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Four of Chef Justin’s favorite new dishes at Food & Wine Festival

May 25, 2018
Chef Justin names some of his favorite new dishes at this year's food festival event.

Asking Busch Gardens Executive Chef Justin Watson to name his favorite Food & Wine dishes is like asking a mother of five to reveal her favorite child.

“I have so many favorites,” Chef Justin says.

With this in mind, I still persisted. After a brief negotiation, Chef Justin agreed to reveal four of his favorite new dishes making their debut this year at the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival, which will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 25 – July 1.

Soba Noodle Bowl at Food & Wine Festival


Where to find: Japan kiosk located in Italy

Chef Justin finds inspiration in many places, including Netflix.

Chef took interest in a noodle dish featured on an episode of Chef David Chang’s show, “Mind of a Chef” and decided to create one of his own for the Food & Wine Festival.

Tapping into the popularity of pho and ramen restaurants, Chef made a dish that includes a dashi broth with pickled vegetables, green onions, edamame, egg and shiitake mushrooms. The broth is made from kombu, sourced Japanese kelp, and includes miso to make the taste similar to the wonton soup served in Japanese restaurants.

Soba, a buckwheat noodle, was added to this dish of authentic Japanese ingredients. The broth is warmed and served over the cold noodles.

Kimchi Sampler at Food & Wine Festival


Where to find: South Korea kiosk located in Festa Italia

With so many delicious choices, variety is the spice of life at the Food & Wine Festival. And variety and spice are two of the characteristics that make the kimchi sampler such an enjoyable dish.

This item, located at one of the festival’s four new kiosks, is split into three different varieties: cabbage, cucumber and daikon radish. Spice is a main feature of the vegan dish thanks to Korean chili powder called gochugaru.

After being salted, rinsed and drained, the vegetables are allowed to sit overnight. In Korea, it is customary to let the vegetables sit for much longer to ferment, usually underground in a clay kimchi jar.

The Food & Wine Festival’s kimchi dish is served fresh, not fermented.


Where to find: Cuba kiosk located in France

Authenticity is important to Busch Gardens’ culinary team, so much of what you order at one of the many food kiosks is spot on with what you’d find on dinner tables in each respective country.

A great example of this is the Ropa Vieja dish found at the new Cuba kiosk. The inspiration for adding this to the festival’s menu came after receiving feedback from a park employee who was born and raised in Cuba.

After researching the dish, Chef Justin knew it was perfect for the new Food & Wine location. Ropa Vieja translates to “old clothes,” which is what the shredded beef resembles in this dish. The beef is slow cooked and served with a criollo sauce over black beans and rice.


Where to find: Hawaii kiosk located in Ireland

An old favorite has found a new home at the Food & Wine Festival.

This dish is a spinoff of the Mac & Cheese with Peameal Bacon that was served at the Canada location last season.

When the decision was made to remove Canada, Chef Justin knew he had to find a new home for a mac & cheese dish, so he brainstormed some ideas and came up with this version that includes pineapple and a macadamia nut crust.

Watson also considered a Kahlua pork mac & cheese and a Spam mac & cheese, but the pineapple option was the clear winner after going through rounds of taste tests with the Busch Gardens’ team.

The Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival is the place to unleash your inner foodie with over 60 specialty food items, 30 different wines, 25 craft beers, tequila tasting and 20 unique cocktails not normally served at the park. You also can catch big-name concerts including Scotty McCreery (June 9), Hunter Hayes (June 16) and Andy Grammer (June 30), plus additional entertainment throughout the event.

The Food & Wine Festival and concerts are included with park admission.