9 things you didn’t know about The Chew, #EpcotFoodFestival Must-Eat dishes and more!
During the 20th Anniversary of Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, ABC’s The Chew filmed five shows on site using Epcot’s iconic Spaceship Earth as a backdrop. It’s so fitting for a show about good eating, drinking and entertaining to film during Epcot’s annual event, considered to be the best and largest food festival around the world. Literally, it takes place around a magical lagoon where you travel from country to country – from Canada to China and everywhere in between – eating and drinking to your heart’s content.
You would think a show which celebrates and explores life through food would have filmed here before. Logistics on the road must have kept them away, as this is the first time in the history of the show, now in its fifth season, they’ve traveled outside of their New York studio. Judging by how much fun and crazy shenanigans the hosts got into during their visit last week – from cranberry bog fights to African safaris, thrill rides, fast cars and eating around the world, I don’t think this will be their last visit. Although not officially confirmed, co-host Carla Hall said “We’re never leaving… we’re definitely coming back”. I was as thrilled as a kid on Christmas morning hearing that.
I had the wonderful opportunity to be Disney’s media guest this past week and sit in the studio audience for one of the shows, as well as a participate in a short press conference afterwards. It was as fun as you can imagine, despite the scorching Florida heat and humidity which had us all profusely sweating in the most unladylike manner. But hey, we weren’t the ones on camera, except for the occasional pan over the audience as we clapped and cheered our hearts out. The make-up artists worked overtime in this heat to keep the cast looking refreshed, yet co-hosts Mario Batali, Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly and Michael Symon were as cool as ever.
The mood on set was fun and casual, like a big party with friends that have known each other forever. (I think food does that to people) Despite delays and weather troubles, they were true professionals even when one ‘stylish and debonair’ host almost burned the set down. I’m not naming any names (wink wink). Co-host Daphne Oz had to miss out on all the fun as she’s expecting a baby and not allowed to fly.
Aside from it being a prerequisite for anyone in a TV show audience to be able to clap, laugh, gasp, hoot and holler on cue, I did learn a few interesting things about the hosts, life on The Chew and the Epcot Food Festival and I’m going to spill all the beans. Catch the episode on Thursday 10/15 at 1pm ET “Try Something New” and you’ll see what this reference is all about.
1. Carla Hall doesn’t sleep
Michael Symon joked “You have done all of Epcot, twice” while Mario Batali revealed “She’s running on 23 hour days, every day” to see and do everything there is to see at the Walt Disney World Resort. Carla Hall replied she hasn’t done everything, yet, but she wants to get everything in because after all, she only has to “walk from country to country and it’s a lot cheaper than buying a plane ticket”. I’m with Carla on this one. At Epcot Food and Wine Festival, you’ll find over 30 global marketplaces serving more than 200 different dishes and 300 wines, beers and cocktails in small tasting portions, perfect for eating and drinking your way around world. Not to mention all the rides, concerts, cooking demos, beverage seminars and premium dining events, there’s a lot to do here. You can always sleep when you get home. Right, Carla?
2. Mario Batali Wants To Be Called a ‘Gastronaut’
When asked for a word to replace the term “foodie”, which all the hosts agreed was overdone and Michael Symon said he was tired of it the first time he heard it, Mario Batali proclaimed he wanted to be called a “Gastronaut”. Everyone chuckled as he channeled Buzz Lightyear and declared “there’s a voyage ahead of us”. Indeed, ‘to infinity and beyond…’ eating should always be an adventure.
Clinton Kelly prefers to be called a “Tasty” because he unabashedly admits “I’ll taste anything”. I knew I liked him and now I just love him.
The term “Foodie” is not inclusive enough, according to Carla Hall, and sounds a bit snooty. I agree. How about “Epicurista”? I think it should be the replacement term for foodie, don’t you?
3. Asia is the hottest food destination
When asked, by yours truly, what country represented during the festival was on their “someday list” to visit in real life, Clinton mentioned he’s never been to Asia and would love to make China his first stop. Which instantly made my stomach rumble as I thought of devouring the chicken potstickers, a festival favorite at the China marketplace.
Mario Batali declared “South Korea is going to be the Italy of South East Asia” and he knows a thing or two about Italy. A must-eat festival dish this year is the Bulgogi BBQ Short Rib with cucumber kimchi. Kimchi seems to be the latest food craze, you can even find this spicy relish on a hot dog near the South Korea kiosk. Michael Symon mentioned Switzerland as the country he wants to cross of the list someday. Sadly, he will have to travel much further as Switzerland is not represented at Epcot this year. Carla Hall, to no one’s surprise, didn’t want to limit her choices and simply exclaimed she would like to go to “all of them!” Have I told you how much I like her?
