Queen’s Pantry is the official bakery of the Texas Renaissance Festival. It’s also my frenzied fall experience, and one of my culinary creative joys. In 2010, the festival hosted over 448,000 visitors during its’ 19 day season, and every one of those visitors passed by my bakery counter. I own the first food shop on the right inside this 53 acre park, and my crew of 19 helps me keep everything running smoothly. I tend to run a higher # of crew than other shops here, because every food item we offer is hand-built. Personally, I take offense at the assumption that attending an outdoor event means one has to eat poorly.
I’m not going to imply that everything I sell is dietarily a sensible choice, but I do make every effort to provide food items that will please the most extreme gastronomes. I am of the opinion that if one is going to make a caloric expenditure … one should have gourmet investment options.
Queen’s Pantry is the breakfast shop, so we’re open at 7:30 am for the 2000 workers at the festival. The park opens to the public at 9am, and closes after a nightly fireworks show. This makes for a long Saturday and Sunday, especially when you factor in that there is usually a late Saturday night delivery from our food purveyor, and we have to complete the week’s inventory and order on Sunday night, to meet the order deadline of 8am Monday morning. Most of our products are designed so that the majority of the preparation happens during the week. During the 8 weeks the show is open, core crew is fortunate to get even a half-day truly “off-work”.
None of this is said in complaint … the manic highs of a high-volume restaurant mean that I can get paid for my adrenaline addiction, rather than scheduling my next river rafting or skiing adventure. Besides … it’s only 8 weeks in October and November. Well, I also spend September flying back and forth to NY in order to get the Texas show open while my NY show is still running, and there are a couple of weeks of closing the show down, but in truth, the gift of running a restaurant with huge volume, and then being able to lay in a hammock and read novels for a month as recovery … I’d call it a pretty good life.
The menu is evolving. Food items at these parks are highly juried, and a booth is sold with an existing menu and the rights to those products. This means I’m always on the search for the next great festival food item. We are constantly developing products, knowing that the more we try, the more opportunities we have for success. The Scotch Eggs, Multi-layered OMG Cakes, Strawberry Josephines, and Gourmet Brownies all deserve more attention than I can give them right now. At this point I’ve owned the shop in Texas for 5 years, and it’s just now really at a place of reflecting my personality more than my predecessors’. For the past 21 years, I’ve spent summers in NY, and I bring a lot of that East Coast Foodie attitude back with me every fall. The trick is to allow the influence, while still presenting foods that the Texas Palate desires. This is not, (to be trite) a piece of cake.