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From The Mouth Of The Mouse

Jeffrey at the French Market

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by , 01-03-2012 at 06:59 AM
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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.

[/FONT][FONT=verdana]This week, we’re talking Jeffrey (which, based on his name alone, I am pre-disposed to like him!). Jeffrey worked at some Quick Service Restaurants back in 2007. According to him, it seems like it is “…one of the most under-rated roles at the resort.” But after reading this interview, you’ll see how much work goes into it, and will have a new appreciation for it.[/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=verdana]

And now, here's Jeffrey! [/FONT][/SIZE][HR][/HR][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana][I]
JEFF: What made you want to work at Disney to begin with? [/I][INDENT][B]

JEFFREY:[/B] I was fortunate enough to have grown up about 20 minutes away from Anaheim. Since my first trip (which was when I was in Preschool, but trust me, there was plenty more after that!), I’ve always thought it was a place that I could escape from the difficult realities of “the real world.” I always thought that something about the place seemed surreal. It really did spark my curiosity as to how such a place always managed to make people leave always wanting more, despite being different ages, personalities and cultural backgrounds. It was different, it was magical, and I wanted to be a part of it.

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JEFF: How did you come about working for Disney? [/I][INDENT][B]

JEFFREY:[/B] With the great luck and judgment I have in choosing friends, I was lucky enough to run into the opportunity to apply for a role as a Cast Member my senior year of high school. One of my friends heard about a job fair that they were having, back in October 2007, and wanted me to tag along with him. This was one of the first things that got the ball rolling towards me ending up where I did with Disney. I had gone into the application process hoping to get (like many others do) attractions. I put down ticket taker as a back-up plan. I had friends who either worked for Disney, or knew someone that did, who all told me to “stay away from foods at all costs.” However, since I was 17 at the time, I was not eligible to apply for attractions because of labor laws & liability issues, and there were no open roles in ticket taking.

I was told that to continue with the application process, I would have to change my preference to something in foods. At this point, I just wanted to work at Disney. With that one change in my application, things picked up rapidly. I had my interview and before I knew it, I was going over the job description for “Quick Service Restaurant Host” and being asked what name and hometown I wanted on my name tag. It went so fast, I just went along without realizing what I was getting myself into. I was told that I would be working at the French Market. In all honesty, I had never been there, let alone knew that it existed! As soon as I left the Casting Center with all my paperwork that needed to be finished before my first day of “Traditions”(orientation), I realized I had no clue where I was working. I had to do some research! Unfortunately, with all the Google searches done that night, I never got a clear idea of what the French Market looked like or where it was. I would have to wait until first day of on the job training to find out more about this, then, obscure location. But obviously things worked out, and I never looked back.

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[I]JEFF: What were your basic responsibilities at Quick Service in the French Market?


[/I][INDENT] [B]JEFFREY:[/B] Working at Market was a lot more complex than most people would think. Despite me having a certain role, my responsibilities often overlapped with other roles within Market and other restaurant locations. We were often encouraged to take the initiative to help others whenever we saw fit. My primary responsibilities included “working the line,” as a front of house host by assisting guests with their orders and preparing the many components into one delicious entree or dessert. With many people having allergies and dining preferences, it also came in handy to have every ingredient of the vast menu mentally nearby.

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JEFF: What was a typical day was like for you?


[/I][INDENT][B]JEFFREY:[/B] Like most Cast Members will say…there is no “typical day” at the resort. With thousands of diverse guests from all over the world, things did come up. But there was nothing we couldn’t handle. There were some things that remained constant, sure. One thing would be my costuming routine. Unlike most cast members, I would be coming to work from school on Friday afternoons instead of home. This meant that I would have to stop at costuming to pick up and change into my costume for the day. Everything is so well organized in costuming that it’s surprisingly easy to grab all the components that made up my relatively complex costume. My costume consisted of slacks, a button-down shirt, tie, vest, and belt…and on colder days, the hot commodity referred to as “universal jackets.” They were called universal jackets because they were allowed with any costume. I liked it because our location’s default costume wasn’t as snazzy without it.

If I was scheduled in a location that wasn’t my home restaurant, I would ask for help from the cast members in costuming or sometimes even go to another costuming location to obtain it. After I got all costumed-up, I would make my way to my location for the day. Since costuming is technically on the outside of the berm, I would have to navigate a maze of stairs and hallways that involved going through scheduling, underneath the Primeval World Dioramas, and near Space Mountain. And that was just to get me to the eastern side of Main Street! I then had the option of cutting through Town Square, backstage by the Firehouse, around the jungles of the Jungle Cruise, near the Indiana Jones queue/show building, and then through the bayou and Caribbean to find myself in the New Orleans Main Kitchen. I also had the option of just walking onstage to my location, which I preferred. For some reason, I had a rush getting asked questions along my route to my location. This is when I developed a skill called “crowd weaving” that often came in handy when I was running late or it was a busy holiday weekend.

