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The Once and Future Strikes : Hollywood Labor Relations 101

Not quite sure what to make of what’s going out west right now? Let JHM guest writer John Wayne walk you through LA’s latest labor action



The headlines seem never to end: “Producers make final offer,” “Industry Braces for Possible Walkout,” “Strike Threatens to Bring Hollywood to a standstill.” etc. etc. etc. And for the past year or two right up to this week, the situation looks pretty grim in the “dream factory” here in LA-LA-Land.

And I was thinking …maybe you (who, unlike me, are NOT inside this industry and have only the fan press and TV entertainment nonsense reporting to give you clues) would like to know a little bit more about “Why For?” So here we go:

Though there are unions and guilds (never mind the distinction between ’em. That’s next semester, okay?) that cover everything that can be done on or around the set of a movie, there are basically FIVE major ones that we need to pay attention to:

  • The Director’s Guild of America (DGA — Which covers Directors, Assistant Directors, Unit Production Managers, Associate Directors, Stage Managers, Production Assistants in live TV and Location Managers in the NY area)

  • The Writer’s Guild of America (East and West — WGAE/WGAW, but basically the same club. The DGA has offices in NYC and L.A. too, but just doesn’t distinguish the names of the sub-groups that way)

  • The Screen Actors Guild (SAG — ONE of the TWO actors unions — the much larger one dealing more with filmed and pre-recorded material … sorta)

  • The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA — the OTHER actor’s union — smaller, and more about live media, news personalities, variety shows, but often overlapping into SAG territory and often actors belong to BOTH)

  • The International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E., or “The IA” as it is known-really an ALLIANCE of all the various craft and “below the line” folks such as camera, lighting, grip, sound, prop, costume, makeup, and other technical people who get the show down on film/tape/bytes etc. etc. etc.

THESE folks have contracts which specify their MINIMUM wages (“stars” and their agents and lawyers can always negotiate MORE, of course,) working conditions, rights, procedures to adjudicate violations, pension and health and welfare plans, safety issues, and a host of other particulars of the workplace. And these contracts are negotiated/updated/reformed every three years — though not all together. They are staggered over various years so that not EVERYbody is fighting at once – -partially to avoid utter chaos and mostly because while there are FIVE groups above (and sub-negotiations within them-different contracts, for example in the DGA, for filmed entertainment, live and tape, network vs. non-network shows, etc. etc.) they are all talking to ONE entity on the other side of the table which can only meet with them individually.

THAT side of the game is the Alliance Of Motion Picture and Television Producers AKA the AMPTP. (NOT to be confused with its other incarnation as the Motion Picture Association of America –the lobbying group for the producers more like a trade association than a negotiating body but made up of the same major companies, nor with the various Academies that give out Oscars, Emmys etc. etc.)

So … Once upon a time, every three years or so, within a few months or weeks of the expiration of the current contract, the two sides (AMPTP and ONE or more of the various unions/guilds-whoever’s contract was up next) would schedule meetings to negotiate a new deal, usually leaving a lot of the old one intact and just updating as needed the things that changes in production techniques necessitated, experiences during the three years that needed clarifying, and, of course, increases in wages and other payments.

Once an agreement is hammered out in a highly sophisticated form of horse trading mostly behind closed doors (I’ve been there/done that BTW on many occasions), the finished agreement that the union/guild representatives endorse is then presented to the full membership of the body for “ratification” — a majority membership vote up or down, which, of course, the leaders tell their members they SHOULD endorse and vote up. IF they do not vote yes OR if the negotiation reaches an impasse and there’s no deal to approve or disapprove of, the union/guild leaders will, instead, ask their members to vote on a “strike authorization” — to give them the ultimate card to play in the negotiations — the threat to shut the industry down.

But here’s the problem: IF a studio begins production on a film or TV show close to the date of the end of the contract and IF there is NO agreement or if it looks like there might be a fly in the negotiation ointment, then producers are reticent to START anything because it costs SO much more to STOP in the middle and then have to re-start — not to mention the much bigger financial cost of simply stopping and NEVER re-starting a movie or show and having to throw away all the funds already spent. Let’s remember that the major studios are PUBLIC companies who have to answer to stockholders and regulators and must spend their money prudently … or not spend it if that makes more sense.

That’s why (a) what’s known as a “de facto” strike happens often — production slows to a crawl or stops weeks before the contract deadline as a self-protection technique by the studios, and (b) why there’s a lot of pressure to make a deal and, in recent years, to go negotiate much EARLIER than the last minute to make sure no such slow-down or stoppage happens so that nobody adds the insult of less income under the OLD contract to the injury of a strike instead of a new contract. We have seen some guilds go into “early negotiations” in recent years as much as 6 months or more prior to the contract’s official termination deadline.

Remember, please, that strikes in Hollywood affect more than the many hundreds of thousands of us who work in the industry. Movie and TV folks are mostly freelance workers — they are not on an annual or steady salary. When the show is shooting or working, so are they. When it isn’t, they are not. And when NONE are working? Well, strikes-de facto or actual– also affect our local shops, our dry cleaners, our mortgage bankers, our school tuition payments, and every other ripple-through in the local economy of this “company town” for the movie and TV biz that is Los Angeles.

The losses of recent strikes to the overall economy here have been measured in BILLIONS, not mere millions. And that includes the direct added expenses of starting things up again once everyone comes to their senses. The effects can last for YEARS — especially for those who, in prior strikes, had mortgages foreclosed on, businesses that serve the industry fail, or even bankruptcies and divorces and other life-changing tragedies happen because a usually thriving industry lost its way and fell apart.

