly referred to as “Binge Fest”… at least for me! Continue after the page break for the next course of my adventures in the Disney College Program…

The day is Anno Domini August 28th in the good year 2014. The sun was shining as bright as ever, the heat index was just over 110 degrees and I just walked in for the day. I was putting away my stuff, when I stumbled upon a form on the pin board:

“If you are interested in working at the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, please sign up here!”

You have to know that of all the Walt Disney World parks, EPCOT has to be my second favorite, right after Magic Kingdom. So the opportunity to swap the Studio’s temporarily for such an exciting place like EPCOT was a no-brainer for me. So I signed up and didn’t think much about it after that. A week passes and I log onto The HUB (the cast member portal) and I see in my schedule that EPCOT showed up: a park orientation and about a week of F&B training. I was beyond excited! Finally, this was my chance to work in EPCOT.

The old Wonders of Life pavilion
 
 
 
The first day of my training was upon me and it was time to take a different bus, the C-bus (thank goodness) to EPCOT Cast Services. First, it was time to pick up my costume. You’ve probably seen this costume before: the shirt with the flag pattern and the white pants. It’s a nice costume, heck, anything is better than the Pizzafari-costume! I was issued a locker and put my stuff there. The locker was right next to the Hairport, a cast member serving barbershop; I’m not making this up.
 
I learned that I was going to work in the Red Zone. For the record, Food & Wine operates as three zones. You have the Blue Zone (roughly from Mexico to China), the Yellow Zone (from Germany to France) and the Red Zone (from the United Kingdom to the World Showcase Promenade). I was excited about that, since many of my favorites were in the Red Zone and a novelty for 2014 was taking place in this zone: EPCOT Late Night Live, an extended VIP-party with musicians, theatre acts and specialty drinks.
 
It was time for the training. What kind of training, you ask? Well, you’re dealing with all different kinds of food, so a bit of food safety standards is in order. Also, how to hook up kegs of beer to drafts, how to uncork wine bottles and how to open champagne bottles. All very delicate stuff, but a lot of fun. Now Disney and EPCOT fans may love this tidbit, the training took place in the old Wonders of Life pavilion; the former home of Body Wars and Cranium Command. It is a huge space and during the actual festival home to the Festival Center. It was during that day that we also received our Cast Member-exclusive cap which I still have! We also got a tour of the entire (!) Festival with head chef of EPCOT, Chef Jens from Germany. A really nice guy and really passionate about food.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The festival started September 18th and we were immediately put to work. The first day I was stationed at the Hawaii stand, which was awesome and hectic, and the two days after that at Greece (where, I’ll admit, I shouted Opa! way to many times). But the rest of my first two weeks were spent working at the Terra marketplace: the all-vegetarian stand. This is the least busiest stand of all of Food & Wine, so there were many times I was just staring at the World Showcase lagoon doing nothing. For some reason, people seemed scared to try all vegetarian stuff, even though we had some amazing things on the menu: (vegetarian) chicken breast with gumbo, (vegetarian) crab cake with coleslaw, watermelon juice and even vegan beers and wines!
 
It’s a fun stand to work at if you can fool people a little bit. One thing I learned while working at Disney: people don’t read. So there were times where people didn’t know Terra was a vegetarian stand, so I played a long with their unknowingness. I’d give out the food and urge them to try it right at the counter. They’d try and then say to me: “oh my god, this is one of the best chicken breasts I ever had!” Then I would laugh quietly and lean over the counter and say to the person: “what if I told you this wasn’t real chicken?” The look on their faces was priceless!
 
I would often get in early on the day, before World Showcase opens. There’s nothing like walking through an empty World Showcase, believe me. The music and the quaintness is unmatched anywhere else in Disney.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Most of my time, however, was spent working at the Canada marketplace. The change couldn’t be any bigger: this is by far the busiest stand of all of Food & Wine!!! This is the only marketplace themed to one of the pavilions that isn’t operated by the actual people from the pavilion. We had some amazing things on the menu: filet mignon from Le Cellier, seared rainbow trout and, all-time favorite, the cheddar cheese soup with bacon bits. Because of all this goodness, the lines extended way into the actual pavilion! One benefit of that: time flies by really fast. But, again, I like to mess with people so I invented a new game, once again playing on the fact that people don’t read: “How Many People Can Sam From The Netherlands Convince That He’s From Quebec By Putting On A Horrible French Accent.” The answer: 8 people in about an hour!
 
