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Why For did Disney struggle to come up with a marketing campaign for Pixar’s latest picture ? Because the Mouse wasn’t originally supposed to release “Ratatouille”

Jim Hill takes you behind-the-scenes on the creation of this new Brad Bird film. Which actually wasn’t ever intended to be a Walt Disney Pictures release. But — rather — Pixar’s first film for another studio after their co-production deal with the Mouse expired in 2005

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Over the past six months, JHM has featured a number of stories that talked about the Walt Disney Company’s concerns about “Ratatouille.” How the marketing department at the studio has been struggling to find just the right way to promote this new Brad Bird film. (Don’t believe me? Then check out these three wildly different takes on how to sell this animated feature. The stateside version of the “Ratatouille” poster tries to sell this CG movie as a slapstick adventure …



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… While one overseas poster for this Pixar picture plays up Remy & Luigini’s unlikely friendship …



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… while still another international poster highlights the inherent romance of this movie’s Parisian setting).



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All Rights Reserved


We’ve also talked about the Mouse’s efforts to manage expectations for Pixar’s latest production. So that if “Ratatouille” doesn’t sell as many tickets as “Cars” did last summer over its opening weekend … Well, the press won’t then be able to use this film’s underwhelming box office performance as an excuse to revisit the whole did-Disney-pay-too-much-for-Pixar question.


Still, looking back on Mickey’s behavior, you have to ask yourself : If Disney executives had such little confidence in “Ratatouille” ‘s audience appeal, why did they then allow production of this movie to go forward? I mean, what’s the point of greenlighting a motion picture that your marketing department doesn’t know how to sell?


Well … That’s actually Disney’s real problem with “Ratatouille.” Company executives didn’t greenlight this particular Pixar production. You see, “Ratatouille” was never intended to be released by Walt Disney Studios.


Strange but true, folks. Remember back in January of 2004 when Steve Jobs officially broke off talks with Mouse House officials about possibly extending Pixar’s co-production deal with Disney Studios? Which meant that — once “Cars” was delivered to Disney for what was then-supposed-to-be a November 2005 release date — Pixar would then be a free agent. Free to cut a new distribution / production deal with any other company that they desired.



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Of course, in order to do that, this Emeryville-based animation studio actually had to have a new film to show these studios. So that they could prove to these very powerful people that Pixar was still capable of producing hit motion pictures without Mickey’s input. More importantly, without the Mouse’s marketing might to help sell their movies to audiences worldwide.


So — with this goal in mind (I.E. To come up with the best possible carrot-on-a-stick to dangle in front of all of the studios that were now vying to be Pixar’s new distribution / production partner) — that animation studio’s management went through all of the projects that were already in their development pipeline … and eventually settled on Jan Pinkava‘s “Rats!”


Mind you, there was method to Pixar’s madness. Given that this proposed animated feature was set in Paris, “Rats!” was thought to have international appeal. Which (oddly enough) would be a key factor in the animation studio’s upcoming negotiations. Given that Steve Jobs was looking to cut a deal with a corporation that — just like Disney — already had a strong global distribution system in place to help sell their films.


Then — of course — there was the twitting-Disney factor. After nearly a decade-and-a-half of making movies for the Mouse, what better way was there for Pixar to signal to the world that “That phase in our history is over” than by making a film that starred a rat?



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Anyway … On paper, this seemed like a great idea. And based on the colorful settings & cute characters that Pixar’s creative team had developed, “Rats!” did look like it had all the necessary ingredients to become the studio’s first post-Disney success … Except that Jan Pinkava could never quite seem to get the story of his film to jell.


By the late fall of 2004, the “Rats!” production team had put together a story reel to show Pixar management. And while individual elements of the film that Jan Pinkava planned on making were admittedly charming & quite entertaining, its narrative as a whole fell flat. You never really got caught up in Remy’s quest to become one of the greatest chefs in France.


Recognizing that “Rats!” (at least in its current form) was not going to be the great carrot-on-a-stick that he had been hoping for, Steve Jobs bought himself a little time by pushing back “Cars” release date from November of 2005 to May of 2006. Jan & his “Rats!” story team were then sent back to their drawing boards with some very specific orders : Make the story stronger and make us really care about the characters’ struggles.


In the late spring of 2005, Pinkava delivered his second set of story reels. Which — while they had these beautifully designed characters & settings with lots of atmosphere — Jan’s movie still lacked narrative oomph. And given that “Rats!” was supposed to be the film that proved to the world that Pixar could succeed without Disney (More importantly, given that this was the project that was supposed to incite other studios to come sign a deal with this Emeryville-based operation) … Something had to be done to fix this picture’s problems. And fast.



(L to R) Brad Bird, Patton Oswalt and Brad Lewis at a “Ratatouille” recording session.
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Enter Brad Bird. Who — at that time — had just finished a promotional tour for the DVD version of “The Incredibles” and was getting ready to go on a well-deserved vacation. As Bird recounted to Bob Miller in an interview for the July issue of “Starlog” magazine:



” … Two weeks before I was set to leave, they asked me to help the ‘Ratatouille’ people fix up the storyline. So I did that for two weeks, and I got them through the structure and about halfway through Act Three. Then I waved goodbye and said, ‘So long, and good luck,’ and went on my vacation. I was away for two days when I got phone calls from Steve Jobs, John Lasseter and Ed Catmull, basically asking me if I would come back and take over the project.”


