*This culinary dining experience at the Food & Wine Festival took place October 3, 2014.
When it comes to attending culinary demonstrations and special meal events at Epcot Food & Wine Festival, it can be a challenge to eat as a special diets guest. Culinary demos are a nice low-cost way to participate in the Food & Wine Festival events without stressing out too much about spending a lot of money and getting stuck with nothing to eat. (also, check out those Back to Basics sessions this year! They are free and fantastic!)
One of my biggest strategies is to take a look at the schedule and look for demos that seem like they might be particularly special diets friendly. For instance, last year I attended Erin McKenna from Babycakes NYC’s demo (already gluten free and dairy free naturally) and Chef Kevin Dundon’s (where I was able to connect with the Raglan Road team ahead of time) from Raglan Road Irish Pub. At each of these, I was able to get offerings.
In previous year’s I’ve had hit or miss luck with culinary demonstrations. One of my favorite’s was Suvir Saran’s demo (of Top Chef Masters and the famous restaurant Devi) in 2011. Cooking primarily Indian dishes, I knew that I had a pretty good chance of getting something gluten free and dairy free. At that demo, there was some alterations that needed to be made, but I was able to enjoy part of the demo components.
So when I saw that he was presenting again this year, I decided to sign up guessing I’d have rather good luck again when attending the event. And I was definitely right. I scored a dish that was completely gluten free and dairy free straight off the menu.
Before the demo started, I arrived at the Festival Center 1 hour early. There, I picked up my event passes and then checked in with cast members setting up at the culinary demo stage area. I let them know that I had special dietary needs and wanted to check in to see if the sample was safe for me.
The team got Chef Suvir (who I admittedly tweeted the week before the demo!) who came out to chat with me. He brought over the recipe and had a lengthy discussion with me about the dish. We also chatted at length about special diets and some of the current “fads” out there. He’s really knowledgeable and was fun to chat with.
Once the demo was ready to start, we scored seats up front. This gave us a great view of the stage and all of the culinary excitement.
Food & Wine Festival veteran Pam Smith led the demo, introducing both Chef Suvir and the culinary wine expert from the San Sebastian Winery here in Florida. For the first portion of the demo, we learned about the winery, their products and general wine information. I always find these portions of demos really fascinating!
Then it was onto Chef Suvir’s demo. He made an Indian inspired chicken drumstick and a slaw. The chicken was really delicious with honey, garam masala, and tamarind chutney all bringing out sweet and savory flavors.
The slaw was my hands down favorite part of the demo dish. With fresh mint, cilantro, and peanuts, this was not your ordinary mayo-based slaw. I liked it so much that I actually made it at home that weekend!
I had such a fun time at this culinary demo. I was so thrilled that the dish was safe for me to eat without any modifications. It was one of those lucky picks for a demo, and I’m so glad I got a chance to see Chef Suvir in action again. He’s also a very lovely chef to chat with, and I love his culinary viewpoint on eating real food and getting into the kitchen, making the food yourself.
Here is a video clip from the demo (you can find more on my YouTube channel):
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