Is Disney World for folks with discerning palates? Once considered the ultimate playground for wide-eyed youngsters longing for a handshake from Mickey and a ride in a teacup, Disney World is growing up to become a major culinary destination for serious eaters. Here to prove it are six women who are making a tasteful mark on the Magic Kingdom's kitchens, women we like to call the Disney Divas.
Our gang of chefs bears an impressive roster of talents, with backgrounds and histories that can easily vie with all the diversity of Epcot. Anette Grecchi, a native of Lucerne, spent her youth working in Swiss resorts before striking out into the world at places including Ciel Bleu at the Mayfair Regent Hotel in Chicago, the Sheraton Darwin Hotel in Australia, and a host of hotel restaurants in Bangkok and Singapore. Grecchi's Disney tenure was launched at the Disneyland Hotel of Disneyland, Paris, where she was opening chef. Now at Narcoossee's, she prepares sophisticated fare for the adult in us all.
Marie Grimm began her career working as a bus girl in a local restaurant in her Ohio hometown. A true Disneyite, she started her formal training with a Disney culinary apprenticeship. Now the top toque at Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, Grimm has garnered grown-up praise for her elegant American cuisine, including a "top ten" restaurant rating by Zagat as one of the best restaurants in America, and the number one restaurant in Orlando.
Marianne Hunnel spent most of her childhood tooling around her family's kitchen, and at age 14 she fibbed about her age so she could work at a local steakhouse. Hunnel's culinary style has earned her the executive spot at the Prime Time Cafe at Disney-MGM Studios. Exploring a complex range of cuisines, Hunnel takes advantage of Florida's freshest produce and seafood to create menus that resonate with the glorious flavors of the Sunshine State. A love of baking lured Kelly Smith to the kitchen, and now this accomplished baker indulges visitors and their sweet tooths at Disney's Boardwalk Bakery. Celina Rodriguez Tio spent her after-school hours watching Julia Child reruns. After honing her skills at The Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia, this Pennsylvania native made her way to Disney's Spoodles, and then to Cítrico's at Disney's Grand Floridian. Christine Weissman came to Disney via Germany, where she gained her earliest experience in her family's restaurant. After working her way through a number of German restaurants and hotels, Weissman put in a stint at Cellar in the Sky and then at Disneyland, Paris, before firing up the stoves in Seasons, at the Disney Institute. Join these kitchen divas for some serious fun in Beard's kitchen.
Grilled Black Mission Figs with Prosciutto on Rosemary Skewers
Ahi Tuna Tartare with Sweet Potato Chip and Wasabi Yogurt
Kelly Smith, Christine Weissman, and Anette Grecchi