Culinary Magic: Creating Food for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

by Damian McKnight

Universal Orlando wants to change the way you think about theme park food.

Opening this summer, Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter promises to immerse its guests fully in the magical cuisine of J.K. Rowling's films and books. Guests will enter the "Wizarding World" through a station archway named for Hogsmeade, the magical village near Hogwarts. The quaint little village of thatched cottages and shops has been faithfully recreated at Universal's Islands of Adventure down to the enchanted candles, snow covered roofs, and culinary fare.

"We have created an entirely new way to place our guests into the heart of one of the most compelling stories of our time," said Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative. "What we have done will forever change the theme park attraction experience."

The park's head chef, Stephen Jayson, was instrumental in working directly with J.K. Rowling to recreate all of the beloved items from the books. Jayson became Executive Chef for all food operations for Universal in 1989, and was later accredited to the success of the popular Mythos themed restaurant.

Mythos, located within The Lost Continent in Universal's Islands Of Adventure theme park, has been voted, an impressive 6 years in a row, as the "Best Theme Park Restaurant in the World" by Theme Park Insider. Housed in a majestic ancient cave, this upscale restaurant is the feather in Islands of Adventure's culinary cap. Favorites include the Balsamic Chicken, Cedar-smoked Salmon and the Chicken a'la Oscar. In 2000, The American Culinary Federation awarded Jayson the "National Chef of the Year."

When asked what the idea was for Mythos, Jayson replied, "We wanted our food service program to be equal to that of anything that visitors would find anywhere in America."

For the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jayson and team have painstakingly crafted a bewitching menu that includes Rotisserie-smoked chicken, char grilled ribs, turkey legs, as well as British pub staples like fish and chips (made with fresh Boston Cod), shepherd's pie and Cornish pasties. According to Universal officials, every effort was made in making the food as authentically English as possible. Those craving a healthier meal can choose potato leek soup, split pea and ham soup or salad.

Prior to the Wizarding World's June grand opening, several Harry Potter fan-sites were invited to partake in some behind-the-scenes special events and sample the various cuisines including the storied Butterbeer. Participants were also able to sample a meal called "The Big Feast" – which allows guests to share trays of rotisserie half chickens, ribs, roasted vegetables and sweet potatoes, as well as corn on the cob.

In the books, Butterbeer was a popular drink served cold in bottles or hot by the mug ("foaming tankards of hot Butterbeer") at the Three Broomsticks. Â A frozen version of Butterbeer will also be for sale in the park, as will pumpkin juice. While the Hog's Head will not sell Firewhiskey (though prop bottles are behind the bar), it will showcase a Scottish ale called Hog's Head Brew.

The J.K. Rowling-approved Butterbeer reportedly taste like both shortbread cookies and butterscotch and manages to stay foamy the entire way down, thanks to a two-part pouring process. Richard Florell, Universal's senior vice president in charge of food and beverages, calls it "magic."

Jayson also previewed a number of the candied treats that will be available at Honeydukes, Hogsmeade's sweets shop. The offerings include chocolate frogs, Treacle Fudge, Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans, Cauldron Cakes, scones, pumpkin tarts, and rock cakes.

"Guests will experience firsthand a completely new adventure featuring the iconic characters, amazing creatures and recognizable locations they've only read in the books or seen in the films," said Thierry Coup, creative director for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens June 18th, 2010 at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida.

Related Articles