So what’s going on right now? Simple: Even though all the unions and guilds go to negotiate in different years, there’s usually an overall “issue” that’s the “hot topic” of any particular period, and what usually happens is that ONE of the major unions makes a deal to solve that issue first and that becomes what’s known as a “pattern of negotiations” that the other groups tend to follow. Because — in most cases — it makes no sense for the producers to give a lot MORE in the same area to one group over another. We also negotiate that SHOULD another Guild somehow get a better deal on an issue, everyone else will move up to match that level, too.

Rightly or wrongly, the issue at hand this time around has been “New Media” and the residuals paid on DVD’s, pay-per-views, and all the other means of delivery such as streaming video, etc. etc. Many of the unions say the studios are making big bucks on these things and thus the percentage they share should go up. The studios, of course, say “Not so fast. We have higher expenses and we make a lot of flops that devour the hits. And besides, we take the risk by backing the shows. And we just plain think that the current percentage is fine & dandy.” There are good and bad arguments on both sides. Lots and lots of them. Way too many to go into here. Trust me.

But, as it happens, the DGA made a deal on this (and everything else) and DGA members approved their contract. And after a pretty nasty & costly strike a few months ago that you certainly will remember from the headlines, so did the WGA. And now that its contract year has arrived, AFTRA has made their own deal. And SAG has been in negotiations on its contract over these same issues and … Oops ! SAG has NOT agreed to the same basic “pattern” as everyone else. SAG’s contract has in fact actually just expired a few days ago on June 30 without reaching a new agreement to replace it. But SAG has NOT asked its members to authorize a strike … yet.

BUT … approximately 40,000 members of AFTRA, who currently have their ballots in hand to APPROVE their negotiated agreement (and must do so by today, July 8th when the ballots will be counted and the results revealed) are ALSO members of SAG (which has well over 100,000 members). And that’s where it has gotten really sticky.

You see, as a way of strengthening their bargaining position to get a BETTER deal (they think) the SAG leadership has asked its members who are ALSO members of AFTRA to vote “NO!” on the AFTRA contract. Even though the AFTRA leaders have asked their members to vote “YES!” and endorse the deal they negotiated in good faith with the producers. THIS has caused a HUGE battle amongst the actors with famous folks taking opposite sides, placing ads in the trade papers, giving speeches and press conferences, and generally going nutso (another highly technical labor relations term — I’d love to explain, but this is already too long … So take your best shot and guess).

SOME say this “sabotage the AFTRA deal if you’re also in SAG” plan is the only way to pressure the studios to offer SAG and AFTRA both a better deal that will benefit everyone when it becomes the “new” pattern. Others say that for AFTRA to have negotiated in good faith and then have SAG butt in and meddle in their vote and basically tell the producers they didn’t MEAN it when they negotiated would not only weaken everyone but give the producers a really good reason to say “a pox on both your houses” and hold out for WORSE terms for the actors in both guilds.

So … Last week, the studios gave SAG a basic ultimatum — “This is the last, best deal we will offer you. Take it or go on strike.” And SAG has said “Well, gosh, we aren’t ready to strike just yet or even ask our members to approve one — We just want to see how the AFTRA vote comes out.” And meanwhile, as all three groups fight and offer brickbats in the industry media, and as the DGA and WGA and IA wait to see what happens …

Just about everyone is NOT working because, as I explained, NOBODY wants to start up a show only to have it shut down by a strike. And EVERYbody is still hurting from the very recent WGA strike that shut the town down for months only a little while ago, killed the last TV season, and cost everyone in and out of the industry billions of dollars. Which, they fear, might all happen again. Soon.

SO…the possible results are that either

(A) AFTRA ratifies their contract and SAG realizes it can’t do better and takes the deal and THEIR members ratify too and we all go back to work, or …

(B) SAG succeeds in torpedoing the AFTRA deal and then one or both of these unions authorize a strike and the town shuts down which …

(C) won’t look a whole lot different than the defacto strike now happening due to the producers’ shutting things down to cut their losses but will be a whole lot angrier and nastier and potentially could lead to …

(D) producers saying “Screw you guys — we’ll hire NON-union actors and the big stars will walk away from you because they like their big paychecks more than they sympathize with a union of 100,000 waiters and shoe clerks who once upon a time got an acting job but have nothing to lose by striking and making everyone else in the business lose their butts.”

Yep. It could get that ugly out here. So stay tuned and we’ll see.

I know this was long. But at least now you have some context for what the usually-inept news media will be telling you about what’s going on at places like Sony and Paramount and Fox and Warner Bros and Universal and … oh yeah, DISNEY right now. Namely, a whole lotta nothing and a whole lotta name-calling and a whole lot of anger and tension and fear.

Ain’t showbiz glamorous? You bet it is. And while the outcome as I write this is truly unknown, at least, I hope, you have some basic background to filter the sometimes incomplete news reportage through … Because, as a JHM reader, you now know a little better the answers to the famous question: “Why For?”

Questions? Ask.

DISCLAIMER: This is a SHORT and BROAD BRUSH STROKE portrait of a VERY complex subject. The Secretary will disavow all knowledge of my actions. Your mileage may vary. Do not remove tag under penalty of law. Etc. Etc. Etc.

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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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