Epcot's
2005 International
Food & Wine Festival

Odyssey Cooking School

October 6, 2005

Mexican
Chef Ximena Mariscal, Escuela de Cocina Mexico

Review by Catherine Wilson


I attended the "inaugural" Odyssey Cooking School on October 6. Chef Ximena Mariscal was the featured chef. I was very excited to see this new experience planned for the festival. Although I love to cook, I generally am not interested in the culinary demonstrations (a surprise to my husband since I am a Food Network addict). When I saw the description of this event, though, I knew I had to sign up.

This was absolutely wonderful and certainly worth the price of admission. The class size was very small - ours was 12, although they take up to 20 - so we got lots of personal attention.

Upon arrival, we checked in and picked a small card out of a pile. The cards were either red or blue and had one of three categories on them: Appetizer, Entree, or Dessert. Each person would be on either the "blue team" or "red team" (just an assignment for which station you would be using) and would work on one of the three dishes. At the tables were aprons, menus with recipes, and a special "Epcot Food and Wine Festival" cap that is not sold to the public - just given to the culinary staff.

In addition to Ximena, there were three chefs from Walt Disney World and two chefs who were Ximena's assistants.

First, Ximena made the items on our menu: Jamaica (aka Hibiscus) Flower Soup, Shrimp in Tequila Sauce, Pumpkin Blossoms stuffed with goat cheeese, and Banana Walnut Turnover. While she was cooking she talked a lot about good techniques, getting the right equipment, and generally about her experience as a chef. She is positively delightful.

After she finished cooking, we went to our stations. All of the chefs walked around and helped out with any questions, bringing extra supplies, and making suggestions. I was stationed at the dessert table, and we quickly finished our work. Rather than letting us stand around and feel bored, each of the chefs came over and taught us something special. Vincent (from Boma, originally from France) taught us how to make beautiful items from puff pastry that would make wonderful edible bowls for appetizers or desserts. Ximena taught us to make palmieres, which we baked as well.

After all of the dishes were finished and plated, we sat together and ate the delicious meal that we had made together. They also brought out wines that were paired with the meal, and (since it was a Mexican theme) Ximena's homemade salsa with corn chips. We all received certificates of completion of the "Odyssey Cooking School."

I would highly recommend this for anyone who is looking for something more hands-on than the traditional culinary demonstrations. You get great opportunities for one-on-one discussions with the featured chef and with Disney chefs.

The class lasts about three hours (10am-1pm on Thursdays during the Festival), and costs $100 per person. It takes place inside the Odyssey "Chef's Showplace."