Curtain raises on the new culinary experience at the Disneyland Hotel

As the Disneyland Hotel prepares to reopen its doors on January 25, 2024, we went to meet Olivier Arthur and Laurent Lesage, respectively Chefs of the Royal Banquet and La Table de Lumière restaurants, to lift the veil on the royal culinary experience which will await the guests!

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what led you to join the Disneyland Paris team?

Chef Laurent Lesage: I’ve always had a passion for cooking, and I have worked in prestigious kitchens such as the Royal Monceau in Paris and the Michelin-starred El Bulli restaurant in Spain. I came to Disneyland Paris in 2017 to work as a chef at the California Grill restaurant in the Disneyland Hotel. When it was being refurbished, I was given the chance to work as a chef at the Manhattan Restaurant at Disney Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel. I’m now fortunate enough to be involved in the reopening of my favourite hotel in the resort. I couldn’t say no to a unique experience like this. 

Chef Olivier Arthur: I joined Disneyland Paris 24 years ago as an assistant to the chef de partie, and I found being able to lend my skills to the business forward very motivating. In fact, having worked in a number of the resort’s restaurants, I felt that taking part in this iconic hotel’s reopening would be the one challenge I absolutely had to take up. 

What tempted you to help open the Disneyland Hotel? 

Chef Laurent Lesage: I found reopening the restaurant, stepping into a whole new world and designing its menu very inspiring. I also appreciate the rigour and attention to detail that comes with cooking, so becoming the chef at La Table de Lumière was a fantastic challenge, as it embodies a real belief in excellence right down to dishes’ tiniest details. 

Chef Olivier ArthurIt’s a special and very rewarding adventure and one we might never get another chance at. I should add that I’m going to be the chef at the restaurant where I started my Disneyland Paris career, just like Laurent – Inventions, which has been renamed the Royal Banquet – so that’s another nice little touch!

How would you describe the culinary spirit or identity of the restaurant where you work?

Chef Laurent Lesage: La Table de Lumière will have a sophisticated menu featuring high-quality, skilfully prepared French ingredients.

Chef Olivier Arthur: At the Royal Banquet, guests will be able to tuck into special ingredients and international cuisine inspired by Disney’s tales of kings and queens. Children’s experience is very much front and centre, as they have their own themed options. 

How did you come up with the menu? Is the process the same for any restaurant? Or has the fact that it’s a Disney restaurant made things a bit different?

Chef Laurent Lesage: Overall, we used the same process as we would for any restaurant. What’s special about Disneyland Paris is that you have to be able to adapt to its world and translate the storytelling into the food, so that you are contributing to guests’ experience when they have spent their day in the Park.  That’s why I worked closely with the FOOD Research & Development team, which is responsible for developing the resort’s new menus. 

Chef Olivier Arthur: We designed the Royal Banquet’s menu once we got guidance about the hotel and restaurant’s theme. After that, it was a real team effort. We swapped ideas and tried out recipes, then as time went by, we whittled the menu down until we landed on a final version after several months’ work. 

What sources of inspiration did you find at Disney and how did you reflect them in your menu and dishes? Did you revisit some of the Classics? How did you transform them into dishes?

Chef Lauren Lesage: Of course, the hotel’s royal theme was an important factor when we were making the menus. We made it a point of honour to select the very best ingredients so that the elegance of the setting is reflected in the food. Guests will spot some royal references in, for example, the vegetables cut into crowns. 

Chef Olivier Arthur: Disney’s great royal stories will be part of our dishes at the Royal Banquet. Guests will feel like they are being taken on a voyage to the stories’ homelands. They can explore Asia with the Kumandra soup (made with prawns, mushrooms and Thai rice vermicelli) in honour of the character of Raya, or Moana’s Pacific with the Legendary Recipe from the End of the World, a mahi-mahi marinated in coconut milk and wrapped in a banana leaf.  The desserts also fit in with the theme and link directly to the characters and animations. For example, we have a dessert called Excalibur, which is shaped like a rock topped with a chocolate sword inspired by The Sword in the Stone

Have you worked with the Imagineers, whose job is theming and concepts, so that your menus fit in with the story told by the architecture and decor?

Chef Laurent Lesage: The Imagineers worked on the hotel and restaurant’s themes before we got involved. Thanks to this preliminary work, we had precise guidelines to follow while we created our menu.  

Chef Olivier Arthur: We worked mainly with the Food and Beverage Support teams to create an immersive experience with our dishes, tableware and signage. Nothing has been left to chance. 

Did you take into account the setting’s colours and architectural style when designing your dishes? And what about the tableware?

Chef Laurent Lesage: In keeping with the theme of Beauty and the Beast, most of the dishes at La Table de Lumière have a colour or symbol that references the film or the restaurant’s architecture. For example, the children’s pan-fried beef will be served with vegetables and potatoes, and they will fan out like the petals of a rose.  

Chef Olivier Arthur: Yes, we’ve pulled out all the stops to make sure that guests enjoy an immersive culinary experience and quality service. It’s in everything from the royal theme to Disney’s unique touch, the way the dishes are presented, the quality of the ingredients, the tableware and so on. 

