ORLANDO, Fla. – The chefs at Universal Orlando are looking to raise the bar when it comes to the food guests can expect to find at a theme park.
“We really want to reinvent the thought of what theme park food is,” Ron Cope, executive chef of Universal Studios Florida, said. “We’ve really tried to elevate everything we do here — from our simple little desserts, a sandwich, a soup, whatever it is. That’s our real goal is to get out of that old school this is just carnival theme park food. This is really a dining experience that you’re gonna have.”
Cope said a lot of thought was put into the menu at Universal’s new Minion Café, bringing both creativity and whimsy to the menu.
“We thought about what would an adult like, but what would a kid say,” he said. “You know, it’s something for everybody and we think we really nailed it.”
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The menu features dishes like Otto’s noodle bowl, which features a tonkatsu broth, braised pork, a shrimp dumpling and roasted corn. It also showcases sugary, sweet drinks featuring whipped cream and Pop Rocks. It’s a wide range of flavors for both adults and children.
The level of thought and creativity in the menu is also reflected in the amount of time it took to develop everything.
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“We probably did it for about a year, year and a half,” Cope said. “We wanted to really capture what would be fun for everybody. So with the Illuminations partners, they really pushed us to get playful things in and we’re really happy with the way it came out.”
The chefs at Universal work closely with the creators of the intellectual properties they are representing with their food.
This is also true for the park’s annual Halloween event, Halloween Horror Nights.
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“With Halloween Horror Nights, we get to have the most fun,” Christoper Colon, executive sous chef of research and development at Universal, said. “You don’t get to see a cordyceps corndog or a meat stew somewhere on your day-to-day restaurant tour. So it’s definitely the most fun that we have.”
Colon worked to bring dishes inspired by the hit video game “The Last of Us” to life for the 2023 event.
“We have an amazing research and development team,” Colon said. “We love to do this. We all played the game. We all did our research by playing some games and then we get to bring it to life with Chef Ron Cope. His team comes out here and executes at us for us every single day.”
Colon said it took his team about six months to develop the menu items that guests will be able to enjoy during HHN.
On the latest episode of Florida Foodie, the chefs share more of the development process for the highly themed items being served up at the park. They also show off several of the dishes and how they are prepared.
Please follow our Florida Foodie hosts on social media. You can find Candace Campos on Twitter and Facebook. Lisa Bell is also on Facebook and Twitter and you can check out her children’s book, “Norman the Watchful Gnome.”
Florida Foodie is a podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it and the impact that has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.