This Women’s History Month, meet Chef Crystal Dion, Sous Chef in Training at Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, one of the amazing female chefs working to bring delicious creations to Guests of all ages and backgrounds at Walt Disney World Resort.
It’s no secret that the food at Walt Disney World Resort is pretty incredible! Whether you’re dining in the theme parks or spending an evening indulging in all of the tasty delights available at different restaurants throughout the hotels and at Disney Springs, you have the chance to enjoy some seriously great eats. And many are actually created by powerhouse female chefs like Chef Crystal Dion, Sous Chef in Training at Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante at Disney Springs!
We were lucky enough to interview Chef Crystal during Women’s History Month via email to learn more about her career within the restaurant industry, how she finds inspiration and ideas for her delicious creations, and so much more.
How Chef Crystal Found Her Passion for Cooking
Like many foodies, Chef Crystal first discovered her love of food – and specifically cooking – right at home. “I have always loved to be in the kitchen cooking,” she says. “My adopted mom would always have me making a sauce for the dinner that she was making when I was younger and when I got older, she would teach me how to make the dishes.”
The connection Chef Crystal forged with food wound up leading her adoptive mother to suggest she pursue it as a career. “She was the one that pushed me into culinary school because being in the kitchen is where I am the happiest,” she explains. From there, it was a pretty natural fit as Chef Crystal began expanding her skills and learning in both the culinary classroom and kitchen.
As Chef Crystal’s knowledge and skills grew, she discovered entirely new reasons to love cooking. “I wanted to be a chef mainly because being in the kitchen always gave me peace. Later in culinary school, I learned from the dishes I created that they spark memories for others, things that they have forgotten about until they ate my dish,” she says. “Being able to see and hear about people’s fond memories and know that my dish gave them something back was in the end why I wanted to be a chef. To be able to unlock fond memories that people may have forgotten.”
Today, as a Sous Chef in Training at Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, Chef Crystal is able to play a key role in so many Guests’ memories and experiences – in fact, you could say each dish she helps to create is a vacation memory of its very own for those who enjoy it!
Why Women’s History Month is So Important Within the Restaurant Industry
When asked why she feels Women’s History Month is meaningful, Chef Crystal points out it’s an important moment to pause and think not only about women today, but how women have progressed throughout the decades prior. “To me, Women’s History Month means going back and remembering the strong women throughout history that made a difference; without them, women today wouldn’t get to have the life that they have now,” she says. “It also reminds us that just because something has always been the status quo, it doesn’t have to continue to be the status quo. This gives women of all ages the reminder that we don’t have to remain silent and that we can be the change that is needed throughout the world.”
And that ties pretty perfectly into Chef Crystal’s experiences as a woman within the larger restaurant industry. As a predominantly male profession, female chefs can face intimidation, a feeling of imposter syndrome, and plenty of outright challenges. It can be particularly difficult for female chefs who are early in their careers, too.
“I felt challenges more when I was just coming into the industry, more so than I feel them now,” Chef Crystal explains.
In fact, her early days in the restaurant industry presented some pretty immediate challenges – and even outright unkindness simply because of her gender. “I was told in my first kitchen job that a professional kitchen is no place for women,” says Chef Crystal. “I had to work 10 times harder to prove that I deserved a spot in that kitchen, and prove that I can work just as hard and create dishes just as well as the men in the kitchen.”
With years of experience under belt, it’s safe to say that those early challenges shaped Chef Crystal’s path to her current role at Walt Disney World Resort. But when she thinks about sharing advice for women who hope to one day achieve a career like hers, she still feels a bit like a newcomer. “This is hard for me as I still feel like at times, I am still an aspiring female chef,” she notes. “The one thing I would have to say is stay true to who you are and don’t let other people change who you are and what you want to be for your team.”
However, for Chef Crystal, it’s really all about the magic she creates in every plate that heads out to Guests’ tables. “My favorite part about being a chef is being able to hear and see how much the person who is eating my food enjoyed it or made their day,” she explains. “Knowing that I was able to make someone happy for just a small amount of time is why I became a chef.”
Chef Crystal’s Sources of Inspiration (and Favorite Foods!)
We asked Chef Crystal where she draws inspiration for her incredibly tasty creations in Maria & Enzo’s kitchen. It turns out inspiration for a delicious dish can strike any time!
“The inspiration for my dishes just depends on what the dish is,” she explains. The magic, in her opinion, is in how she’s able to get creative with what she’s whipping up. “I try [to] be creative in all my dishes. When creating something, I always try and think what I can do to have a piece of myself in the dish.”
What are her go-tos when she’s cooking for herself? Chef Crystal likes to stick with a classic: chicken and dumplings! “One of my favorite dishes to make (and my husband loves it as well!) is my adopted mom’s chicken and dumplings. That is a dish that reminds me of growing up, the family dinners that we have, and just the good times as a family. Being able to create her dish to share with my family is something that I love,” she says.
And when it comes to her favorite foods, Chef Crystal is very fond of another classic, one that’s also close to her heart and her family memories. “I think if I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would have to be my grandma’s fried chicken,” she says. “It is the one thing in this world that I truly miss and would love to be able to eat again.”
Learn more about the amazing women behind Disney magic in our newest issue of WDW Magazine! In our “Women Behind the Magic” issue, we’re celebrating all of the women who work to bring that magic to life at every level with special features, insights, and so much more.
And don’t forget to celebrate Women’s History Month by reading about more amazing Disney chefs like Chef Crystal! Find more chef profiles below:
Celebrating Women’s History Month with Disney’s Incredible Chefs: Spotlight on Chef Beyla Garcia