At Walt Disney World Resort, our talented team of culinary visionaries love cooking up immersive, entertaining and innovative dining experiences for guests of all ages.
Meet Chef Demetria Foundoukis, Chef Christine Weissman and Chef Amanda Lauder. These dynamic women continue to set the bar for excellence and follow their dreams as they inspire others in the culinary field to do the same. All three are culinary leaders who share a passion for storytelling and the culinary arts which has led them to build highly successful careers doing what they love most.
It was a treat to recently sit down with these impressive women and hear more about how they inspire and lead talented teams of cast members who create and deliver unforgettable dining experiences that build upon the connections our guests have with so many of our Disney characters and stories. Keep reading to join us this Women’s History Month as we Celebrate Her Story!
Chef Demetria Foundoukis – Walt Disney World Resorts Culinary Director
Q: What is your favorite part of your role as a culinary leader here at Disney?
A: You never stop learning. I’ve been with the company for 32 years and still feel like I grow every day because there’s so many different facets to our world and our cast members. I’ve learned a lot from my peers and my fellow leaders, but I’ve learned the most from the cast members I lead. The process of engaging with them and tapping into their strengths and opportunities, and then growing as a team is absolutely the best part.
Q: What’s one of your proudest accomplishments in your career so far?
A: My family is from Greece so when I was helping lead operations at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort & Villas for the opening of Kouzzina by Cat Cora, a Mediterranean-style restaurant featuring Greek cuisine, I brought my mom to the tasting. After trying our food, she looked at me with a tear in her eye and said, “You were listening.” That was hands down my proudest moment. My mom, who taught me so much about life and about our culture, tasted my food and loved it!
Chef Amanda Lauder – Pastry Chef Chocolatier at Disney Springs
Q: How did you get started with the Disney culinary team?
A: My Disney journey started as a Disney Culinary Program participant. I had the chance to work at the bakery at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, which was actually my dream job. I loved it so much I became a campus recruiter for the program and stayed connected to the team at the Grand Floridian, including my mentors who were instrumental in developing me and the reason I wanted to work for Disney. I was lucky enough to come back for my first full-time position with the Grand Floridian after finishing school and my hire date also happened to be International Women’s Day!
Q: What does it mean to you to be part of “Celebrate Her Story” at Walt Disney World as we honor Women’s History Month?
A: For me, Women’s History Month is shining a light on the strong, hardworking individuals who make up about half of the world today. It’s shining a light or opening a door for people to have visibility and see themselves represented in all career fields because representation matters. It’s a passion of mine to be able to mentor the next generation of future chefs at Disney and seeing how we can all move forward.
Chef Christine Weissman – Walt Disney World Resorts & Disney Vacation Club Culinary Director
Q: What inspired you to become a chef?
A: My parents have a restaurant which has been in the family for over 350+ years now, so I grew up in the restaurant business. I learned how to cook from my dad who was my mentor and inspiration. I was also passionate about teaching, and we always learned from each other. I love that I was encouraged to combine both my passions of cooking and teaching and now, I get to teach other culinarians. Just like my experience with my dad, I learn and grow from teaching and developing others just as much as they do from me.
Q: What advice do you have for those in the culinary field who aspire to be a leader in the industry?
A: I think about this a lot, and I always tell them to be yourself. Have the passion and if you know what you want to do with your career, have the confidence too. You own your own career path and be mindful of that. You are always part of what your next steps are and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.
Do you have a passion for the culinary arts and want to explore opportunities to join our team here at Disney? Visit DisneyCulinary.com to learn more and apply today!