Guest Review: Kitchen Memories Event at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Today’s the day that all guests can book the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival special events! And to give a little taste of one of these fun options, we welcome back guest author Shayne Newell with a review of the Kitchen Memories seminar from the 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival! This is a great treat for those of us deciding what events to book at the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival!

As I prepared for my first trip to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of available culinary and beverage seminars and demonstrations. But after doing a little research, my husband and I decided to attend an event called Kitchen Memories.” This event was a combination culinary demonstration and three-course lunch.


The demo that we attended was presented by Chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart from Zazu Restaurant + Farm and Black Pig Meat Co. in Santa Rosa, California. Reality television fans may remember Duskie from her stint on The Next Iron Chef in 2010. To our delight, the wine pairings for our lunch were by Silver Oak/Twomey Cellars.

I had purchased tickets in advance, but I believe you can purchase event tickets in the Festival Center (located in the old Wonders of Life pavilion), if there are still available spots.

Most events take place in Epcot's Food and Wine Festival Center

The tickets were $110 per person. We checked in at the demo/lunch area in the Festival Center and were asked to present photo ID, so this is something to keep in mind if you are attending any Food and Wine Festival events.

After the cast member verified our identities, we were presented with two tickets, telling us that we would be seated at the “Dill” table.

Seating Area for Kitchen Memories

At exactly 10:00 a.m., we were allowed to take our seats. This went quickly since everyone had been assigned to a particular table. We introduced ourselves to our tablemates, and got ready for a great lunch.

Table Decor at Kitchen Memories

First we heard from Charlie Campbell with Silver Oak/Twomey, who told us a little bit about the history of the two wineries and the family that owns them. Then things really got rolling when the chefs took the stage.

Chefs John Stewart and Duskie Estes

Chefs Estes and Stewart are married and have two daughters, ages 11 and 9. My sons are around the same age, so it was fun to hear the chefs’ stories of life on their pig farm with two children. It really gave us insight into the personalities of the chefs, both as parents and as chefs, and what it must be like to be part of their family.

In fact, Chef Estes shared with us that the dishes they would be cooking – and that we would be eating – were inspired by their daughters’ attempts to prepare her for her potential return to The Next Iron Chef as part of the 2012 “redemption” season. To make sure their mom was ready, they pitted her against Chef Stewart in a competition in which they had to make a dish using smoked paprika, tortilla chips, and a protein of their own choosing.

They also made Chef Estes wear rollerblades during the entire “competition” and provided Alton Brown-type commentary while their mom and dad cooked.

Chef Estes Talks to the Audience


Now that I’ve set the scene for you, let’s get on to the food!

Our first course was Duck Crack Taco Salad, paired with the Twomey Cellars Sauvignon Blanc. Chef Estes sautéed duck legs with onion, garlic, poblano pepper, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon. Then she added tequila and chicken stock.

The whole pan was then placed in the oven for about 90 minutes, until the meat began falling off the bone. We didn’t have to wait 90 minutes, of course, because the dishes already had been prepared in the kitchen. The “duck crack” was fried duck skin, which had been seasoned with smoked paprika and salt.

Video Screen Image of Duck Legs

The braised duck was plated with watercress, grilled corn, and cilantro, along with the duck cracklings and homemade tortilla strips, and dressed with lime vinaigrette.

Duck Crack Taco Salad

I’m not generally a big fan of duck because it tends to be so fatty. But this dish wasn’t fatty at all. The delicious leg meat was tender and flavorful, and the duck cracklings and tortilla strips added a nice crunch. The watercress, corn, and cilantro added clean, slightly tangy flavor to the salad. The crispness of the Sauvignon Blanc paired nicely with the fattiness of the meat and duck cracklings.

While we enjoyed the salad, Chef Stewart started cooking the next course – Rabbit Tostada and Smashed Avocado. He showed us how to butcher a rabbit (something I can say I’ll probably never do!). The preparation of the meat was essentially the same as the duck – sauté with spices, add stock, then place in the oven until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.

After shredding the meat, Chef Stewart combined it with black-eyed peas and butternut squash. In the meantime, Chef Estes made the smashed avocado – known to you and me as guacamole.

The rabbit meat was placed on a tostada and topped with cheddar cheese, guacamole, cilantro and sour cream.

Rabbit Tostada with Smashed Avocado

The chefs explained that they like to keep their food simple and use high quality ingredients, which provide amazing flavors. Just as with the duck dish, we found the flavors in the rabbit dish to be remarkably simple and clean. I have maybe only ever eaten rabbit once before, and I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it. This preparation made it so flavorful and tender.

The black-eyed peas and butternut squash added a bit of texture, and the guacamole was really good! The Twomey Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was a great pairing – it didn’t overpower the dish the way a Cabernet might have, but was still bold enough to stand up to all the flavors of the food.

Our final dish was a Mexican Chocolate Crème Brulee with Mexican Wedding Cookies. I know crème brulee is a simple dish, but it was astonishing how quickly Chefs Estes and Steward whipped it up! What I found surprising was that they used cascabel chilies in the dessert. Chef Estes showed us how to put the ramekins in a water bath before putting the custard in the oven.

Mexican Chocolate Creme Brulee with Mexican Wedding Cookies

This dessert was out of this world. I really wanted to lick my dish! It was paired with the Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

At first, it sounded strange to drink Cabernet with dessert, but the bold chocolate and bold wine complimented each other quite nicely.

Mmmmm....Silver Oak

After the demo, we had the opportunity to get the chefs’ autographs and chat with them briefly. Chef Estes is originally from Texas, where we are from, and we talked about that as well as a local Houston chef who was a fellow competitor on Next Iron Chef with her.


Kitchen Memories was my favorite of the three special events we attended at the 2012 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. I enjoyed learning about the food and cooking process, but I thought the most special part was getting to see the chefs’ personalities and hear their stories. This event cost $110 per person, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. If you are on a limited budget for special events, I would put this one high on the priority list.

Are you attending a Food and Wine Festival event this year? See all of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival Special Events available for 2013 here!

As always, check out all of our in-depth 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival coverage on our Epcot Food and Wine Festival page!

News! The DFB Guide to the 2013 Epcot Food & Wine Festival e-Book is now available!

Check out hundreds of pages of detailed information about this year’s festival, including a day-by-day schedule of events, hundreds of full-color photos, and expert advice for getting the best bang for your buck at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

Use code CHEFS at check-out for a $3 discount!