Shaun O’Neale won MasterChef‘s season 7. So naturally, he is going to Disney World!
The rising culinary star is kicking off the annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival in Orlando, Florida, on September 3 at What’s Cookin’ With…, during which guests enjoy a signature dish and cooking demo fro a series of famous chefs. Others in the series, which runs through November 12, include Art Smith, Graham Elliot, Bryan Voltaggio, Robert Irvine, Cat Cora, Carla Hall and Buddy Valastro.
For longtime Disneyphile O’Neale, who released his debut cookbook, My Modern American Table, in May, the festival represents the chance to visit his happiest place on earth.
“I’ve been going to Disney World my entire life,” he says. “My mom found a picture of me as a baby on December 2, 1982, and Epcot opened on October 1, 1982. Me and Epcot both turn 35 this year. So it’s one of those cool full-circle life moments for me.”
For his signature dish, O’Neale plans to make a squid ink and lobster risotto.
“Squid ink is something most people are a little unfamiliar with unless you’re Italian,” he says. “It becomes this nice, airy, light sea breeze-type of flavor. And you have this super dark tuxedo pasta dough with this pink lobster. I serve it with a lobster reduction with a lemon cream air. It’s become one of [my] most popular dishes.”
O’Neale, who worked as a DJ for two decades before hitting it big in the culinary world, says his food Disney food memories from childhood mostly center on a certain iconic Fred Flintstone-style poultry product.
“When I was a kid, my parents would really never let me have the turkey leg,” he recalls. “When I first got my first taste of freedom, I went straight for one of those turkey legs. It’s one of those cave man moments.”
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kicks off on August 31 at Walt Disney World in Orlando and runs through November 13.