Finally! One of my Disney dining bucket list items has been crossed off of the list! Along with some wonderful friends, I got the chance to attend a “Dine With an Imagineer” lunch at Disney Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood Brown Derby earlier this month.
Details About Dine With an Imagineer
In case you haven’t heard of it, Dine With an Imagineer is a spectacular opportunity offered for lunch at the Hollywood Brown Derby, and for dinner (on select nights) at the Flying Fish Cafe.
Up to 10 guests get the chance to dine with a real live Walt Disney Imagineer. Your Imagineer will tell you about the work that he or she does, then answer any questions you might have about that work…or anything else that has to do with Disney Imagineering!
Cost per person is $60 (taxes and gratuity are added at the table), and the experience has been designed for guests aged 10 and older. You can book this event 180 days in advance, and it’s suggested that you do. It sells out quickly.
We had a gaggle of about 9 Disney fans who attended the lunch, including one VERY smart 11-year-old who had some great questions for the Imagineer. Don’t worry if your group can’t fill the room; Disney will keep taking reservations until the event is at capacity. That means you might have the chance to meet a few new Disney fans!
Now, the first question everyone asks about Dine With an Imagineer is…DO WE GET TO HAVE LUNCH WITH JOE ROHDE?!?
Well…no. You don’t get to have lunch with Joe Rohde.
In fact, chances are very good that you’ll never have heard of the Imagineer you dine with. Walt Disney Imagineering includes many different types of jobs, from accountants to lawyers to ride designers, so your chances of getting to have lunch with the guy who’s in charge of designing the next big Disney thrill ride is pretty small. That said, Walt Disney Imagineers are pretty unique people, and I rarely hear negative feedback about this opportunity. Also, your Imagineer could be one of many — you never know who’s going to show up until you get there!
Dine With an Imagineer takes place in the secluded, private Bamboo Room at the Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. When you arrive at the podium, just let the cast member know that you’re there for Dine With an Imagineer. Once everyone arrives, you’ll receive your special nametag and be led into the Bamboo Room.
The Bamboo Room is a pretty literal name; everything in here is either made of, or represents, bamboo! From the wallpaper to the light fixtures to the ceilings, you’ll feel like you’re in a mid-century tropical getaway.
Everyone is seated around one long table. I’m not sure about yours, but our Imagineer sat at a chair in the middle of the table so that he could see and speak with everyone.
And speaking of our Imagineer, we got to have lunch with Josh Eisenberg, a Librarian Associate for Walt Disney Imagineering!
But don’t be fooled by his title. Josh doesn’t spend his days with his nose in a book — well, not all the time! He basically transformed (read: created) the WDI East Coast Library, which means he’s in charge of cataloging the history of Disney’s East Coast parks and resorts.
Just one of his many responsibilities includes providing reference material for Imagineers designing and renovating Disney attractions. When old rides need updating, Josh is responsible for making sure there are photos of textiles and fabrics, and details about the ride from when it was first created so that Imagineers can be authentic with renovations. When new rides need to design their look and feel based on a particular idea, Josh is the one who’s responsible for researching designs to help ensure they fit with the overall concept and strategy for the ride.
For example, Josh has recently been doing a lot of research for the Imagineers designing Avatar Land so that their concepts and designs will be authentic and realistic when it comes to inventing a physical version of the film.
At the lunch, we were told that we could decide what direction the discussion took. We spoke about a variety of topics from Walt Disney himself, to how Josh followed his dream to work at Walt Disney Imagineering and basically created his own job there (a truly inspirational story of “If you can dream it, you can do it!”), to some of his favorite projects for WDI.
Unfortunately, our Imagineer didn’t leak any secrets to us about Avatar Land, Fantasyland, or any of the other fun new additions that are coming to Disney theme parks soon; but we pretty much knew he wasn’t allowed to tell us any of that anyway. 😉
Once everyone was seated and we’d introduced ourselves, we all got to take a look at our personalized menus while our server explained the prix fixe offerings.
We started out with some of Hollywood Brown Derby’s bread rolls and salted butter…yum!
The soup course included a Lobster Bisque with Brentwood Sweet Corn-Lobster Relish, but we also were offered the option of chicken noodle soup if we preferred. I had the chicken noodle, which was wonderful! Curly-cue noodles and big chunks of chicken! The broth was pleasantly salty, which I love. Can’t stand a boring broth!
Our friend Kathie F. was eating vegetarian at the table and received a vegetarian Miso soup.
The salad course provided the table with the Hollywood Brown Derby’s famous Cobb Salad! This salad was developed at the original Hollywood Brown Derby and has been a palate-pleaser ever since!
For entrees, guests had the choice of Filet of Beef with Cotswold Butter over Fingerling Potatoes, Asparagus, Ugly Ripe tomatoes, and a broken Cabernet-Shallot Vinaigrette; a Noodle Bowl with a Grilled Breast of Chicken, Soy Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, Bok Choy, and Shiitake Mushrooms in a Red Curry Broth; or Coriander-dusted Grouper, Cauliflower Risotto, fresh English Peas, crunchy Sunchokes, and a Yellow Tomato Coulis.
I had the Filet of Beef and it was out of this world!!! I’ve always enjoyed my visits to Hollywood Brown Derby, and once again I was licking my plate (not really, but I would have been if I’d been alone) after this dish.
The Cotswold butter — a massive heap of it on top of the filet — was a gorgeous addition. But everything on the plate was delicious. I’m pretty sure I was the first one done with my lunch…embarrassing, but true.
I heard some great reviews of the Noodle Bowl, and Kathie got a vegetarian version with tofu instead of chicken!
For dessert, we had a choice of double vanilla bean creme brulee with dark chocolate-dipped biscotti; or the Hollywood Brown Derby’s famous Grapefruit Cake — another delicious invention of the original Hollywood restaurant. (See the whole story behind the cake — and the recipe! — here!)
I had the Grapefruit Cake, of course (Cream Cheese Icing?! When have you known me to NOT order that?!), and it was delicious. It was a bit more bitter this time than it was the last time, but the icing was piled high, so I didn’t complain! 😉
When we’d all finished our meals, we received another little personalized package with our Imagineer’s bio and a photo of our group at the table! This was a great memento.
We also received a glass plate depicting Sorcerer Mickey (the original Sorcerer Mickey, Josh said) with Josh’s autograph.
Personally, I think this is one of the best special events Disney offers if you’re a big fan of Disney’s Parks and Resorts.
First of all, the meal is delicious. You’d easily spend $60 dining at Hollywood Brown Derby anyway, so the special secluded room and the ability to ask all kinds of questions about Disney is just an added bonus.
But, honestly, I found it fascinating to hear about what Josh does for a living — it gave another tiny glimpse into the backstory of how Disney runs its business, and how every single person working for Walt Disney Imagineering is an important component in bringing the “whole” to guests and Disney fans. Disney is a company made of talented and passionate individuals — it’s good to hear from the people behind the scenes who are making the parks what they are today.
Just writing about me makes me want to go back again! Hmm…I’ll have to start planning!
Have you tried this dining experience or do you think it’s one you’d like to try? Let us know your questions and comments by writing us a note below!
You can book Dine with an Imagineer here!