So, the other day I wrote about my experiences as a guest with Celiac Disease at the Walt Disney World Resort. Today, I am going to pull a bit of the curtain back and share life as a Gluten Free Cast Member. And sadly, as fantastic as my experience is whenever I am in the park as a guest, it is just as bad as a cast member.
First off, I must make it absolutely clear that Disney uses a third party provider for their employee cafeterias. This outside vendor is the one with employees that are, in my opinion, not well versed in cross-contamination, ingredients, and other things I feel I have to look for before I eat.
When I go down to work now, I make it a point to stop at a grocery store and pick up a few staples. I always buy cereal, for I know getting breakfast is a wash. While there is a short-order cook at the parks ready and willing to do breakfasts, an egg will be cooked in the same space a pancake was 2 people before. So, the short order line is out, as a bun will also go where a chicken breast was cooking. And the fryer is used for everything. Thankfully there is fruit and yogurt available for purchase.
If I am there over lunch or dinner, it is not nearly the nightmare that breakfast is. There is a salad bar, but we all know about the cross contamination there. There is a hot line, but they do not know the ingredients, so you have to wait for them to get the containers for every thing that you may want to eat to find out if it is safe or not. The grill line was already mentioned as a pass. And then there is SubWay. Not my first choice, and I try to make sure I eat either before or after the meal rush has gone through. I always ask for clean gloves and knives when they make my salad. Thankfully I have not gotten sick, mainly because I tend to go with the chicken salads, since the meat is already pre-measured and packaged. Oh, and there is always my good friends, yogurt and fresh fruit.
So, in my limited experience as a gluten-free cast member, it seems I have 3 choices. The first is to bring my own lunch. Staying on friends couches makes this a bit difficult as I don’t generally have time/space/ability/supplies to cook with. The second is to brave the employee cafeteria, read ingredients if the hot line looks like it may have something I can eat, or brave Subway. Or, I can pray that my lunch break is long enough for me to change out of my costume, go to a quick service restaurant, have them make something, eat, change back into my costume, and get to my work location on time.
Maybe it is time for the powers in food service to look at the size of the gluten free population on staff and start making changes to provide them with allergen free alternatives backstage. Any thoughts?
Just my .02
OH! And I will post a follow-up of my experiences when I get back from my latest trip to the House of Mouse