Working Late Night Live was awesome too. Many times we would be overstaffed, so my manager would instruct me to (and I kid you not) “dance with the guests until your shift ends”. No joke! Can you imagine how awesome that is! The fun thing of working late night is how many drunken people you encounter. Drinking Around The World is a popular thing and I would deal with people who couldn’t stand anymore almost every day.
 
 
 
Me rocking the cheddar soup station! Look at that fly costume 😉
 
 
 
EPCOT Food & Wine is an evil thing to me. It robbed me of almost 200 dollars when I came through as a guest. They made it to easy to spend money with the new wristbands they introduced that year and I fell for it every time haha. But it was also an unforgettable part of my Disney College Program experience. Seeing the Monorail glide by and waving at the people became a favorite thing of mine. Seeing IllumiNations while closing down was a privilege each and every night. Also, during this time I had a chance to see the very last performances of Off Kilter, one of my favorite EPCOT entertainment acts ever. It was an awesome time, but, again, it was time to do something else! Something completely different: Left Block Merchandise in my home park: Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s.
 
How will Sam from the Netherlands deal with Halloween, Christmas, the hat rack and millions of pins and charms? Find out next time in a sparkling installment of “A Dutchman in Orlando”. See ya real soon!
 
 
 
 
*****
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam will be participating in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he will be working in Orlando, he’ll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam’s attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!

You can find Sam’s articles here.

 
 
 
 
 


(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

A Dutchman in Orlando – Part 3

By Sam Vlas

Ahoy there travelers! Prepare to set sail, or set flight actually. In this chapter of A Dutchman in Orlando we finally board the plane on the way to the Sunshine State and the beginning of my magical journey as a International Cast Member at Walt Disney World. Let’s get this party started and continue after the page break where we left off…

A Dutchman in Orlando – My Adventures as an International Cast Member in Walt Disney World

• PART 1: The Beginnings (The Application Process, Interviews and Acceptance)
 PART 2: Packing for the Trip (+ Packing list)


PART 3: First days in the Sunshine State (Traditions, Magic Kingdom)

We departed on the 14th of July from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol first thing in the morning. It was the longest flight I’ve ever been on, but it certainly wasn’t bad. The seats were comfortable and the food was alright. Once we arrived in Detroit we had to go through the security check and then we were on our way to Orlando. A good first impression was made the first day, as it rained like crazy!

Once we finally landed in Orlando, it was off to the Radisson Blu, where we stayed the first night. It was a very nice hotel, looked very fancy as well! I shared the room with some of my fellow travelers: Ken, Kevin and Martin. We stayed here for the night and after a nice breakfast at the Waffle House (good stuff!) we were on our way to the Vista Way Welcome Center. This is where we would get our introduction into this International Program.

View from our hotel room. Pretty nice, ain’t it?

Vista Way Welcome Center

After check-in and settling into my apartment, I decided to hook up with some fellow Dutchies and head to Walmart to do some groceries. To step into a Walmart for the first time as a Dutchman is an eye-opening experience. It’s big, it’s VERY big. Literally everything is for sale there, it’s amazing.
Downtown Disney was the first real Disney part of the Resort that I experienced. Disney Traditions was scheduled for the next day, so we couldn’t go into the Parks yet. Therefore we decided to go to the “free” areas in Walt Disney World. Some shops (like the Art of Disney) are very very cool! We had dinner at Bongo’s, a Cuban style restaurant, which was delicious (and not too expensive, I might add!).

