The top-secret Disney food lab you never knew existed

You might think that the characters at Disney have the “Coolest Job on Earth”—like this real-life Disney princess—but the chefs at the secret Flavor Lab in Walt Disney World get the title for the “Yummiest Job on Earth.” The Flavor Lab is the culinary hub for every single Disney park and resort in the world. Every savory bite you take and delicious drink you slurp is created and taste-tested by chefs, sommeliers, and mixologists from across the globe in this exclusive test kitchen. Think of it as a sanctuary for foodies everywhere!

The 7,000 square-foot culinary emporium hides behind a gate in an undisclosed back lot near one of the Disney World resorts. Aside from the Disney culinary masterminds themselves, only a select few Disney cast members are allowed to enter through the Lab’s tinted glass doors. Anyone else who is lucky enough to take a sneak peek needs to be escorted to the nondescript location. The Lab’s strict closed-door policy remains in place to keep their recipes from leaking to the public.

RELATED: Disney employees must follow these rules 

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12 etiquette rules Disney employees must follow
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12 etiquette rules Disney employees must follow

1. All the park's a stage

Disney employees aren't technically "employees"—they're "Cast Members." And no, not just the ones who play actual Disney characters. Every employee in the park, whether they operate rides, serve food, or actually put on a show, is a "Cast Member." The idea is that the entire Disney park itself is a "stage." Even Disney's career website talks about the "unique opportunities available to Cast Members."

2. Everything is Disney

And what's the most important thing a Cast Member has to do? Stay in character, of course. If you're playing a Disney character, that character's world becomes your world. You're not allowed to make references to any pop culture that exists outside of the Disney universe. From the moment you don the costume to the moment you take it off, you can't talk about anything that Snow White, Peter Pan, or whomever you're playing wouldn't know about—whether that's the latest iPhone or the Harry Potter park just across Orlando. Learn more about what it's like to work as a Disney character, straight from a woman who played Alice from Alice in Wonderland.

3. Looking the part

From hair to fingernails, Disney has lots of requirements for the physical appearances of their employees. Women's hair needs to be in a "classic" style and a natural-looking color. Women actually can have highlights, but they must be "subtle, well-blended, and be over the entire head," according to Disney's career site. As for men, their hair can't cover their ears or be long enough to reach their collars. Men are allowed to have facial hair, but it must be neat, and it can't be longer than a quarter of an inch.

There are also very specific fingernail rules for anyone working in food or merchandise. Your fingernails can't extend beyond your fingertips, and you can't wear nail polish or fake nails. Surprisingly, you can actually have a tattoo—but it has to be completely covered, whether by clothing or opaque makeup.

4. Height requirements

Just like you have to be 44 inches tall to ride Space Mountain, you have to be a certain height to portray certain Disney roles. Most notably, anyone aspiring to play a Disney princess—yes, any princess—must be between 5'4" and 5'8". If you're shorter, between 4'11" and 5'2", you can play other characters, including Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Wendy from Peter Pan.

5. Jewel rules

Women are allowed to wear one ring on each hand and only one earring in each ear. For men, the ring rule is the same, but earrings aren't allowed at all. You can have other piercings, but you have to remove them while at work. Gauges are prohibited altogether. Here are some things guests aren't allowed to bring into Disney parks.

6. First name basis

Cast Members are only known by their first names—no "Mr." or "Miss." Rumor has it that this tradition dates right back to Walt Disney himself. He always told everyone at the Disney parks to call him Walt, not Mr. Disney. Employees also wear nametags with only their first names on them. A weirder aspect of this rule? Cast Members aren't allowed to have duplicate names. Disney can still hire multiple people with the same first name, but there's no using last initials—one of the people has to choose a new name to go by while at Disney. Seems a little weird...but on the bright side, maybe they can view it as the same as being a character.

7. What's the point

Disney employees have a special way of pointing. If they're giving directions, they're not allowed to point with one finger, since it could potentially be considered rude. Instead, they employ a special Disney point, often with two fingers or sometimes even with the whole hand. Aside from being more friendly in general, it's also more kid-friendly, because it's easier for children to see. Can you guess the three things that aren't allowed in today's Disney movies?

8. Graceful garbage disposal

If a Cast Member sees a piece of trash on the ground, he or she must pick it up—litter has no place in the Happiest Place on Earth. But they can't just pick it up—Disney employees have to use a special maneuver to pick up trash. Rather than squatting down, they have to collect the trash with a graceful "swoop-and-scoop" motion. That sounds like lots of fun to practice during training.

9. Speaking in code

With lots of little kids (and animals) running around in the park, there's bound to be some unpleasant bodily-fluid-related incidents every now and then. Fortunately, Disney has a special way to identify them without grossing anyone out. Employees use "Code V" to signify a throw-up incident and "Code P" or "Code U" for urine. If a parade horse poops in the park, that's a "Code H."

10. They're all-knowing

If someone asks a Cast Member a question about the park, those three deadly words— "I don't know"— are absolutely forbidden. Even if it's true, the Cast Member must ask another employee or call a park operator until they find out the answer. Learn more about why Disney employees can't say "IDK."

11. No social media

Disney Cast Members don't have to give up social media altogether, but they're not allowed to post about their jobs. They can't even reveal what character(s) they are playing, and they can't take any pictures backstage. We wouldn't want to ruin the magic, now would we?

12. Accurate autographs

One of the most fun parts of any trip to Disney, especially for kids, is getting autographs from your favorite characters. Every character's signature is distinct and has a recognizable look—no matter who's playing that character. Regardless of what your own handwriting looks like, you're going to have to go through "autograph training" so that you know how to write like Mickey Mouse. Next, learn some surprising facts you never knew about your favorite Disney characters.

