More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

Disney Women of Food & Beverage – Part Four

Karen McClintock

by , Food & Beverage Content Relations Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

A career in the foodservice industry is very rewarding, but it’s not all “Champagne and caviar!” Kitchens are fast-paced, yet focused, in an effort to deliver perfection on each plate for every meal. If you work and support “behind the scenes” you are implementing new programs while trying to stay one step ahead of this ever-changing industry. What drives someone to pursue a job in food and beverage? It truly is a combination of passion and dedication to the industry and, maybe, just a little bit of pixie dust.

The number of years in the foodservice industry for the 22 women profiled in this series totals close to 600, with over 460 of those years at Disney. When asked why they wanted to work in food and beverage at Disney, here are a few of the answers:

    “I came to Disney as a chef because I wanted to be the best and in order to achieve that, you need to learn from the best.”

    “Disney has so many opportunities and does creative work like nowhere else.”

    “My mom works for Disney and I wanted to be a part of the great experience she always talked about.”

    “As a Florida resident, my family visited the parks a lot. The company’s values, reputation, and high level of guest service were instilled in me at a young age.”

    “Disney has a commitment to creating a healthier generation of kids – I want to be a part of that.”

    “I just love what this company represents and the memories that it has created for me and the fact that I get to do that for our guests and cast members every day.”

    “I have always been told I’m too happy so I wanted to surround myself with people like me. What better place than Disney? ”

    “What started out as a part-time summer job blossomed into my lifetime career. I consider myself very fortunate and I can’t imagine working anywhere else. ”

    “I love what I do and I have a passion for the food and beverage industry. The icing on the cake is having the opportunity to work for The Walt Disney Company.”

    “I can be a chef anywhere in the world, but there is only one place where the sole function of my job is to create happiness on a daily basis. That is why I choose to work for Disney.”

It is clear these women love what they do – especially at Disney. Here is a look at the next group of Disney Women of Food & Beverage.

Health & Wellness Manager Cheryl Dolven from Walt Disney World Resort

Cheryl Dolven

Hometown: Colfax, Wash. (grew up on a wheat farm)
Years in the Food & Beverage Industry: 18 years
Year Started with Disney: 2016
Current Role: Manager, Health & Wellness, Food & Beverage, Walt Disney World Resort
Education/Accomplishments: Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Central Washington University; Registered Dietitian; named as one of “40 under 40 Rising Stars” by Full Service Restaurant Magazine

Delicious Details: Passionate about making a difference and creating positive change; fond food memories of eating snap peas, cucumbers, and strawberries from the family garden; enjoys soaking up the sun at the beach – but always with sunscreen and a hat; volunteers for the Food & Culinary Dietetic Practice Group; loves being a mom and spending time with her daughter; fresh fruit is always in the fridge – it’s nature’s candy; a cookie scoop is her favorite kitchen gadget; co-authored a book titled Recipe Nutrient Analysis: Best practices for calculated and chemical analysis; grew up on a farm so food is part of her DNA; described as driven, passionate, and inquisitive.

What advice would you give young women wanting to get into the food and beverage industry?
Go for it! There are so many opportunities within the industry because it takes so many disciplines to bring ideas to life. Remember that you may have to work a couple of jobs that you don’t necessarily love to get where you want to go. Network, volunteer, and keep working towards your goal.

Chef Gina Greene from Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Gina Greene

Hometown: Born in Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam. Grew up in a military lifestyle and has lived in Florida the longest.
Years in the Food & Beverage Industry: 22 years, 6 years as a chef
Year Started with Disney: 1995
Current Role: Chef, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort
Education/Accomplishments: College as an education major and found her way into the foodservice industry; Disney Partners in Excellence

Delicious Details: Loves mini kitchen gadgets; anything coconut – cake, water, scents; does not eat red meat; her mom is her biggest inspiration; enjoys the beach; favorite dry rub seasoning is a blend of coffee, garlic, paprika, and brown sugar; perfect snack is warm chocolate chip cookies and cold milk; described as passionate, hands-on, and impatient.

What advice would you give young women wanting to get into the food and beverage industry?
You have to want it, you have to enjoy it, you have to have passion for it, and always, no matter what, stay positive.

Beverage Project Manager Jeannie Villarreal-Bissell from Disneyland Resort

Jeannie Villarreal-Bissell

Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Years in the Food & Beverage Industry: 31 years
Year Started with Disney: 1987
Current Role: Beverage Project Manager, Disneyland Resort (supporting new beverage initiatives and implement new beverage concepts and standards)
Education/Accomplishments: Texas A&M University – studied Architecture; Court of Master Sommeliers – Introductory Sommelier Diploma Level One; Cicerone® Program Certified Beer Server Level One

Delicious Details: Loves Texas-style BBQ; favorite kitchen gadget is a food processer; enjoys cooking, gardening, boating, and dining out; Champagne and cheese are always in her fridge; huge sports fan – San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Cowboys are her favorite teams; inspired by her parents, sisters, and husband; described as someone who does things “by the book” and known for her attention to details.

What advice would you give young women wanting to get into the food and beverage industry?
Work hard! Strive to be the best at what you do. Get to know every aspect of the business. Treat your guest as if you are welcoming them into your home! Lastly, I honestly feel that in order to be successful in this industry, you must have passion for the business. Cheers!

Food & Beverage Proprietor Anna Otero-Knox from Pandora - The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park

Anna Otero-Knox

Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.
Years in the Food & Beverage Industry: 25 years
Year Started with Disney: 1991
Current Role: Food & Beverage Proprietor, Pandora – The World of Avatar, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Walt Disney World Resort
Education/Accomplishments: Master’s Degree in Business from Saint Leo University; Court of Master Sommeliers – Introductory Sommelier Diploma Level One; Disney Partners in Excellence

Delicious Details: Loves dancing to Latin music; her sister, Judy, is her biggest inspiration; feels foodservice leaders have a responsibility to teach the next generation in the business and remind experienced generations why we love it and stay in it; “organized chaos” is her definition of running a restaurant; a pressure cooker is her favorite kitchen gadget – always looking to save time; described as passionate, caring, and driven.

What advice would you give young women wanting to get into the food and beverage industry?
First, become self-aware. Find out what makes you happy before you set out to do a job that requires you to make others happy. Being in the foodservice industry is exactly that. You have to find joy in the service of others. You will get pulled in every direction in this role (both physically and emotionally) so you have to be set with your own foundation before you can effectively help others and find joy in doing so. The job has its pros and cons and at the end of the day it’s most important to love what you do so it doesn’t feel like “work.”