Mike in Club 33
by, 11-15-2011 at 04:48 AM
Hello, and welcome to this week's [B]'From The Mouth Of The Mouse!'[/B]
Each week, we spotlight a different Cast Member story to give you more insight into some of your favorite attractions, resorts, and movies from all over the Walt Disney Company.
This week's [B]From the Mouth of the Mouse[/B] interviewee, Mike, worked at one of the most exclusive restaurants in Disneyland...Club 33!
Club 33 is one of those places that is often spoken of in hushed whispers, and is one of the most sought after dining destinations in the Disney Community. Mike was kind enough to share some of his experiences working at this wonderful place.
JEFF: What made you want to work at Disney to begin with?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] It was actually a fluke that I ended up working there. A friend of mine at the time was working at the club, and he asked if I was interested in working there as well. At the time, I was working in retail and was only a few years out of high school. I had attended a private party that the Cast Members of the club had thrown at the manager’s house, and everyone that worked there seemed really nice. It sounded like it would be a fun job. Plus, the pay was more then I was making at my job at the time, so I figured why not? [/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: So you applied directly to work at Club 33 right off the bat?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] When I went to the casting center to fill out an application, I specified that I was applying to be a bus boy at Club 33. During my interview, I was asked why I specified that position and I told them that the Club was looking for people, and that's where I wanted to work. [/INDENT]
JEFF: How did that work out for you? Did they put you somewhere else first to work your way up to Club 33, or were you able to be placed there right away?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] I went straight to the club once I was hired. What's funny is that after my initial interview at the casting center, I wasn't actually hired. After I had the first interview, I talked with my friend who was already working at the Club, and he asked when my second interview was. When I told him they didn't schedule one, he told me that meant they weren't going to hire me.
He talked to the manager, who him to have me come to the club directly for a one on one interview. So, a few days later I showed up at Harbor House and told the guard I was there for an interview at Club 33. He asked if I knew where I was going, and I told him I did. He told me to go ahead and go on through to the Club. I walked through the back stage area behind Space Mountain, onto Main Street, then through New Orleans Square and up the stairs in the Court of Angels to the Manager’s office. I sat and chatted with the Manager for about an hour, and when we were done, he told me he had no idea why the casting center had turned me down for employment. He told me that as a Manager he had the ability to override the casting center and hire someone, so he phoned them and told them that I was heading over, and to go ahead and start processing me to get hired and start A.S.A.P. [/INDENT]
JEFF: That's a great story about being hired, I have to say. I actually don't think I have ever heard of Manager over riding the casting center before, so that really goes to show you Club 33's power in the Park! You must have impressed the manager for him to do that, so kudos to you! I know of people who have worked at Disneyland for years and have tried to transfer there, and haven't been able too! On a personal level, how did it feel to be a first time Cast Member and be welcomed into this place that has a massive air of mystery around it?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] We all pretty much treated it as any other job. I guess looking back, we were pretty fortunate to be working in such a unique place, but we all pretty much felt that way about working for Disney in general. I will say that it was a lot of fun working up there, and after learning about the Club and its history, it was sort of surreal to think about the story behind the Club, and to imagine the people that had visited and worked there long before I ever did.[/INDENT]
JEFF: Was the casting center surprised by you just putting Club 33 on your application? I would imagine they get their fair share of folks who only write one place they REALLY want to work at on their application. Did you happen to deal with the same person who interviewed you
initially after you were directly hired by the manager?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] They certainly were surprised I even knew about the club. They asked me about it and I told them I was being referred by someone that worked there. One of the reasons the interview was somewhat weird was because there were two of us in it, so I guess that makes it hard to stand out. When I went back after getting hired by the club manager, I did in fact meet with the same lady to fill out some paperwork. She didn't say much beyond good luck. I'm guessing she wasn't in the mood to talk about being overridden![/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: How long were you there for?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] About a year. The ultimate position to get there was as server, but it was all based on seniority. There were servers that had already been there for 20+ years, so getting to the server position was not a very easy task. Ultimately, I left to pursue more career oriented options. Fortunately, my career that I have today allows me to work directly with people in Imagineering, so I still get to see some behind the scene stuff, and look at future projects for the parks before they become public when I visit every few months.[/INDENT]
JEFF: How did working at Club 33 differ from working at any of the other restaurants?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] The biggest difference was the simple fact that we didn't deal with the Disneyland public at large. Typically a lunch shift would be around 80-100 guests, and dinner would be around 100. Because of that, it never really felt like we were working at Disneyland…you had to look out the windows from time to time and see the throngs of people to remember where we were!
