Have you ever wondered where the diverse and delectable eats and treats at Disney World originate? Did you know that Disney creates menus years ahead of their restaurant openings? The Flavor Lab is where it all takes place… researching new ideas… brainstorming unique recipes… testing flavor blends. Years of development are behind each and every culinary creation and tasty libation…

Walt Disney once said… “I believe in being an innovator…” and the Flavor Lab is the hub of Disney innovation. Just like a Hidden Mickey, the Flavor Lab is out of sight and not open to the public. The 7,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility is the site for Disney chefs to work their magic. Hi-def TV’s, cameras and lights surround the food prep stations, allowing for live streaming to Disney locations around the world. Chefs can collaborate in developing and perfecting new recipes.

Disney Imagineers work closely with restaurant managers, chefs, sommeliers and mixologists to finalize the restaurant’s theme and menu. Disney shared this… “After the story is laid out and we do some brainstorming, we might spend 18 months to two years working on the menu, including many renditions of a dish. A lot of people don’t realize that the menu comes first, not the kitchen.” This was true of Animal Kingdom‘s signature restaurant Tiffins, themed around the art of traveling. One of their many global menu offerings is a refined Charred Octopus accented with Romesco sauce, olive tapenade, Chorizo and squid ink aioli.

Innovation of new beverages also begins at the Flavor Lab. Mixologists create signature drinks and cocktails based upon the story and theme of the location. Disney shared this… “We generally start two to three years out. Our team does everything from designing drinks and working on design of bars and layout to specifying the equipment and developing menus.” Animal Kingdom’s Nomad Lounge offers unique cocktails and drinks themed around the spirit of adventure and exploration. Spice Trader Classic features Hayman’s Gin, Dolin Vermouth Blanc, lemon juice and strawberries topped with soda. Inspired by the animal wood carvings on Discovery Island, Night Monkey features Bacardi Gran Reserva Maestro Rum, guava puree, coffee simple syrup and lime juice with a hint of cilantro.

Next time you try any one of Disney’s culinary creations or libations throughout the parks and resorts, remember the magic behind the scenes that happened at this innovative Flavor Lab.