7 Questions with Kristen Hoetzel
There are lots of people in this country who love Disney World. I’ve been their seven times in my life but that’s nothing. My neighbor went seven times in the last four years. What can I say, it truly is the happiest place on earth. It feels like Christmas morning everyday. Although millions of Americans are in love with the Disney experience few have manifested that love quite like Kristen Hoetzel creator of Cooking with Mickey.
While working on a Psychology degree, Hoetzel paid her way through college by working in restaurants. That’s where her early enthusiasm of food began to blossom. However, it was a brush with her own mortality that prompted her to turn a fascination with food into a full blown obsession. Soon she was experimenting with recipes and taking classes at the Viking Cooking School.
It didn’t take long for the Ohio native to combine her love for food with her other love, Disney. Three years ago Kristen developed the webseries Cooking with Mickey for Sorcerer Radio that gets into the nuts and bolts of some of Disney’s most popular recipes. Today Kristen also hosts The Disney Dining Experience where she reviews Disney World’s 70 some-odd restaurants and she is the co-host of The Tiki Room Morning Show which features interviews, Disney travel tips and trip reports. It is a must-listen for any foodie planning a visit to Mickey’s house.
In the spirit of Walt himself, Kristen has decided to “plus” her fans by answering 7 Questions:
1. How old were you when you first started to cook?
I was about 10 years old. Since I wasn’t old enough to really buy anything for my parent’s anniversary I decided that I’d make them dinner. I know it was a Mexican meal and I believe it was enchiladas.
2. When did you decide that you could make food part of your career?
This is kind of a two part answer. My very first job at the age of 17 was working as a hostess at a chain restaurant and then when I started college I became a server to pay my way through college. At that point I developed a passion for discovering new foods and flavors. I started to experiment at home making my own dishes. After graduating college I got away from working in the food industry due to a job offer I couldn’t refuse. When I received a kidney transplant over 4 years ago I spent a lot of time watching the Food Network and my favorite chefs like Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence and Michael Chiarello. I decided since life is short that it was important to get back to what I was passionate about, food and cooking.
3. Of the 44 Disney restaurants you have dined at which is your favorite?
Walt Disney World has such great restaurants that it’s hard to choose just one but I think I’d have to go with Flying Fish over at Disney’s Boardwalk. The restaurant is part of what they consider signature dining so you can’t come in dressed like you just left the park. The atmosphere is beautiful and relaxing. The restaurant is much quieter than most and the food and service is always exceptional and consistent. I always have 3 courses, never miss out on a having a drink with my meal or the dessert wine flight. Flying Fish’s seafood dishes showcase different flavors, have a contrast in textures and show the average person that seafood and fish can be more than just fried.
4. Have you ever spent the night in the Cinderella’s Castle Suite?
No, I would love to but have not been that lucky. However, of those rare things that people get to do at Walt Disney World or Disneyland I have been fortunate enough to dine at Walt Disney’s Club 33 in Disneyland. It really is a hidden restaurant inside New Orleans Square and is absolutely beautiful with amazing food. If anyone ever gets the opportunity, thanks to a member, to dine there they should never turn it down. I highly recommend the Monkfish.
5. How did you get the idea for Cooking with Mickey?
Back in 2007 I joined a Disney fan community associated with Sorcerer Radio & the Character Breakfast Podcast. Everyone and I do mean everyone talked about food. People would ask questions about the recipes and restaurants so I decided not long after that to start doing Cooking with Mickey how-to-videos. From there I started writing reviews of the Disney restaurants and eventually decided to start my own site to include them and other Disney and cooking information.
6. What aspect of Disney do you enjoy the most?
The groundwork that Walt Disney laid. He was a man who was inspired by many things and took those inspirations and created something great with them. Disney has some fantastic restaurants and many which get overlooked due to price. They don’t only deliver on great food but also on the “theming” that is what Disney does best. Even chefs like Todd English and Cat Cora have restaurants in Walt Disney World showing that Disney’s culinary reach is more than just your typical theme park food. I also enjoy the variety of restaurants that the World Showcase in Epcot has to offer. I travel the world on culinary adventures and it’s interesting to see how Disney brings those to it’s fans.
7. If you could have a cooking show on the Disney Channel or join the cast of Criminal Minds which would you chose?
As much as I love Criminal Minds, which is a well written show with an incredibly talented cast of actors (I’d love to play the role of Emily Prentiss but Paget Brewster is outstanding in that role) I’m a much better cook than an actor and most certainly would have to go with a cooking show on the Disney Channel. Considering I love to show others how to cook their favorite Disney recipes I’d have to go with having a cooking show and I’d just hope that Disney would let me throw in a few of my own recipes.
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up