Edible Orlando Managing Editor Pam Brandon has worked with Disney Parks chefs for more than 25 years, translating their legendary recipes to a smaller scale you can make at home. Pam’s newest cookbook is Official Disney Parks Cookbook: 101 Magical Recipes from the Delicious Disney Vault by Pam Brandon and The Disney Chefs (Available on Amazon)
With this new book, Disney Parks’ most comfy classics, festival favorites, and international cuisines are whisked together and presented in this bright collection from the Delicious Disney recipe vault.
Filled with personalized notes from the chefs who created and enhanced them, mouthwatering food photos, helpful hints for easy preparation, and, of course, a little Disney magic, this cookbook enchants with 101 tried-and-true recipes from across the years.
Tasty Chomps Interview with Pam Brandon, Author of Official Disney Parks Cookbook: 101 Magical Recipes from the Delicious Disney Vault
Ricky Ly, TastyChomps: What inspired you to become a cookbook author? How did the first cook book come together? Where did the idea for this latest cookbook come from?
Pam Brandon: My very first cookbook was “Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas” that I wrote when my son was at Hillcrest Elementary and my friend Anne-Marie Denicole and I were cooking to uplift dedicated teachers, and they kept requesting recipes. I bought a copy of “The Recipe Writer’s Handbook” and taught myself how to properly write a recipe. That first cookbook, still available on amazon.com, landed us on The Today Show in Rockefeller Plaza when a food editor friend of mine at the New York Daily News wrote a little snippet about it.
My Disney books were an idea I pitched to Disney Publishing when I was part of the Disney Press & Publicity team, charged with marketing the new restaurants coming on-line in the mid 1990s: California Grill, Flying Fish and others, and there hadn’t been a Disney cookbook written since the 1980s. They loved the idea, and since then, I’ve written 24 Disney cookbooks. Guests love to take home a recipe to re-create a memory. My latest, the Official Disney Parks Cookbook, is a compilation of favorites. And, coming in 2024, the Official Disney Festivals Cookbook. Meantime, I’ve just finished a Disneyland cookbook to celebrate 100 years of The Walt Disney Company that debuts in October.
What are some things that have changed at Disney in the food and beverage department since beginning back in 1987?
So much. Way back then, there was a Central Bakery that turned out every piece of baked goods for every restaurant. Today, Disney sources from local bakeries, as well as Florida seafood, produce and other purveyors. There are so many more restaurants (plus two more theme parks – when I started there was just only Magic Kingdom and Epcot!). And an incredible diversity of cuisine across the resort. Plus, we have Michelin recognition.
Can you walk us through your process for recipe development and testing?
Every cookbook is really a big editing job. We start with requesting recipes from all the restaurants, whittle down hundreds, then start putting together a book. There needs to be a number of beverages, appetizers, sides, main, sweets (depending on the book theme). You can’t have 25 cocktails and two protein dishes. So it’s an interesting and fun balancing act. We also want recipes that guests can re-create in their own kitchen with relative ease. So we test each recipe in a home kitchen; I test as many as I can, but also have a roster of faithful testers that I trust. (And now Disney has a fabulous tester on staff!) And recipes from chefs generally feed dozens, so we have to re-create that recipe for 4 to 6 diners. The general rule of thumb: test a recipe three times, and if it’s still not just right, toss it.
What are some common mistakes for home cooks to avoid in the kitchen?
Not having the right ingredients and getting in a hurry. Cooking should be fun! Gathering friends and family around your table is an act of love, so make the food with love.
What are some of your favorite essential tools or ingredients that every home cook should have in their kitchen?
A good knife and a cast-iron skillet. With those two things, you can do most anything. I might add a good cutting board. Ingredients I’m never without – a good olive oil (I’m a big fan of all the oils at Ancient Olive), coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fresh lemons and good hot pepper flakes. I also love a little easy Asian flavor with rice wine vinegar and good tamari. And butter!
How do you stay up-to-date on food trends and new ingredients?
It’s so easy now with social media. But I also subscribe to Milk Street, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit – print isn’t dead (as we work so hard to keep Edible Orlando magazine alive and thriving!).
What’s your favorite recipe from your latest cookbook, and why?
It’s like picking your favorite child. But, for savory, I love the Spicy Durban-Style Chicken from Sanaa. We include a recipe to make your own masala, but you also can buy your favorite. The sauce comes together quickly with canned tomatoes, fresh ginger, jalapenos, cilantro . . . all the flavors just pop. Sweet, my easy go-to is the Mango Lassi, also from Sanaa.
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