In terms of local or more broadly French influences, have you done any specific research to find original or special ingredients and how have you incorporated them into the story behind your menu?

Chef Laurent Lesage: Local and French ingredients are the very essence of La Table de Lumière. Guests will be able to enjoy fish straight from the French coast, for example, or Loué Red Label eggs, Isigny cream and Quercy lamb.  

Chef Oliver Arthur: Working with regional and seasonal produce was always the obvious choice for us, and we made it a point of honour to use quality ingredients. At the Royal Banquet, we’ll be offering a range of French cheeses selected by a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (or officially named “Best French Craftsperson”), and our breakfast buffet menu will include jams made by a triple world champion jam-maker. 

Can you tell us about your research and how you worked with some of your leading suppliers?

Chef Olivier Arthur: We very much worked hand-in-hand with suppliers, as we’ve been able to identify and source the best ingredients having had various conversations with them and visited their premises. This was all supported by our division buyers. 

Chef Laurent Lesage: We wanted a top-quality menu, so naturally we regularly visited suppliers and did various trials with them to find ingredients that met our standards. The whole process takes several months, but it emerges out of all kinds of collaborative work with suppliers who are there from the very beginning right up until the final dish is created.

Have you reused traditional recipes or come up with original ones for your specialities? Can you give us a few examples? 

Chef Laurent Lesage: La Table de Lumière offers recipes you will find nowhere else in the resort, such as the ever-so lightly cooked langoustines with a shellfish coulis and a fine cauliflower and lemon caviar purée , but we’ve also had fun reinventing traditional recipes like the children’s beef parmentier.

Chef Olivier Arthur: The Royal Banquet buffet will use traditional French dishes and original recipes with international flavours, such as Mama Odie’s Cajun Prawns, a dish referencing the character of Tiana.

The restaurants at Disneyland Hotel are exceptional, but they are all in a family setting where children rule the roost. How have you included them in the culinary experience? Have you opted for a comforting, gourmet approach or have you prepared some surprises and new discoveries for them?

Chef Laurent Lesage: The children’s menu is given pride of place so that all our guests can enjoy a gourmet experience. As Beauty and the Beast is the main theme at La Table de Lumière, I was able to play around with various references, such as a children’s dessert called La Rose Enchantée inspired by the film’s ever-blooming rose. 

Chef Olivier Arthur: Children can enjoy a variety of themed dishes at the Royal Banquet.  To make their experience even more regal, they will be able to add their own personal touch to a dessert that has been developed exclusively for them. It’s fun and a great way for them to unleash their creativity! 

How did you go about recruiting your staff team? How many people do you have? Were you looking for anyone in particular?

Chef Olivier Arthur: We used a two-stage recruitment process. First of all, with the help of my colleague, chef Lesage, and the Talent Acquisition team, we did interviews with internal candidates before we set out our guidelines for external hires. We then took part in a number of recruitment events, such as the forum at the Dome in the Disney Village, where we met a range of different people. My team will be have more than 100 members when we reopen.  

Chef Laurent Lesage: I will be supported by a team of 52 Cast Members. As my opposite number pointed out, the first step was to find talent internally. Their high levels of motivation and determination to take the next step in their career with the company made all the difference. We then went looking for complementary external candidates, so we ended up with a diversified, high-performance team. 

Were you involved in designing the kitchens (such as the layout and equipment)? If so, how did you picture them?

Chef Olivier Arthur: The kitchens’ design mainly came out of preliminary work by the interior designers, kitchen designers and the project managers based in the support teams, who are used to managing projects on this scale. The project managers supported our recommendations and ideas, so the kitchens were tailored to our day-to-day work.  

Chef Laurent Lesage: We had some input, but the kitchen design was largely done by various in-house teams. 

Do you and your team tend to use more traditional techniques? Or do you innovate? 

Chef Laurent Lesage: The cuisine we create will have a traditional basis, but thanks to my diverse team, we’ll be using innovative techniques such as molecular gastronomy for certain dishes, such as line-caught side of sea bass and fennel compote with black truffles and rocket coulis.

Chef Olivier Arthur: At the Royal Banquet, we use traditional methods only. 

How did you plan the restaurant’s wine cellar and how does the wine pair with the food? 

Chef Olivier Arthur: Royal Banquet guests will be able to enjoy a wide range of wines and beverages carefully selected by the Beverage team.

Chef Laurent Lesage: The drinks menu came out of a collaboration with the Beverage department. They studied our dishes, then selected wines and created cocktails to match the flavours. At La Table de Lumière, food is also paired with champagne, which is not an experience you can get anywhere else at the resort! 

With just a few weeks to go before the opening, how are you feeling personally, and what’s the atmosphere like in the team? 

Chef Laurent Lesage: The atmosphere has become very studious as we do the final preparations, but we can’t wait to open La Table de Lumière. 

Chef Olivier Arthur: Obviously we still have a few details to work out, but I’m not worried. I have a great team around me. I also work closely with the chef at La Table de Lumière, so we help and support each other. We can’t wait to welcome our first guests! 

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