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“Make the movie you want to make. Tell your story.”

In a special edition of “Why For,” Jim Hill shares some excerpts from Disney’s transcripts for last month’s investors conference. Where John Lasseter talks about how he & Ed Catmull handled “Meet the Robinsons” story problems



I think that Ken K. speaks for a lot of JHM readers when he says:

Now this is more like it.

I thought that the JimHillMedia that I first fell in love with was gone for good. That I was never going to enjoy another epic-length theme park history story because you were too busy lecturing us about how the Walt Disney Company had paid far too much for Pixar or writing way too many stories about “A Christmas Carol.”

But these past couple of weeks, JHM has been great. Gone is the grouchy old bastard who went on and on and on about how “Cars” was such a disappointment. Now we’ve got a Jim Hill who says nice things about “Ratatouille,” who actually seemed excited about “WALL-E.” And your site is a much more pleasant place to visit these days because of this change.

I don’t know what it is that you’re doing differently these days, Jim. Whether Nancy’s got you on Prozac or just increased the amount of fiber in your diet. But please have her keep it up.

I do have one quibble, though. I wish that, instead of you always using unnamed sources, that you could just once tell JHM readers where you actually get some of these stories from.

Beyond that, I just want to say that it’s really nice to finally have the old Jim Hill back.

Dear Ken K.

Wow. Was I really coming across as this “grouchy old bastard”? Sorry about that, folks.

I mean, I wish I could tell you that it was something deliberate that Nancy and I did in order to lighten the mood here at JHM. But — truth be told — if you’re seeing a run of upbeat stories about the Walt Disney Company at JHM over the past few weeks … Well, that’s because it’s a fairly happy time at the Mouse House. That things seem to be on the upswing at Disney these days. And the stories that I post here on the site just reflect the change in mood that’s come over the company.

Now as to Ken K.’s question about my sources … Sorry. But I really can’t reveal any names. Many of these people that I talk with have worked for the Walt Disney Company for years now. And I’m not going to destroy someone else’s career just because some JHM reader needs to know who my sources are.

Besides, sometimes the info that I post here at JHM doesn’t come from a person. But — rather — a place. Take — for example — the Walt Disney Company’s Corporate Information web page. You’d be amazed at the sorts of truly juicy inside information that you can find by clicking on the “Investor Relations” tab.

Don’t believe me? Then let’s start by accessing this site’s “Conferences & Presentations” file, then selecting “Archive.” Here, you’ll find slides, transcripts and even MP3 files of the various presentations that senior Disney Company managers gave to investors last month.

This — to put it bluntly, folks — is the mother lode. You want to know what the Walt Disney Company is up to? More importantly, where this corporation is headed? All the information you need is right there in the Walt Disney Company Investor Conference files for February 8th & 9th.

Take — for example — these highlights from Oren Aviv’s presentation. Where the president of production for the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group talked about what the studio has planned for the next few years …


WARNING ! There be spoilers ahead! And given that I’ve taken the liberty of “borrowing” a few of the slides that were actually used in this presentation, maybe you shouldn’t scroll to the bottom of this article. Because — as this article zooms by — you may see something that you wish you hadn’t.


Anyway … Where were we? Oh, yeah. Oren Aviv’s presentation … Here’s a few highlights:

Another project that we’re very excited about is “Jungle Cruise,” where we’ll be turning another one of our well-known, pedigreed, park attractions into an epic, exciting, groundbreaking family movie. We’ve got the writers of “Spider-Man 2” currently working on the script and it will be a star-driven action-adventure centered around our fun-loving con man of a riverboat captain. Think “Pirates of the Caribbean” meets “Indiana Jones”

“Jungle Cruise” is a great example of our commitment to building franchises for the studio and for the company. And, like “Pirates,” it represents another advantage of the Disney brand in as much as we already own all of the underlying rights to this very popular entertainment property.

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Another potential franchise is called “Prince of Persia,” produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Based on one of the longest-running and most successful video game series of all times, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” will become an epic, sprawling adventure from Walt Disney Pictures. This artwork represents the spectacular look that we’re going for in the film.

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. 

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

One of the other highlights of the Walt Disney Studios presentation was when John Lasseter & Ed Catmull got up to tell these investors about what was in the production pipeline for Walt Disney Feature Animation & Pixar Animation Studios. And John led off with this great story about how …

 … the day after the announcement of the merging of the two studios, Ed and I walked in the Disney Animation Studios, and there we got to meet all of the artists. And each of the directors took us through all the films, and the one director, the young guy named Steve Anderson, was directing this movie called “Meet the Robinsons,” which was the next motion picture that’s coming out from Disney Animation Studios. And he talked about this story, which is about a boy who is given up for adoption and he always wondered why. Why did his mom give him up?

And, as he told this story, Steve mentioned, “I’m adopted.” And his personal story touched me so deeply that when I finally saw the movie, which, by the way, I have to say, it was about 80% finished when Ed and I walked into that studio. I looked at it and it was like the film didn’t have in it what Steve’s personal story had.

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

His personal story story brought me to tears, right, and I thought, ah, this feels like it’s had too many cooks trying to stir this soup. So we gave him a lot of notes, some really strong notes. We were very honest with him about the movie, but then I gave it back to him. I said, Steve, make the movie you want to make. Tell your story.

