This Women’s History Month, meet Chef Romina Wagener, Pastry Chef at Space 220, 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 Romina Wagener, Pastry Chef at Space 220 at EPCOT!
We were lucky enough to interview Chef Romina 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 Romina Found Her Passion for Cooking
While many chefs are passionate about food and cooking from a young age, some find their way into the profession – and uncover their talent! – after a bit of trial and error. That’s a bit similar to how Chef Romina discovered that pastries were the right field for her. Originally from Lima, Peru, she didn’t dive into the culinary world until Le Cordon Bleu opened its first school in the Americas. In fact, Chef Romina was originally on an entirely different path.
“It started as curiosity,” Chef Romina explains. “I went to culinary Le Cordon Bleu in Peru, after studying journalism, but when I started working in restaurants, I fell in love with the feeling of having the customers enjoy the food I prepared for them. It is just pure satisfaction.”
After diving into this new profession, she discovered even more that she was passionate about. Chef Romina’s favorite aspects of being a pastry chef are “Developing new recipes, discovering new ingredients, [and] experimenting.”
Why Women’s History Month is So Important Within the Restaurant Industry
For Chef Romina, Women’s History Month is particularly poignant. As she explains, “Through history, women have fought for many things we currently enjoy: the right to vote, equal pay, to be seen as equals to men in a career path. It has been my experience that women have to work three times harder than men to get what we want to achieve. Celebrating Women’s History Month makes us remember how far we have come, empowering younger generations to keep fighting to make their dream become a reality, reach their goals, and as a Chef, to get more female leaders in the kitchens.”
She’s personally taken on the challenge of welcoming more female chefs into the industry, particularly as a leader within Space 220. After experiencing the challenges that can come with being a female chef firsthand, Chef Romina knows just how difficult it can be to break into restaurants of all kinds as a woman.
“Professional kitchens have become better at looking men and women as equals, but we are still not 100 percent there,” she points out. “During my years in the industry, I’ve experienced unfairness and envy towards me for being a woman and wanting to perform my work correctly, and men being believed just because they were men. I had to leave some jobs I really liked to get a promotion and higher title.”
As a result of these challenges, Chef Romina has worked to create a welcoming environment in her kitchen. “Now that I am a Chef, I make sure all my employees receive equal treatment regardless of gender, race and/or religion,” she explains. “I treat them with respect and listen to their ideas, offer the same opportunity to move forward in their careers, I always try to make them feel valued and have an enjoyable work environment. If they are happy, I am happy.”
And Chef Romina has some key advice to share with women who are hoping to one day enter the culinary world or become a chef themselves. “Study and learn as much as you can; always pay attention to detail; keep with the trends; practice until you perfect it,” she suggests. “Make sure everything you say you can do is something you can do, [and] don’t promise something you have no experience on. At work, be professional, respectful, and avoid mixing work with personal life.”
Chef Romina’s Sources of Inspiration (and Favorite Foods!)
We asked Chef Romina where she draws inspiration for her incredibly tasty pastry creations in the Space 220 kitchen. The answer? It can strike at any moment, and anywhere – including when she’s simply living her life!
“I find [inspiration] anywhere: seasonality of ingredients, traveling to different countries, nature, fashion, trends on social media, childhood memories with my family, friends, and more,” she says.
Her favorite recipe? While she’d be happy to enjoy potatoes and hot peppers as her only meal for the rest of her life, she particularly loves Peruvian Moist Chocolate Cake. Now that’s a dessert that’s worthy of celebrating Women’s History Month with!
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: