Major Chef Shake-Up Takes Place at Walt Disney World’s Top Restaurants

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According to Scott Joseph of Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide:

Scott Hunnel, the much celebrated chef de cuisine at Victoria & Albert’s restaurant, a position he has held for more than 20 years, has been named executive chef for Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. In that position, he will oversee all the hotel’s restaurants, which, besides Victoria & Albert’s, includes Citricos, Narcoossee’s and the Grand Floridian Cafe.

For now, Hunnel is continuing on at Victoria & Albert’s, but sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity say that a new chef de cuisine will be hired. Hunnel says that Victoria & Albert’s will continue to be a focus of his, even if a new chef de cuisine is hired.

Hunnel, 52, has held the position since 1995 when he moved up from the kitchen at Ariel’s restaurant at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort.

He is one of the most respected and talented chefs in the region and has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef South eight times. In 2008, Hunnel was recognized by Sante magazine as its Culinary Professional of the Year.

Hunnel’s move is the culmination of a number of changes among top-tier Disney chefs in recent months. Brian Piasecki left California Grill for another position within the company, as did Phillip Ponticelli, who had been chef de cuisine at Citricos. Tim Keating left Flying Fish Cafe — and the company — when the Boardwalk restaurant closed for renovations earlier this year.

Dennis Thompson has been named chef de cuisine at the California Grill, the popular restaurant on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort overlooking the Magic Kingdom. Thompson replaced Brian Piasecki, who left CG in February to accept a new position within the company with the cumbersome title of Executive Chef WDW Resorts, Moderate, Value and Standalone DVC Properties. He must have the biggest business cards in the company.

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For Thompson, the new job is a return to Grill. He began his 16-year career with Disney in 1997 cooking at California Grill under opening chef Clifford Pleau. He moved on to Jiko — The Cooking Place at Animal Kingdom Lodge and then to Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian Resort, just across the lagoon from his new office.

A native of Worthington, Ohio, Thompson, right in photo with Piasecki, graduated first in his class at Columbus State College in 1991. His training included a three-year program in an American Culinary Federation apprenticeship. He has acheived the first of three levels of the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Thompson’s wife, Victoria, also works in food and beverage at Walt Disney World Resort as a front-of-the-house manager.

California Grill is one of the restaurants considered to be among the resort’s top three best, along with Citricos and Flying Fish Cafe (now known simply as Flying Fish). Dominic Filoni was named chef de cuisine at Citricos in November after longtime chef Phillip Ponticelli moved to Golden Oak. Flying Fish is still searching for a replacement for Timonty Keating, who left the kitchen and the company earlier in the year when the Boardwalk restaurant was closed for a planned multi month renovation.

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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]

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