Several times through the years friends and acquaintances mentioned that the folks at Disney are terrific about food allergies and thought, “Yeah, but can they accommodate an extreme case? How about someone with a gazillion food allergies?”
Not long ago I heard a story from a friend at the Kids With Food Allergies Foundation. A family traveled to Disney with their young son who could eat nothing. Sadly he was on a feeding tube. At each restaurant his family dined at during their stay, the chef brought out an elaborate Disney themed ice sculpture for the boy to enjoy. How incredible is that?
Those of you who know me or visit this site often know that my oldest has multiple severe food allergies. One serious food allergy is unsettling enough. Our list includes: peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, egg, wheat/gluten, oat, soy, beef, pork, white potatoes, tomatoes, all legumes (incl: lentils, chick peas, peas), pineapple, lemon, sesame seeds and more. There are also many foods he has never eaten so we do not know if they are safe yet. (We work with doctors to slowly try a few new items each year.) Due to the potential for contamination issues we have a list of brand-specific foods that are safe for our son. So you see that when I said that our case is extreme, I was hardly kidding.
Not only had we never been on a family vacation, we had never been out to eat together as a family. It was too much of a risk. Yet it was time to try, to make that phone call to see if the happiest place on earth really could accommodate us.
We booked a room with a kitchen to cook there as needed. Our travel agent told us about Garden Grocer, a nearby supermarket which carries a lot of specialty items. I ordered food online and they were all set to have it delivered to our room upon arrival.
We looked at Disney’s Special Dietary Requests page to find out about dining at Disney with food allergies. Upon request, we sent an email with a list of food allergens and our dining reservations to Special.Diets@DisneyWorld.com.
A few weeks before we were set to leave a chef from one of the restaurants called. He had received our list and wanted to talk about what he could make for our son when we arrived at his restaurant. I asked him to hold for a moment so I could stop my tears. We really would be able to eat at Disney with food allergies.
Each of the chefs called prior to our reservation and each was fantastic. Our first stop was Tutto Italia in Epcot, where Chef Alan’s shift was over before we arrived but had stayed longer just to cook for our son. We didn’t even get a chance to thank him. While my boy ate his first ever meal out at a restaurant, I shot photos through tears.
We were actually dining at Disney with food allergies.
Chef George at the Rainforest Café in Animal Kingdom went food shopping that morning just to get our ingredients. (Plus, he made “the best cookies ever.”) The Chefs at the Wilderness Lodge saved a brand new Mickey Mouse waffle iron to use for our son’s homemade waffles. He also ate the tastiest sweet potato fries ever and a special drink at the Sci-Fi diner. Our son was overjoyed and so were we.
To all of those at Disney from the Special Dietary Request department to the chefs, the wait staff and on, please know that you gave our child a week he will never forget. Since returning home from our trip, he talks more about the meals he ate than the parks we visited or the rides he went on over and over again.
Dining at Disney with food allergies was truly a dream come true.