Spotlight Interview: Meet Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Marc Viallet
Where did you grow up? Tell us something about that special place.
Raspberry Rose Mickey Macaron
Did you always know you wanted to be a Chef? How did you start your career as one?
Mickey Mouse Face Cookie
Right after my apprenticeship in France, I got a job with Club Med. I worked in the Bahamas and Mexico. After my three year extension, I was called back to do my one year of military service – I was about twenty then. When my service was complete, I worked in the South of France in Nice.
In 1986, I followed my girlfriend to America. [He chuckles] – French people. After that, I stayed and never left.
What path led you to work for the Walt Disney Company?
Gina, Jean-Marc, & Cristina Outside Central Bakery
We broke ground in September 2008 and it opened on March 9, 2009. It took about six months to build but a year and a half to design and get approval. One of the great advantages I had was being able to participate in the design process. Obviously, I had a big wish list [he laughs]. Not all of it was possible but I did get some wins for my team.
I was able to get all stainless steel cabinets and surfaces plus the workspace layout I wanted. One big thing that I got – that I really wanted was the cake room. The cake room is a room that is isolated from everyone else. There’s no noise, no steam, no heat – a completely different environment where you can concentrate. It’s very difficult to make wedding cakes with the heat and loud noises from the baking ovens being continuously used. The second big wish was for a second floor for storage but we weren’t able to get that.
We opened the bakery with one assistant, one manager, forty-five cast members, and myself. Ten years from that time, we now have one pastry chef, four assistant pastry chefs, two managers, two secretaries, one-hundred and forty cast members, and myself. We have grown quite a bit and are starting to outgrow this new facility already. I think because of where Disneyland is located and the foodie culture here we get to approach deserts differently than other Parks. We have more freedom to experiment and create sophisticated pastry – in fact, our guests expect it now when they eat at the resort. I believe this local culture is why our department is successful and continues to grow.
What does your average day look like?
What are your favorite desserts to create?
I would like to continue to expand the availability of some certain baked goods throughout the Parks which are currently only available to the specialty clubs like Club 33 and Royal 21. At Club 33 we make a Rosemary and Sea Salt Brioche. At Royal 21 we make a special Brittany bread called Kouign-amann which is currently offered as a ‘take-away’. It’s equal parts of bread dough, sugar, and butter. It’s a million calories but so good. [he chuckles] I think it would nice to have these things available at more locations for guests to try.
What are some traditions or desserts you have had the pleasure of creating for the Disneyland Resort?
Mickey faced shape cookie
I had the pleasure of bringing hotel quality desserts into the Park. This cookie was the very first item I created. It was and still is a huge success. It remains available in the Parks today.
The Birthday Bucket at the Plaza Inn on Mainstreet
[Courtesy of Disney Media]
Mickey Raspberry Rose Macarons
The original I created is still available at Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe on Main Street in Disneyland. They became so popular we now have seasonal flavors and other Disney Resorts now make them as well. The original Mickey Raspberry Rose Macaron has also been merchandised into trading pins, magnets, scented plush toys, and things like that.
The Yule Log on Main Street
The Yule Log, or bûche de Noël, is a traditional French Christmas cake shaped and decorated to look like a Yule log. It’s available at the Plaza Inn on Main Street in Disneyland only during the holiday season.
Grey Stuff Gâteau
This dessert which was created for The Red Rose Tavern in Fantasyland has an amazing story. It is a White Chocolate Mousse and Red Velvet Cake with a raspberry center. When this dessert debuted, there was a two and a half-hour line just to purchase it. Never anywhere could you fantasize about selling 1500 desserts in one day at a quick-service style restaurant. It remains popular today.
Jack-Jack Cookie Num Nums
There are three cookies available. A Brittany Shortbread, a gluten-free Blackberry Jam-Filled cookie, and a Warm Chocolate Chip cookie. For the gluten-free cookie, we use Cup-4-cup gluten-free flour. The Warm Chocolate Chip recipe took me three months to perfect. The secret to its goodness is the 83% brown butter.
Disneyland Haunted Mansion Holiday Gingerbread Houses
Two great traditions came out of this project which started in the year 2001. The first is the large gingerbread houses that are displayed annually on the dining table inside the ballroom scene in the Haunted Mansion Holiday attraction. The second is the party we throw for the patients at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
The event at CHOC came about when we didn’t want our three to four foot scaled gingerbread house model used for the concept and approval process to go to waste. We decided to throw the patients at CHOC a holiday party. We made Mickey Gingerbread cookies and put the names of the kids on them and hung them off the gingerbread house at the party. We also made a huge Yule log cake to serve. The first year we expected about a hundred people to show up, but it ended up being closer to five-hundred. The year after, we redid the event and about a thousand showed up.
Both the gingerbread house and the CHOC event turned into yearly events with the design of the Haunted Mansion gingerbread house changing yearly in size, moving pieces, and characters. We also started creating a second model to display in The French Market in New Orleans Square in Disneyland.
What is your Favorite Attraction?
Favorite attraction … I have a lot. If I had to narrow it down to my top three I would say Haunted Mansion, Star Tours, and the one that is no more – Country Bear Jamboree.
What desserts do you recommend Guests try at the Parks?
- Always the seasonal desserts like themed cakes, Seasonal Macaron, and seasonal pastries.
- Jack-Jack Cookie Num Nums
- GF Blackberry Num nums – if you have a gluten sensitivity or allergy
- Classic Raspberry Rose Macaron
- Classic Grey Stuff Gâteau
Who is your favorite Disney character?
Grumpy from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I like him because he is just like me – a nonconformist. He’s a black sheep and does not want to be like everyone else. I love not being standard.
What would you like to share with Guest’s that is a special recommendation, a tip from you, or not well known?
The biggest thing I think most people don’t realize is that 95% of baked goods and desserts available throughout the resort, and especially in the Parks, are made from scratch at the Central Bakery. We are actually working on a branding initiative to make that known. Something simple like ‘Proudly Homemade by Disneyland Central Bakery’ or something like that. Everything we do and have done, from putting the location of the bakery closer to the Parks, the design of the facility, our attention to the quality and care of ingredients, preparation, recipes, and presentation are purposeful so we can produce the best quality and freshness for our Guests.
Fun Haunted Mansion Holiday Facts from Jean-Marc:
* Gingerbread houses have ranged in size from 5 feet (the smallest) to 15 feet (the tallest) – almost touching the chandelier in the Haunted Mansion Ballroom. The same model was also too tall for the display area inside the French Market in New Orleans Square. We had to remove the chandelier inside the restaurant to accommodate the height of the model that year.
* The Oogie Boogie Roulette Gingerbread piece from 2003 was the only year we did not do a house. The Oogie Boogie body shell was made out of resin. To give it the green glow effect we covered it in 10,000+ gummy frogs. The roulette wheel and all the rest of the sculpture were out of gingerbread.
* The average amount of time it takes to build and decorate a Haunted Mansion gingerbread house is about 16 days.
* It takes a team of 4-6 pastry chefs and culinary castmembers from the Disneyland Resort Central Bakery to create each gingerbread house, three of which have been part of this tradition since 2001.
This year’s 50th Anniversary inspired gingerbread house is:
* The 19th Gingerbread House created for the Haunted Mansion Holidays attraction
* 10 feet tall
* Took 13 days to build and decorate
* Has over 30 pounds of gingerbread, 120 pounds of frosting and icing, 75 pounds of powdered sugar, 140 pounds of fondant…and more!