And he came back with changes to this film, minor changes, but it made all the difference in the world, and this movie about Lewis, the main character Lewis, who is focusing on the past, and he’s wondering, why did his mom give me up? And he wants to focus on his past, but this focus actually takes him to the future, where he meets this amazing, crazy, wonderful, appealing group of characters that actually turns out to be his future family.

And he learns through this experience to look forward in life, not to look back. And this story, it’s Steve’s story.

We’re really excited about this. I’m very, very proud of the film and what Steve and his crew have done. The film is really beautiful too. They have a stylization in this film that is really striking.

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

The next movie coming out after “Meet the Robinsons,” from Walt Disney Animation Studios, is “American Dog.” “American Dog” is being directed by Chris Williams, a very talented young filmmaker at Disney. And this film is about a dog named Bolt. Bolt is owned by a little girl whose father is this incredible scientist.

Now, to protect the little girl, he gives the dog superpowers, but the dad is kidnapped by these bad guys, and the little girl and the dog — and the dog is protecting her by fighting off the bad guys with his superpowers, and for 10 years they search for the father and battle the bad guys.

But all this is actually a TV show. You see, Bolt is the star of the most popular television show and it’s been running for 10 seasons, but he thinks this is real. He lives on the soundstage and that’s all he knows, so all of this is real to him. In one unfortunate incident, he falls into a box and he’s shipped from his home on the soundstage to New York City and he comes out of it and he thinks it’s all part of his life, where he has superpowers. But he is in the real world and nothing works like he thinks.

It’s crazy, and he’s trying to figure out what the heck is going on with the help of this crazy alley cat and this super fan hamster who is always in his hamster ball. He’s trying to figure out what’s going on and then he realizes that he is just an actor on a TV show, that his entire life, 10 years of his short life, has been spent being a fake, that he is not really what he thinks he is. It crushes him, but, really, he learns what it is to be a true dog. And it’s a very heartwarming story.

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

And one of the things, we’ve done a lot of research and development for this film, because computer animation always likes to make things look clean and perfect. Ed (Catmull) and I have been working our entire careers in computer animation trying to manhandle this computer and this technology to make things look organic, to look lived in, to have a sense of history that our natural world has, so it doesn’t look perfect and clean.

But the one thing that we’ve never been able to do is achieve the beauty and the softness that you see in the backgrounds of classic Disney animated film. We wondered why. We set out to do some research at Disney to figure out if can we take that look, that beautiful look of those hand-painted backgrounds and see if we could do it in computer animation. And we solved it.

How beautiful this imagery is going to be. There’s a softness to this, a look that no one’s ever seen before. So this is the look that we’re going to use in “American Dog” and we’re really, really excited about this. And Chris Williams is a very talented filmmaker.

Then — once he finished talking about Walt Disney Feature Animation’s future projects — John moved on what Pixar had in its production pipeline. And after talking a bit about “Ratatouille,” Lasseter then began discussing “WALL E.”

After “Ratatouille,” the next film coming out from Pixar is being written and directed by Andrew Stanton, who created “Finding Nemo.” He is taking his wetsuit off and putting his spacesuit on and taking you into outer space for “WALL-E.”

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

“WALL-E” is the story about the last little robot on Earth. He is a robot that his programming was to help clean up. You see, it’s set way in the future. Through consumerism, rampant, unchecked consumerism, the Earth was covered with trash. And to clean up, everyone had to leave Earth and set in place millions of these little robots that went around to clean up the trash and make Earth habitable again.

Well, the cleanup program failed with the exception of this one little robot and he’s left on Earth doing his duty alone. But it’s not a story about science fiction. It’s a love story, because, you see, WALL-E falls in love with [Eve], a robot from a probe that comes down to check on Earth, and she’s left there to check on and see how things are going and he absolutely falls in love with her.

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

And he follows her back up to her main spaceship, and you see a vision of the space and the future in this movie like you’ve never seen before. It is really spectacular. But with all Pixar films, one of the things we pride ourselves in, not only a great story, but the characters, memorable, appealing characters and these little robot characters that help WALL-E and Eve, these rejected, defective little robots, are the most charming group of characters we have ever created.

You see? These are the sorts of things that you can find while poking around in those supposedly dry & boring corporate reports.

I mean, I would have never known that the final trailer for “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” was going to have an unprecedented global launch later this month, debuting simultaneously on dozens of network & cable channels if I hadn’t spent the past week reading through all of those transcripts of last month’s investors conference.

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Speaking of “At World’s End,” I’m actually going to be talking about the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise as part of the debut of Nathan Rose & Tim Devine’s new Magical Definition Podcast. Which is supposed to go live this coming Sunday night at 8 p.m. EST. So if you’d like to hear what Nathan & I have to say about the problems that the Walt Disney Company appears to be having with their “Pirates” franchise, you may want to give a listen to that podcast.

Oops. Did I say “problems” ? That sounds like the old grouchy Jim is rearing his ugly head again. Maybe I should have Nancy bring me another heaping bowel of Prozac & Fiber.

Anywho … That’s it for this week, folks. Here’s hoping that you have a great weekend. And hopefully, we’ll see you all again come Monday morning.

Til then, you take care, okay?


Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling



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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont



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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage



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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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