4. Taylor Swift has The Power
During commercial breaks, crew members, like busy bees, would instantly descend on set to change out furniture, set up food demos, touch up make up and adjust cameras and lights. Audience wrangler (not his official title), comedian RC Smith’s objective during this time was to keep the heat-afflicted, energy-drained crowd laughing, with jokes mostly at our expense, while the DJ played high energy tunes aimed at keeping our clapping hands fine-tune>d.
In what felt like 150 degree temperatures, you can imagine our energy was not at peak performance. This is, until Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” was blasted over the set speakers and everyone, including Clinton Kelly, was on their feet, jumping and dancing around like a schoolgirl. That Taylor, she certainly has the power to get everyone going. Try it at your next company meeting.
Dancing on set is definitely a crowd booster. Carla Hall proved she was feeling good when she ran up the steps to dance with a Mouse-ears clad young girl and a lady who smartly wore a big floppy hat, just like Michael Symon, to protect her from the sun. I bet Carla had a blast at the Eat to the Beat Concert series each night with such fun acts like The Pointer Sisters and Smash Mouth.
5. Go ahead, Try Something New
The theme of the show was “Try Something New” which is rather fitting for me as I’ve tried many new things this year in my quest to #MakeSomedayHappen, from coffee to whiskey, to breaking world records and tying the knot. You have to just say yes and try new things. You never know what you’re missing if you don’t try. Mario Batali’s advice on how to get kids to try something new is not to make it a big deal. This sounds like good advice for adults too. Just go for it. Try it, and if you don’t like it, don’t have it again. Mario recalled trying durian, the spiky-smelly Asian fruit, as one of those ‘try-it-once’ experiences and compared it to “enjoying a hot diaper” What a visual!
Carla’s advice to “get out of your comfort zone and try something new” is easy to do at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. There is a blend of familiar and new this year and something for everyone to enjoy and explore.
6. Epcot Food Festival Brings Back Memories
Michael Symon’s first stop at Epcot was the Greece kiosk in honor of his heritage. I wonder if he had the popular Greek Salad in a cone, one of my favorite returning dishes. Clinton Kelly, together with Carla Hall, made the most fragrant pot of mussels in a coconut curry sauce during the show as he was inspired by his New Zealand ancestry, as well as the diet of Otters he learned about during his visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I can’t wait to make this recipe at home. While at Epcot, the New Zealand kiosk is serving Steamed Green Lip Mussels with garlic butter and toasted breadcrumbs and I caution you, they are so good you will not want to share.
Mario Batali spoke affectionately of his memories of pots of his grandmother’s calf brain’s stew with ox tail ragu simmering on the stove as he recalled how his friends would come over after school and enjoyed it without realizing what they were eating. This would definitely be one of those “try something new” experiences for me too.
Food has a powerful way of bringing back flavor memories of fun times with family and friends, whether it is foods from childhood or memories of Epcot Food Festival’s from the past. This year in honor of the 20th anniversary, Disney has brought back favorite dishes from previous years like the New England Lobster Roll at the Hops & Barley marketplace.
7. There’s Plenty of Eating On This Show
What else do you expect to happen during a show called ‘The Chew’ which is all about celebrating food? Obvious, right? But here’s the skinny. On television, things are not always as they appear. Talk shows are notorious for faking you out. An unbaked pie goes into the oven, two seconds later a beautifully golden pie comes out. Host takes a bite, proclaims the obligatory ‘yum’, director yells cut and the host spits it out. Not on this show.
The co-hosts are chefs and more importantly ‘gastronauts’ (wink Mario), real ones. They don’t just play them on TV. They love food and they thoroughly enjoy it. Before, during and after the cameras were rolling, they were eating ice cream, drinking wine, taking bites of each other’s creations, snacking on salt and vinegar potato chips and anything else that was put in front of them.
This was refreshing to see, and likely one of the reasons the show has built such a loyal fan base and won a Daytime Emmy for hosting. I only wished I was sitting at the counter eating along with them. Seriously, Clinton’s mussels dish looked amazing!