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The large, pristine show kitchen and bar area complete with stainless steel appliances, flat screen TVs, and stage lights looks just like a set straight out of Iron Chef. But the kitchen set isn’t made for television; it’s for demonstration videos to teach other chefs and operators in different parks throughout the world new recipes and techniques.

It takes the Flavor Lab geniuses anywhere from a month to three years, if not more, to dream and develop delectable food items for a new restaurant or park opening. In fact, most dishes go through at least 12 to 20 revisions each before they are perfected. For instance, the french fries at the D-Luxe Burger joint in Disney Springs, formerly Downtown Disney, took two years for the Flavor Lab to master. And it took the Lab 18 months to convert the Captain’s Grille into the Ale & Compass at the Disney World Yacht Club Resort. But all of the taste testing and experimenting is worth it to ensure that every meal has your taste buds singing zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Next time you visit, make sure to order these new foods at Disney World you’ve got to try at least once.

RELATED: Coolest Disney world foods 

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Coolest Disney World and Disneyland snacks
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Coolest Disney World and Disneyland snacks
Killer shot!!!! #thisisdisney 📷: @the_little_pixie. ••• (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured)
Owl isn't sure about this rose cake pop 😂🌹#Disneyland
#GROOT BREAD!!! Find it in #disneycaliforniaadventure! Thanks for the pic, @sandyruns26.2!! #Disneyland
Well this is gorgeous!!! #Ghirardelli Strawberry Soda Float 🍓🍦Find it in #disneycaliforniaadventure and #disneysprings! 📷: @dolewhipdollies_ (#disneyfoodblog to see your pic featured)
These mini Mickey waffles are pretty much everything right now. #gottagettotokyo #tokyodisneyland 📷: @tableforlily 🙌🏻 (#disneyfoodblog to see your pic featured)
#mickeymouse shave ice from #Disney's Aulani in #Hawaii!!! My life is complete. 📷: @aly_sf #disneyfood #aloha #obsession . (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured)
Haha! Love this pic by @thejentravels!! #disneyfoodblog to see your shot featured! #Disney #disneyfood #ComeAndGetIt
Waffle bowl pattern at Clarabelle's in #disneycaliforniaadventure ❤️ 📷: @diningindisney #disneyland #disneyfood
No Way Jose from Beaches & Cream at Disney's Beach Club Resort!
#Breakfast at #TokyoDisneyland: PERFECT #Mickeymouse waffles with chocolate and whipped cream 😍 📷: @diningindisney #disney #disneyfood
Raspberry lime macaron from Les Halles in #Epcot's France. #Disney #disneyfood
Mickey #Pizza Bread at #tokyodisneyland!!!! 📷: @tokyodisneylorien (<-- Follow! She's super cool!)
Still loving this lotus blossom glow cube! Now available at several #Disney's #AnimalKingdom locations including Thirsty River Bar and Snacks.
Apple --> Caramel --> Chocolate --> #MickeyMouse!! #Disney #DisneyFood Here's a TIP: Ask the cast member to cut up the apple for you for easier eating!
Meanwhile, in #AnimalKingdom 😍 #dolewhip #whynot #cantstayaway #justsayyes
Loving this #MickeyMouse cinnamon-sugar #donut from #disneylandshanghai! 📷: @snowflakespalmtreesandpretzels. (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured) #shanghaidisneyland #disneyfood #disney #breakfast
Berry Brickle at the #epcotflowerandgardenfestival is still a winner
#Pandora Night Blossom from Pongu Pongu #disney #disneyfood The "light up cup" is a souvenir cup with a glow pod that clips on. I like it since previous light up cups just break when you wash them.
Hello, old friend. I haven't had one of these cuties in a loooooong time. It's classic; soft and sweet with a touch of almond flavor. Don't overlook this one. #cookie #mickeymouse #disney #disneyfood #eatthis
The sparkles. Na'vi blueberry cheesecake at Satu'li Canteen in #Pandora #diseyworld #disneyfood
Finally tried this #limoncello #mule at Via Napoli last night! Soooo good, even if you're not a #gingerbeer person. #Disney #booze #waltdisneyworld #vianapoli #epcot
#TokyoDisneyland goodies!! 📷: @hungryhugh (who I'm totally meeting someday). #Disney #disneyfood (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured)
#MinnieMouse cupcake at Gasparilla Grill in #Disney's Grand Floridian Resort has forgettable cake but dense and delicious cookies and cream frosting on top and as filling! Plus #cutebow
Chili Mac and Cheese -- secret menu item from Refreshment Corner in #Disneyland! #yum #sourdough #boudinbakery #macncheese
This #peanutbutter pie is still my second favorite dessert in #disneyworld! (After #Ohana bread pudding!) Get this at Contempo Cafe ❤️
Who's tried this crazy-town Seven Seas Lagoon cocktail at The Wave Lounge in #Disney's Contemporary Resort?? #booze #yum #sharingiscaring
Best Krispie ever @lynleesmmt!!!!! #mainstreetelectricalparade #disneyland
We're talking #Disneyland #icecream in an upcoming YouTube video! What's your favorite??? This one is a #hotfudge #sundae at Golden Horseshoe! #disneyfood #disney
Lapu Lapu at Tambu Lounge in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort!
Beautiful shot of the #icecream #martini from @artisandesglace!! Get yours with one of three alcohol toppers! 📷: @caitlinmcaninch (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured)
Dinner!! Find @ghirardelli sundaes and chocolate on both coasts: #DisneySprings in #disneyworld and #disneycaliforniaadventure in #disneylandresort. 📷: @stitchlovesdolewhips . (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured) #icecream
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The post The Top-Secret Disney Food Lab You Never Knew Existed appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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