Bongo’s Cuban Café

The next day it was time for Disney Traditions, which I like to refer to as Disney Brainwash Day! We all gathered inside the Disney University, a pretty nondescript building close to West Clock, the backstage access to the Magic Kingdom. Here we got the introduction into the Walt Disney Company, the history, and our goals and values as cast members. After a very special surprise at the end (which I won’t spoil), we got our first pair of official Mickey ears and our official name tags! I was beyond excited.
The fun didn’t stop there, because we got our first backstage tour of the Magic Kingdom (yep, through the Utilidors). Then we went onstage through Central Street, and turned the corner to see Cinderella Castle for my very first time ever. Can you imagine how that moment feels!

The next day was spent, of course, in the Magic Kingdom. Exploring the Kingdom was one of those moments I’ll never forget. Believe me; I was skipping around like a 5-year-old. And then came Wishes… I was absolutely slack jawed when I first saw this show. All those memories of watching the movies when I was a kid came flashing through my head. At the very end there was pure unfiltered pixie dust oozing out of my pores.
The first week was filled with play, but work was lurking on the horizon. More on that… next time in A Dutchman in Orlando! I hope you enjoyed this installment and I’d love to see you again next time when my adventure of a lifetime continues!

********
 
 
Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam has participated in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he worked in Orlando, he’ll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam’s attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!
 
 
 

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

A Dutchman in Orlando – Part 2

By Sam Vlas

Hello Disney Avenue-pedestrians and welcome to Part 2 of A Dutchman in Orlando, where I recollect memories from my time in Walt Disney World. If you haven’t had a chance yet, please make sure to read Part 1. In this segment, I will tell you all about packing for the trip. I’m glad you tuned in and I hope you’ll have a fun and informative read. And now… ONWARD…

A Dutchman in Orlando – My Adventures as an International Cast Member in Walt Disney World

• Prelude
• PART 1: The Beginnings (The Application Process, Interviews and Acceptance)

• PART 2: Packing for the Trip (+ Packing list)
• PART 3: First days in the Sunshine State (Traditions, Magic Kingdom)
• PART 4: Role #1: Outdoor Foods at Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s
• PART 5: EPCOT Food & Wine Festival
• PART 6: Role #2: Left Block Merchandise at DHS
• PART 7: Shenanigans
• PART 8: The “other” parks
• PART 9: Reflections of Orlando
• Epilogue


PART 2

April 4th… that’s when I received that fateful email that told me my Disney adventure was about to begin. A little bit more than three months were left, a time that may seem long, but passes so quickly. Of course, a good chunk of that is dedicated to filling out paperwork that makes filing tax returns seem like Building-Your-Own-Pizza.

[BTW, this is the last part of the series that is spent at my house. For those of you waiting to go to Florida, just a little bit more patience haha.]

Once the month of July came closer, it occurred to me that I hadn’t even started packing yet. That’s an important part of preparing for a long trip. And of course, being the silly Dutch guy I am, I had NO CLUE what to pack and what not to pack. I decided to grab the bull by the horns and consult many Disney sites I regularly visit. The “Disney Tourist Blog” had a nice packing list, but that was more designed for shorter theme park trips, instead of the half-year program I was going for. Thank goodness, there were DCP Alumni blogs that had some good advice on what to pack for this trip (one was by a person who became my roommate…).

Then the actual packing could finally begin. The hardest choices are made in this part of your Experience.  I have a limited wardrobe, but I can imagine if you’re a woman, you’re gonna have a hard time here. Also, airlines are very peculiar about what you can take or not, so be very careful when packing liquids (even tooth paste: the deadliest weapon in the world).

For this article I put together a small and, I hope, comprehensive list of stuff that’s handy to pack when you go to Florida:

• Paperwork (put in a folder in your hand luggage, you’ll NEED this at the airport! Just ask Roz…)
• Summer clothes (duh!)
• Winter clothes (not much, but be prepared: it WILL get cold in Florida)
• Business clothes (for the Disney Classes and Housing formal(s))
• Laptop (best friend!)
• Anything to keep yourself busy on the way
• Camera (of course)
• Chargers

It’s really not a whole lot, because many things you will be able to buy cheaply in Orlando. Disney Housing offers bus transportation to the local Publix, Walgreens and Wal-Mart. Everything you’ll need, you can find there.