8. Michael Symon is Not Afraid to Wear a Floppy Hat on National TV
Michael Symon must believe in comfort before beauty when he came out wearing Carla’s floppy hat to shield him from the blistering Florida sun. I was surprised he filmed the entire show wearing the hat and then changed into a different, more fashionable one during our press conference. Did Clinton do a fashion intervention after the show? It’s admirable when a person is willing to go on national TV in a floppy hat. Take his cue, and bring sunscreen and a hat to the Epcot Food Festival. It may be cool in other parts of the country, here in Florida it’s still summertime. All the more reason to come and visit.
9. The Chew Lab is The Coolest Place
A new addition to the Epcot Food Festival this year is the ‘Next Eats’ marketplace which includes The Chew Lab, where food science meets the hottest culinary tech, and Sustainable Chew serving dishes inspired by ‘The Chew’ co-hosts. For the first time ever, a food kiosk is located in Epcot’s Future World and it is one you don’t want to miss.
Epcot’s Executive Chef Gregg Hannon confirmed the Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with warm whiskey caramel sauce is this year’s festival runaway hit. Right before your eyes, the chef blasts creamy chocolate mousse with liquid nitrogen for the coolest and most decadent creation you’ve ever seen.
In case you were wondering, Clinton Kelly is as Cool as a Cucumber
I told you I would spill all the beans. If you didn’t catch my hint earlier, it was Clinton Kelly, and not the fire dancer from The Lion King, who almost set the stage on fire! I may be exaggerating, or not. Although he managed to keep his cool like a true professional when flames shot out of his pan during his cooking demo, he shared during the break this first-time mishap startled him. I think he can set the world on fire and still manage to remain as cool as ever. I wonder if this little incident will be edited out. We will have to watch and see.
The Chew At Epcot
Here’s a listing and recap of all the shows taped at Epcot, airing on ABC weekdays, 1:00pm ET. Follow the hashtag #TheChewAtEpcot on social media.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 12 – “THE CHEW’S FAMILY VACATION” — Carla Hall makes a delicious Norwegian roasted salmon & ranch potato galette; Michael Symon visits The Land at Epcot to check out the center’s hydroponic gardening program and makes a meal with its vegetables; Mickey Mouse and Goofy stop by to say hello.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 13 – “MAKING MEAL MAGIC” — Alfonso Ribeiro (ABC’s “AFV”); Mario Batali and Michael Symon square off with their recipes for angel hair with Brussel sprouts, bacon and walnuts and shrimp Fra Diavolo over linguine.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 14 – “EASY FIVE STAR FEAST” — Mario Batali visits Iron Chef Morimoto’s new restaurant at Disney Springs, Morimoto Asia; Bellamy Young (ABC’s “Scandal”).
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15 – “TRY SOMETHING NEW!” — Clinton Kelly and Carla Hall visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom; the cast of “The Festival of The Lion King” performs.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16 – “YOUR PERFECT PARTY PLAN” — The perfect party snacks and cocktails; “The Chew” co-hosts stop by the Rockin’ Burger Block Party; a look back at some of the show’s favorite moments at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival from Walt Disney World.
More About “The Chew”
Celebrating and exploring life through food, “The Chew,” is an innovative and groundbreaking daytime series co-hosted by a dynamic group of engaging, fun, relatable experts in food, lifestyle, and entertaining. Produced by Gordon Elliott’s Chew Productions for the ABC Television Network, “The Chew” serves up everything food — from cooking and home entertaining to food trends, restaurants, holidays and more — all aimed at making life better, fuller and more fun. Featuring celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Michael Symon, and Carla Hall, entertaining expert Clinton Kelly and health and wellness enthusiast Daphne Oz, “The Chew” is a leap forward into a delicious new kind of lifestyle series. Follow “The Chew” (@thechew) and hosts Mario Batali (@mariobatali); Michael Symon (@chefsymon); Clinton Kelly (@clinton_kelly); Carla Hall (@carlahall) and Daphne Oz (@DaphneOz) on Twitter.
More About Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
Epcot International Food and Wine Festival presented by Chase, running now through November 16, 2015, offers Walt Disney World Resort guests the opportunity to taste global and specialty cuisine, sip new beverages and eat to the beat of live entertainment. The 53-day festival at Disney’s Epcot theme park requires park admission. Tasting dishes and special events are priced separately. Visit the event website for all the details. Follow #EpcotFoodFestival on social media.
Go Epicurista was an invited media guest of Walt Disney World for this event. No other form of compensation was received and all opinions shared are my own. As always, we only share food, wine and travel experiences worth celebrating. Now GO Make Someday Happen.
* All photos by Christina Thomas and Fei Law, property of GoEpicurista.com