And why was it so urgent that Brad come back and ride herd on “Rats!” ? Now turning to an interview that Bird just did with Steve Daly for “Entertainment Weekly” :



“[Jobs, Lasseter & Catmull] were in a tough spot at a very vulnerable time. They were potentially going to be on their own [if they broke away from Disney]. It was the first film — the only film — that was greenlit by Pixar alone, without anyone else having anything to do with it. It was an important film to get right.”



(L to R) Brad Bird directs Peter O’Toole at “Ratatouille” recording session.
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So given the precarious situation that Pixar now found itself in (I.E. That “Rats!” had to work as a motion picture. Otherwise, Pixar’s reputation as a hit-making machine might then get dinged. Which then would make it difficult for the Emeryville-based animation studio to get the best possible terms on its new production / distribution deal), Bird agreed to step in and take control of Pinkava’s project.


And as if this situation wasn’t already stressful enough, in an interview that Brad did yesterday with Susan King of the Los Angeles Times, the director recounted how …



“I committed to keeping the animation start date, which is like the start date of principal photography, to hold to the original [opening] date.”


… so that Pixar management could then go forward with their original plan. Which was to have their animation studio emerge as Disney’s direct competition in the Summer of 2007. And then to have Pixar establish dominance over the rest of the CG field.



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Of course, the irony of all this is — after all this behind-the-scenes drama about making sure that their studio’s first post-Disney picture will be as strong as possible — what does Pixar then do in January of 2006? It allows itself to be acquired by the Walt Disney Company for $7.4 billion.


And — of course — part of that agreement was that the Mouse would now have to distribute “Ratatouille,” a film that its studio execs had not greenlit, that Disney’s own creative team had had zero input on. Which perhaps explains why the Mouse’s marketing staff has had such a tough time trying to come up with the proper way to promote “Ratatouille.”


Now what’s important to understand here is that — ever since Oren Aviv (I.E. The former head of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing) became the new Creative Officer at Walt Disney Studios — Mickey doesn’t put movies into production that it doesn’t already know how to sell. That’s one of the main reason that Dick Cook (I.E. Chairman of Walt Disney Studios) significantly cut back on the number of films that the studio would produce each year. So that the Mouse could then concentrate all of its marketing might behind films that it already believes will be box office champions.


Which brings us back to “Ratatouille.” More importantly to the promotional campaign that Disney hopes will help would-be moviegoers overcome any problems they may have with seeing rats in a kitchen. Whether or not they were ultimately successful will be determined this coming Monday morning when all of the weekend box office tallies finally come in. But given that — earlier this week — studio officials were quietly spreading the word that an opening weekend gross of $55 million (down from the $60 million that was originally projected) now seems very likely … Well, that news doesn’t exactly scream huge box office success. At least to me.


FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Well, $55 million used to be what “Ratatouille” was initially projected to make over its opening weekend. Now newly revised tracking for this Brad Bird film has come out, which suggests that it is far more likely that Pixar’s latest will only sell $48 – $51 million worth of tickets during its first three days in domestic release. While Nikki Finke over at Deadline Hollywood Daily is saying that “Ratatouille” may earn even less than that, with an opening weekend take of only $40 – $45 million.


If that happens … Well, you can bet that Wall Street will weigh in come Monday morning. With all sorts of pundits pontificating about Disney’s Pixar problem, wondering aloud whether this CG studio is now losing its magic touch.


Mark my words, folks. If “Ratatouille” ‘s opening weekend numbers are really that low, you’re going to see lots of stories just like that next week. Not just here at JHM, but all over the place.


Now I know that I was among the first to point out the potential problems with Pixar’s latest production. But it’s not like I actually wished Brad Bird or John Lasseter any ill will. So please don’t shoot the messenger, okay?


Anyway … Let’s get back to the original version of today’s article now, okay? …



Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios. All Rights Reserved


Mind you, the Mouse’s marketing department also seems to be having some trouble getting a handle on how to properly promote Pixar’s next release, “WALL * E.” Several industry insiders that I’ve spoken with about the teaser trailer for this new Andrew Stanton film have already suggested that it might be a mistake for Disney to try and sell this particular Pixar project as a worthy successor for “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Finding Nemo.” That this approach may raise would-be moviegoers’ expectations so artificially high that the finished film might then have trouble delivering on that promise.


And then there’s “Up,” Pixar’s 2009 release. Pete Docter‘s next project for the Emeryville-based animation studio which will star a 70-year-old man & an adolescent wilderness ranger who join forces to do battle with various beasts & villains. Which — given its unique subject matter — will obviously also be a bit of PR challenge for Mickey.


So is it any wonder that Disney’s marketing staff are so looking forward to 2010 when “Toy Story 3” will finally arrive in theaters? Now that movie, the Mouse knows how to sell.


Anyway … That’s why Disney’s PR department has been having such a tough time trying to get a handle on the proper way to promote “Ratatouille.” Given that the studio was never supposed to be releasing this Brad Bird film in the first place … Well, perhaps now you may have some sympathy for what the Mouse’s marketing staff has been going through. As they struggled to find just the right way to sell Pixar’s rat picture.


Your thoughts?

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  ExpertGriller.com 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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