[INDENT]It was also pretty well known that the Club got whatever it wanted. On Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day, we would take over part of the New Orleans main kitchen to prepare extra stuff. For the annual member dinner, which was an 8 course meal, they even brought in additional chefs from around the resort, including the head chef for the Company. After working there for a month or so, I started to figure out that even among cast members, the Club had an aura of mystery surrounding it. As cast members of the Club, we were able to trade lots of stuff with other Cast Members if we would take them on a tour of the club. One of the more memorable 'exchanges' was getting to up in the top of the Matterhorn.[/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: Can you give me an overview of what a typical day was like?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] I was a bus boy, plain and simple. We had two different shifts, lunch shift, or dinner shift. The day shift was typically from 11:00am - 5:00pm, unless you were scheduled as a set up person. Then you went in at 8:00am to help get the club set up for the day. My day started pretty much like every other cast member’s day…at costuming! I would go to my locker, which was upstairs, right behind the America Sings building, and I would get my last worn costume. Normally all I would exchange for new items were my shirt and pants, since my jacket and vest usually stayed pretty clean.
At the costuming windows, there was a special window for Club 33 cast members only. Regardless of the lines, we always got our costumes really fast. Then it was back to the locker room to change and then head to the club for work. I usually walked through the parade gates near the Mad Hatter, across Main Street to the gate next to the fire house, then took a left and went under the train bridge. That took us around to the back of Pirates and there was a door to a hallway that led to the New Orleans Square main kitchen.
There was an elevator that had three stops: the kitchen level, The Blue Bayou Kitchen, then the top floor, which was the small server room in the club. That server room is the small room that sits right behind the bar inside the Club. If the park wasn't open yet, I would take a different route through to enjoy the empty park. I always liked going in as the set up person whenever a certain lead was working. When her and I would be there for set up, we would get to the Club early, make a couple of coffees, grab a muffin, and then sit out on one of the balconies to watch the guests come running into New Orleans Square once the Park opened.
The dinner shift started at 4:30pm and went until the last guests left, and the restaurant was clean. Most of the time, that meant we were clocking out at Harbor House around midnight. The dinner shift was the most work because we had more responsibilities at the end of the night. We had to make sure the tables were set up for the next day, make sure the kitchen was clean and all the trash was empty, and once a week we even had to change the oil in the fryers.
But working at night also meant bigger tips because of the menu prices. As bus boys, we technically were not tip earners so we had a higher per hour pay. The servers we were each assigned to would give us some tips at the end of the night. If you worked for a two server team, we typically received $40-$50 a night, and working for a single server usually got us around $30 a night. Most of the time, we had a resort dish washer for each shift, but sometimes one of the bus boys would have to volunteer to do it. I did that a few times and it wasn't all that bad. It was a good way to get to know the cooks and chefs, and usually the other bus boys would chip in some tips and share them with you. You also usually got to eat really good because the chefs would make 'extra' dishes to give you. They pretended to not be nice, but they were. It was also a way to get in good with the leads and managers which always helped with getting good shifts and other benefits. I also got the chance to be a trainer after only being there for 3 months. [/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: Why did the chefs pretend to not be nice? Did they have a reputation to protect? Haha! I'm glad to hear they were, though!
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] I think anyone that has ever worked in a restaurant will tell you about the unspoken structure and how the kitchen staff usually thought they were on the top of the totem pole! It was all in good fun for the most part. As long as everyone did their job, everyone got along. The thing the chefs hated the most was when food would sit in the window waiting to go; they didn't want their creations to spoil! But they would also do nice things from time to time like feed the dishwasher, and one year they prepared a turkey for the manager to take home for his family dinner.[/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: Going back to what you said before, now I am all sorts of intrigued by this ‘trading with other Cast Members.’ Let me get this straight: You would give them a tour of the Club in exchange for something else? That's fantastic! Any other memorable ones, aside from the Matterhorn, stick out in your mind? Was this a fairly common practice for Cast Members at Club 33? And just how was the top of the Matterhorn? Did you see the defunct basketball court?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE: [/B]Giving tours was a pretty popular thing, actually. About a year ago, I was visiting and took a short trip to check out some stuff backstage near Pirates. I mentioned to the guy I was with about my time at the Club. We took a short detour and went up to the club to see who was around. There were a couple of servers there that were working there when I was. We said hello, took a quick tour, and then got back to business. I mention this because the person I was with was pretty excited to be able to go into the club to see it for the first time.
Another thing we were always asked for was our name tag. Club 33 employees are the only people in Disney that have a name tag that's different from the oval white name tags people are familiar with. We were always getting asked to trade our name tags for something. I never gave mine away and actually 'lost' it on my last day so I could keep a souvenir. When we went up to the top of Matterhorn, we did indeed see the basketball stuff, which pretty much still looks like it does in the pictures online. [/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: Any times you can think of that you went out of your way to make a guest's visit more magical?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE: [/B]Most of the time it was simple things like escorting guests through ride exits of a ride they wanted to go on during dinner. Other stuff we did was to always make sure if someone got up to use the restroom, we would go by and fold their napkin for them while they were gone. We were also very well versed on the history of the Club so we could answer any of the Guest’s questions. One of the most memorable experiences where we went out of our way was when the manager sent me to a local wine store to pick up a bottle of wine that a member liked, but the club didn't stock. [/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: The folding of the napkins while in the restroom is a very nice, and unexpected, touch! And running out to a local wine place definitely shows the attention to detail and love for their guests! How often would you bring guests to a ride before dinner? Did you usually travel across the Park with them? [/I][INDENT]
[B]MIKE: [/B]It only happened a few times. Most of the escorts involved taking guests from the main gate to the club during the off season when companies had banquets at the club.[/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: Do you have any particular stories that stick out in your mind about your time there that you would like to share?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] Lots of fun stories! When I worked there, Fantasmic played three times a night. We got the timing of our serving down to a science to work around the 23 minute show. We didn't want to put dishes down on a table just as the show was starting, since most people would go out to one of the balconies to watch the show. Anyhow, while the show was running, we basically would stand around. I got into the habit of walking out the back of the club to a balcony above the French Market where I could watch the show from time to time. The balcony was pretty hidden so guests couldn't see you, but it had a great view of the show. To this day, my love for Fantasmic is because it takes me back to the days of standing up on that balcony, watching the show. Sometimes when I watch the show now-a-days, I glance up to that balcony wondering if I will see a club cast member watching!
Another fun thing we used to do was to explore Pirates, since the hallway we walked through had doors that accessed the ride. We got to know the security guard in the area pretty well and let him come up to the club to see it, in exchange for him letting us walk around the Pirates ride when the park was closed. I have some old pictures somewhere of some of us at various parts of the ride.
At that time as well, the managers would allow club cast members to go in to the club for dinner or dessert as long as there were open reservations. So we would go in for dessert and Fantasmic from time to time. It was also a great place to take a date if you wanted to impress them!
During the off season, when the park would close early, the club would still have corporate events and sometimes they would be buffet style. One night, this company had scheduled 90 people for dinner, and only 65 showed up. So after they were done with dinner and dessert, we escorted them to the main gates like normal, and when we got back to the club, the manager and the lead were wearing chef coats and standing at the buffet line. They told us all to grab some plates, enjoy some good food, and relax for a bit. It was a thanks for all the hard work we had done. [/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: How was it walking through Pirates when it was closed? I'm sure that was awesome! [/I][INDENT]
[B]MIKE: [/B]It was strange to find out that the pirates on the ship were only half a pirate! It was just cool to see all the lighting and effects used to make the ride look the way it does. [/INDENT]
JEFF: Since you told me what a day was like for you, can you tell me a little about what a typical MEAL is like for a Guest? A lot of folks have never experienced Club 33, so I'm sure people would love to know!
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] Professionally prepared French food! My favorites were the Caesar salad, where the server would prepare the dressing table side, and the flambé dessert, that was prepared table side as well. Sometimes a server would prepare a little extra and bring back the leftover to the pantry area for some of us to snack on.[/INDENT]
JEFF: Based on your answers, it seems like you guys were a close knit group, and really respected each other. Especially because of what your managers did for you, making it special for you guys as well. I'm really impressed!
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE: [/B]When the managers hosted a party for all of us at their house, that was the ultimate sign of respect. We also had the club summer Olympics that involved scavenger hunts in the park, a foot race between the servers where they had to transport champagne glasses full of water from the kitchen to the main dinning room. The prize for the wining team was dinner at the club served by the managers.
[I]JEFF: I find it very interesting how "secluded" Club 33 is from the rest of the Park, despite being right smack in the middle of it. Based on past stuff, and what you said about them getting almost anything they wanted, it definitely feeds right into that. You guys serve an almost elite cliente. Can you tell me a little more about the folks who come to dine there? And can you talk about the annual members? Isn't there a ridiculously long waiting list to get in for that?
[/I][INDENT][B]MIKE:[/B] The members were pretty unique. During my time there was a member who lived in Australia and he only made it to the club once a year! There was another member that showed up pretty regularly for dessert and drinks. He would normally call in to see if there was a table free, so the managers always made room for him. If I remember correctly, he had been an ODV Cast Member when he was younger. For the most part, the members were corporations, so we rarely saw actual members. The annual member dinner was the one time a year we got to see lots of them. At that time I believe the waiting list was 12 years long.
Thanks, Mike, for talking with me about Club 33!
And thank you for reading! Don't forget come back each week to hear more of the magic directly [B]From the Mouth of the Mouse[/B].
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