DON’T:

• Pack food (you WILL get trouble at Border Control)

Just putting it out there 😉

With everything I needed in place, my journey could finally begin. FOR REAL, THIS TIME!!!!

I hope you enjoyed Part 2! Tune in next week, when I arrive in Orlando and make my way around the first few days in Walt’s world!

************
 
 
 
 
Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam has participated in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he worked in Orlando, he’ll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam’s attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!
 
 
 



(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

A Dutchman in Orlando – Part 1

By Sam Vlas

Welcome foolish mortals to “A Dutchman in Orlando”. Now this title seems pretty straightforward, but let me explain… As some of you may know, I was an International Cast Member at Walt Disney World from July 2014 to last January. It was an awesome, educational, meaningful, emotional, fun and eye-opening experience. I meant to do this series while I was in Florida, but every minute of my spare time was spent in and around Walt Disney World. I collected enough stories to share with you guys and I hope this will help those of you who want to be a Cast Member through the Disney College Program. So, if your imagination is ready, here we go…

A Dutchman in Orlando – My Adventures as an International Cast Member in Walt Disney World

• Prelude
• PART 1: The Beginnings (The Application Process, Interviews and Acceptance)
• PART 2: Packing for the Trip (+ Packing list)
• PART 3: First days in the Sunshine State (Traditions, Magic Kingdom)
• PART 4: Role #1: Outdoor Foods at Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s
• PART 5: EPCOT Food & Wine Festival
• PART 6: Role #2: Left Block Merchandise at DHS
• PART 7: Shenanigans
• PART 8: The “other” parks
• PART 9: Reflections of Orlando
• Epilogue

PART 1

This thrilling ride began last year, in September to be exact, at my school: the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries. It was the very first class of the then newly created course “Visitor Attractions”. Our lecturer, Pieter Cornelis, just came here from the NHTV (a leisure oriented university in Breda) and we had a blast learning more about the exciting theme park industry. Pieter had already set up an exchange program with Walt Disney World while he worked at NHTV. So when the opportunity arose to create a similar program at our school, we were immediately interested. Every week we asked him about how the program was going along and, after a little while, we finally got the news that this program was going to happen.

From there on, things picked up fairly quick. Over the weeks, 15 students expressed interest in the program. All of them are very passionate people, so that couldn’t go wrong. The first big step was to apply for the Program via Yummy Jobs, which is the mediating agency between Disney and us. We had certain things to prepare (like a resume and motivation emails) for the Pre-Screening Interview, which was held January 31st of this year. It was a nerve-wrecking experience since I had never done this type of interview before. Luckily, my passion for Disney and theme parks helped me express my sincere interest in this program. Not long after that, I got the email that I passed the pre-screening interview; the first of many steps was made.

Then it was time to face the Final Boss, the people from Disney. March 24th was the date when the casting agents from Disney would arrive at our school. Everyone was very nervous; this was the only chance we had to prove that we were “worthy” of an internship at Walt’s world. We all dressed up nicely (which is a thing we should do more, it adds so much class (PUN!) to a school day) and we all went for it.

We had two interviews to go through. One was with a representative from the sponsoring school CMU (Central Michigan University) and one with Sue, a darling woman who was the casting agent for International Programs for Disney. I can guarantee you, my dear readers, that these were some of the most nerve-wrecking moments of my entire life!

After that we played the waiting game… Everybody was in doubt whether all the hard work and preparations would pay off. Around the middle of April, we finally got the mail that would change our lives… at least temporary.

And thus our epic journey to Walt’s world could finally begin. For me it were the Realms of Food & Beverage and Merchandise which would be my home the coming months. Nothing could prepare me for the journey ahead. And after many other preparations, the time had finally come. On July 14th we departed from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, headed for Orlando, Florida. Our Disney adventure finally began!

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I arrive in Florida and dive into the first days of Cast Member-ship!

*************************
 
 
 
 
Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam has participated in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he worked in Orlando, he’ll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam’s attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!





(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);