Recently, I went on Google Maps and calculated that the commute between costuming and my location was about a mile. If I was early, I would hang out at the West Side Diner and catch up on the latest resort news via Cast TV. Once my time came up, I would clock in, and then head up the stairs to the Market to report to my lead. My lead would then tell me who to relieve to give them a lunch break or send them home for the day. I was sent to one of the many stations located on the line. So throughout my shift, I would be working in: salads (serving up your side salads with either Ranch, Italian, Bleu Cheese, Thousand Island or the often questioned, even more feared “Pineapple Bacon Vinaigrette”…in any case a smile was served here), orders (serving up the many warm entrees) or soups/desserts (making those common bread bowls into a much more magical sourdough Mickey Mouse and filling him up with soup).

Since I did work mostly closing shifts, we also had to make sure every surface that made contact with food or may have accidentally made contact with it throughout the day was cleaned at the end of the night. Pans and utensils were washed at this time too. It was such a big deal that we stuck around up to an hour and a half after the restaurant actually closed for the day cleaning and re-cleaning everything.

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JEFF: Where else did you work at Disneyland?

[/I][INDENT][B]JEFFREY:[/B] Well, sometimes I would be scheduled as a greeter on busy days. This meant that I would assist in crowd control within the restaurant. I would direct guests to one of our two identical food service lines. I really loved this position because it gave me the opportunity to welcome guests and have mini conversations that wouldn’t come as often if I was working behind the counter preparing entrees. I was scheduled a handful of times to work in other restaurants like Rancho del Zocalo, Village Haus and Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port based on staffing needs. It seemed to throw me off most of the time, because I wouldn’t really know what to expect.

Most of the time the lead in that location would make me deal with a less intense task that didn’t require me to actually know what made up certain menu items…sometimes I’d just end up cleaning up in the back. On occasion I would be working a back-of-house role as a runner at Market. This basically meant that we had to stock the wells with food components so that the hosts could assemble entrees for the guests. It was somewhat more relaxed but the risk of burning your fingers was more likely. So we would have to double, triple, and sometimes even quadruple the amount of gloves I had on just to handle the scorching pans of fresh food.

On even rarer occasions, I would be scheduled to do “food prep” for the Blue Bayou. Since all the restaurants in New Orleans shared the same main kitchen, it wasn’t too far of a change in atmosphere. Fellow Cast Members often referred to this as a “butter shift” because it was often spent using a piping/pastry bag to get butter into the cups served with bread at the Blue Bayou. A plus was being able to wear the much simpler and comfortable chef’s coat and pants.

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[I]JEFF: How did working in all those Quick Service restaurants differ, if at all, from each other?

[/I][INDENT][B]JEFFREY:[/B] When I worked at other locations, it was literally like walking into a, forgive me, “Whole New World”. When you work at one location and know it like the back of your hand, going into a new one was difficult to get used to for the day. The first hassle was me having to find the right costume and all of its components. As large as the main costuming building was, it did not have every attraction, restaurant or role’s costume. There were other smaller costuming buildings scattered around the resort that were more convenient for other restaurants. Not knowing what to look for really made the costuming Cast Members a great resource. Having to get used to another restaurant’s menu was another obstacle because it was necessary to know what certain components made up a dish to completely fulfill an order.

It was a learning opportunity at the same time. If a guest asked me at my home location where a certain type of food was available, I could refer them to a location I had previously worked at. An even more dangerous benefit was that if an item seemed worthy of buying…I would! On my day off, of course! Finally, different locations have varied physical features. Going from the Market, with its echoing dome, to the much more intimate Rancho del Zocalo meant I would have to compensate my level of voice. Also, it always felt a little different not being able to hear Fantasmic going on around the Rivers of America on the weekends in other locations.

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JEFF: You mentioned to me before the interview that you were around during a menu change at the French Market. Tell me a little bit about that, and how it affected you guys.

[/I][INDENT][B]JEFFREY:[/B] Well, one of the largest changes a restaurant can go through is a menu change. I think the change the Market had to go through in the summer of 2008 was a really dramatic one. Like most have noticed lately, the Resort has been doing their best to offer healthier options to guests. In my personal opinion, I thought it was a sincere attempt on their behalf. For years, many guests loved the fried chicken with their choice of mashed potatoes or steak fries. There was also the classic po’boys and French dip sandwiches with fries. The questionable fettuccine was on the old menu too. And who could forget the kids’ meals consisting of grilled chicken, chicken tenders and mac and cheese with fruit. If you wanted to substitute the fruit with something else on the kids’ meals, you could substitute it for (you guessed it)... fries.

