It all began shortly after high school like most great fairy tales begin. Right?! 15 years ago I walked into a bakery bright eyed, timid, and a total nervous wreck but little did I know that my life would change forever.
I grew up in a very small town in the Central Valley where after high school you either enter the military, get married (more likely pregnant), or you leave town in hopes of a better future and I decided on the latter. In a manner of a few days I applied, had a phone interview and was on my way to my first real interview. With my parents blessing I took enough clothes for 3 days and headed out as the Dixie Chicks say to Wide Open Spaces. By the end of the week I was given a position as a “culinary hostess” at the Happiest Place on Earth. Words cannot describe my delight as I began working on October 23, 1999. The friendships and memories that I made there by far exceeds what I ever expected out of my “first” job. (I worked as a welder for a summer when I was 16 so technically my second job.)
I worked full time in several positions throughout the park for almost a decade while I attending school full time on and off. I wouldn’t change anything about my time there because I believe it has made me who I am today. The values the company instilled in me will be part of me for as long as I’m alive and I’ve very proud to take to any company I might work at in the future. At Disneyland I learned how important it is to initiate guest contact, that picking up trash is done by everyone throughout the park, maintaing the “show” aspect is what makes this place special, and genuinely caring for our guest is the number one priority. Keep in mind that when I refer to the guest I’m not just talking about the adults but to children as well. I learned how to communicate with children more easily and how to get down to their level. I learned about public speaking and now I’m able to communicate with anyone I come across.
I was part of the magic that was created there on a daily basis. Some of the moments guest felt were above and beyond were documented at guest relations and in 2008 I was lucky enough to be nominated for a Service Excellence award for it. Most of what I did will never be known and I’m okay with that because it will stay in my heart. Here is just a small glimpse of what I helped create and to my defense I left the couple without refills to go get a piece of cake at another location. Guest go to the park for different reasons and one cannot assume that they are simply there on vacation. Wether it be for an afternoon of fun with their families, trying to escape something difficult in their lives or to celebrate something people always turn to the Park. Some of the individuals that go saved up for months or years to be able to take their families there. (My family was one of those people.) I was taught that you threat everyone the same whether they be an annual passholder, a celebrity, or a regular person. I learned how to deal with different personalities from all over the world. Through my guests I learned about different cultures and customs. My co-workers became part of my family as I spent most of my holidays working long hours. In fact I loved working holidays because everyone was so happy to be there celebrating. What better place to ring in the New Year or 4th of July?
The company also instilled in me a sense of citizenship. I participated in several VoluntEARS events throughout my time there. They encourage cast members to help out in their community. I relished in helping out in any way I could whether it be by raising money for a walk, painting a playground, spending time with the children at CHOC, or other events throughout the year.
Out of all my time working for the company the position I cherished working the most was being part of the Dream Squad. In order to attain that position you had to get nominated and approved by the operations manager, turn in a resume, and get interviewed. I’m not going to say much about the Dream Squad except imagine being Santa Clause everyday. It was simply phenomenal.
So, you might be asking yourself why on Earth did you quit this magical place? I quit simply because I was accepted into UCLA on a summer scholars program and I was unable to work full time, commute on the Metro, and attend all my classes without something suffering. I could only stretch myself so far. But before I’m done reminiscing I would like to say that Disneyland gave me the greatest gift of all, my Husband. Yes, ladies and gentlemen when the person that interviewed me on the first day told me that I was going to find love there I dismissed it. Little did I know how truly magical my time being there and how it would change me forever.
Maybe one day I will return to the place I consider my second home but for now I’m setting my sights on other things. I’m very proud about the people I meet and the work skills I acquired while I was with the company. My Husband often thinks I’m weird for asking people if I can take their photo for them, for picking up trash, for having a silly grin when children approach me for no apparent reason and I often find myself telling people no I don’t work there. There are so many magical stories that I’ve yet to share with you and so many things I have learned that I would love to list but that will have to wait until next time. In the mean time here’s a little glimpse of me when it all began circa 1999.
One of my mom’s favorite things to eat is chile con queso. This dish shouldn’t be confused with the every popular chile con queso dip that you find at many Tex-Mex restaurants. It is not drowned in a sea of Velveeta by any means but it is delicious in its own right. Growing up I would spend my summers in Chihuahua, Mexico where I ate more than my share of chile con queso. On any given day I could go to any of my aunt’s houses and often than none they would all be making this dish. Seriously, my people love this dish!
Now that my parents live with us (more on that later) I often find myself eating this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This dish is so versatile because it can be served with different things. You can have it with eggs for breakfast, you can have it as a burrito for lunch, or you can add steak in it for dinner. I hope you are able to try and enjoy this dish as much as we do.
Chile con Queso (Chihuahua Style)
The main ingredient you need for this dish are Anaheim chiles. Once you wash them put the chiles directly on a cast iron skillet and roast them over medium high heat. Be careful not to burn them too much otherwise you will find yourself coughing up a lung and rushing towards the fire alarms like we often do.
Once they are completely roasted and the peel begins to loosen take them off the heat. Caution they will be extremely hot! Please try not to handle them with your bare hands.
Let them cool for a few minutes before peeling them because like I said before they will be extremely hot. By the way don’t scratch your eyes or any other part of your face because they might be a tad spicy. With your hands careful take off the peel and throw that part away along with the stems.
Once the chiles are completely clean go ahead and give them a rough chop. We usually leave the seeds in but if you don’t want it too spicy go ahead and take some off.
Oops, I just realized I forgot to tell you to chop your tomato and onion so at this point go ahead and rough chop them now. When you are done with your crazy rough chop add them to the chile.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat. Once the oil is hot add your mixture of chile, onion, and tomato in the pan. Stir it a few times so it doesn’t stick to the pan. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes for the onions to become translucent.
Pour the water into the frying pan very carefully and let it boil for a tad. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This is my favorite part because this is where the cheese marries this delicious concoction. You can add whatever type of white melty cheese you prefer but we usually use either mozzarella, monterey jack, or asadero. Our favorite of the three being asadero directly from Chihuahua. Let the cheese do its magic and melt into the chile con queso goodness. Serve it with some beans, rice, and tortillas. Enjoy!
- 8 to 10 Anaheim Chiles
- 1 tomato
- 1/2 white onion
- A dash of salt
- A tad of pepper
- 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 cup of white cheese (the kind that melts)
Roast the Anaheim chiles over medium high heat. Once completely roasted take off the heat and set aside for a few minutes. Peel the skin off the chiles. Pull the stem off and rough chop the chiles. Throw away the stems and peels. Dice your tomato and onion. Mix in tomato and onion with the chile. Heat oil in a frying pan. Put the chile mixture in the frying pan carefully and heat for about 5 minutes. One the onion is translucent pour water into the chile mixture. Boil for a few minutes. Add the cheese. Let the cheese melt. Serve alongside tortillas, beans, and rice. Enjoy!
This dish can be made into a burrito or served alongside eggs for breakfast.