After a few bites, the chef approached us. Small in stature, possessing a grin wider than the Cheshire Cat, he extended his hand and introduced himself as Oscar. Five minutes into our conversation I realized that he was The Oscar, the longest employee at Disneyland. A legend. We chatted for another fifteen minutes before I realized I wasn't the only guest in the restaurant. (I admit I get goofy when it comes to food.) As we parted I vowed to see Oscar every time I came to Disneyland. It's a vow I share with legions of other fans. Our mutual mantra: It's just not a day at the park without visiting Oscar.
Six months later I sat down with Oscar in a corner booth at the Carnation Cafe. This time it's an interview. Although technically more formal, it's as if we are at home, chatting over coffee.
Oscar arrives to work very early, long before the Carnation Cafe opens. The cast members who work alongside him treat him like royalty. The mutual affection is obvious. When the park opens, Oscar steps outside and waves to the guests on Main Street.
It's more than a ritual. It's part of his business. "When they see me, the place fills up."
"A lot of people, I think they want something special from me, with my name on it. It's only on the breakfast menu, not the lunch menu. They want something special from me. They're always looking for something with my name on it, but it's not there."
What was named for him in the past that he misses now? "A long time ago, in the 60s, there was a lunch item called Oscar's Choice. It was a spinach salad with Roquefort and fruit. It sold really good," he recalled.
And so I decided to create a salad fit for the man that has given so much to others.
First I looked to another iconic Oscar, the Swedish King for whom Veal Oscar was named. I included many of the standard ingredients in the recipe (although I omitted the veal.). Crab was a natural. Oscar shared that when he celebrated his 50th anniversary as a Disneyland employee at Club 33, there was a bountiful seafood buffet - he loves seafood - however he was hesitant to eat anything from it. "It's too expensive." It was only after the urging of one of the executives, insisting that it was for him, that he indulged.
Next I borrowed the other classic component of the dish - asparagus.
Lastly, I turned the traditional Bearnaise sauce into a vinaigrette using the key elements: White wine vinegar (with a lemon option - my preference), shallot and tarragon. The yolk, usually used to thicken the sauce, is replaced here with hard-boiled eggs.
¾ cup olive oil
1/2 pound crab meat (when crab is not in season, substitute with grilled chicken)
To make the vinaigrette:
Put vinegar or lemon juice in mixing bowl. Add shallots and tarragon. Slowly whisk in olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper.
As retirement nears (there is no set date), Oscar hopes to be remembered with a permanent display of his trophies and recipes. Perhaps a Main Street window with his name on it, however he was hesitant to count on that. I took him outside and pointed above the entrance to the Carnation Cafe. Together we giggled. Yup, that would be the perfect place. Fingers crossed. After all, Disneyland is the place where dreams come true...