With most of the menu being fried, and the side of choice being fries (in some cases, with an additional side of fries), some people consisting of both guests and Cast Members agreed with the change to offer alternatives. So out went most of the fryers in the Market’s kitchen and in came the ovens. The new menu brought baked roasted citrus chicken, salmon (my new personal favorite), a new version of the classic Jambalaya, a more adult oriented “Four-Cheese Pasta & Vegetable Gratin (a.k.a. fancy mac and cheese), a roast beef option and sides which include smashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, and cheddar corn bread. We of course kept a few things that were successes from the old menu, like the Clam Chowder and Mac and Cheese for the kids. The reception by frequent visitors of the Market was not exactly “positive.” I personally saw on Disney fan message boards that it was not welcomed with a warm reception and petitions and protests were being planned.

Luckily, no such plans really materialized to my knowledge. Despite the drastic changes not going so well with people who remember the older menu, we did our best to keep guests informed. If they wanted to find some of their favorites of the not so far past, we did our best to refer them to other restaurants for comparable offerings. I think it took a lot of time to adjust, but I figured Walt Disney’s saying of “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world” also applies to restaurant menus as well.

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[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]JEFFREY:[/B] Part of my time spent working for the Resort was when the “Year of a Million Dreams” promotion was occurring. So coming up with one that wasn’t scheduled was difficult. Also being in a restaurant environment behind a counter restricted us a bit. But that didn’t stop my fellow cast members from trying! Most of our moments seemed to happen at night. One instance was when I realized a teenage girl had a birthday button on…I told her Happy Birthday and she told me that I was the first person to actually realize it was her birthday. So, I thought it was unfortunate that for whatever reasons no one else had acknowledged her button earlier in the day. I went around the restaurant and told my fellow host Cast Members that it was her birthday and that we would all sing happy birthday to her. Well, we did, and it was great. If I had ever seen a young lady with tears of joy, that was it. A few of the female hostesses had a few tears in their eyes too.

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JEFF: Do you have any other fun stories that you’d like to share?[/I] [/FONT][/SIZE][INDENT][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana][B]

JEFFREY:[/B] Like I said earlier, most of the fun moments happened at night. One of the biggest events at night was of course Fantasmic, along the nearby Rivers of America. Most of us at the Market had heard Fantasmic enough that we could act it out. The general consensus was that the monkeys were the best part. On occasion, we would time it out so that when the cannon from the Peter Pan segment went off, we would all duck out of sight, behind counters, chairs, and guests, and then look up to check if it was all clear. One night, I found myself stumbling upon a large stash of Mardi Gras beads with a fellow Cast Member. We had the strange reasoning that it seemed like it would be handed out to guests at about two a day and that the turnover rate wouldn’t be quick enough to get rid of them even within a year. Since they were intended for guests, we took the initiative to hand them out faster by grabbing a few dozen, then handing them out to almost any guest we ran into after our shift. It was kind of cool to notice we handed out the coolest accessory of the night to what seemed like half the guests we could see on Main Street.[/FONT][/SIZE]

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[SIZE=3][FONT=verdana]Thanks for sharing with us, Jeffrey![/FONT][FONT=verdana]

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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Be sure to LIKE the brand new [URL="http://www.facebook.com/ftmotm"][B]'From the Mouth of The Mouse' [/B]Facebook page[/URL] for more information on the meet up!

And finally, a lot of folks who followed me over here from my old stomping grounds have been asking if the Podcast will return anytime soon...and the answer is yes! I have a few lined up that need to be edited, so look for them in the coming weeks. And if you're new to the column, and would like to catch up, you can download them by visiting it's [URL="http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/from-the-mouth-of-the-mouse/id419255897"]iTunes page right here!

[/URL] [/FONT][/SIZE] [HR][/HR][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana] If you are, or know, a Cast Member who would like to share some of their stories and possibly be featured right here on MiceChat, please email me at [EMAIL="[email protected]"][email protected][/EMAIL]. I'd love to hear from you!

Jeff also writes a MiceChat column titled [URL="http://micechat.com/blogs/the-626/"][B]The 626[/B][/URL]. We invite you to check it out!

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Updated 01-04-2012 at 06:05 AM by Mouth of the Mouse

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Comments

  1. pattimarie's Avatar
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    I haven't eaten at the market since the menu change. It used to be one of my favorite places! I don't know why menus can't accommodate more than one taste--keep the popular fried chicken, but add some different things too.
  2. Galen Fleming's Avatar
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    Working at the French Market was awesome. I was a cashier, but the one place I didn't like working at was the little bar connected to the French Market. We called it the Mint Bummer Bar. Anyways, it's cool to see how other people viewed their roles. :-)
  3. 10/6's Avatar
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    "The general consensus was that the monkeys were the best part. On occasion, we would time it out so that when the cannon from the Peter Pan segment went off, we would all duck out of sight, behind counters, chairs, and guests, and then look up to check if it was all clear."

    I would have died laughing!