Chef Gordon adds a touch of food magic
to Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort
Friday, June 13, 2003
Text and photos by Sue Holland, MousePlanet staff writer
Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort
in Florida, is home to a very unique dining experience that is sure to
be the highlight of any visit the Private Affair.
The resort is located on Longview Island, a small island within Hilton
Head Island. There are no full-service restaurants at the resort because
of its small size, lack of parking space for non-guests, and the hundreds
of great restaurants nearby already covering all food preferences and
budgets. Instead, the resort just has a couple of counter-service outlets
at the pools.
Disney eventually established the Longview Cooking Club a series
of food and wine-related events geared towards adults. During any given
week, there might be a wine sampling event, hors d'oeuvres or dessert-cooking
demonstrations, or a DVC member social. A cast member known as Chef Gordon
conducts these popular events, and every one I have attended has been
well worth the nominal fee.
One of the most exclusive of Chef Gordon's activities is the Private
Affair, a dinner he prepares as your private chef in a location that is
off-limits to anyone else for that evening. Currently, these dinners are
held at Signals at the Beach House, and Gordon sets a table to make sure
that diners have a view of the beach and ocean. By day, Signals is a counter-service
place selling chicken fingers and other casual food. During Private Affair,
there are candles, soft music, linen tablecloth and napkins, and real
dinnerware and glassware.
Signals is transformed into a private restaurant.
From the time our Private Affair was booked (almost 11 months in advance),
through all of the planning to even the day after the dinner when
the recipes arrived in my e-mail Chef Gordon was terrific. He provides
a menu he has developed, but makes it clear that guests are not limited
to those items. If there is something else you want, simply make the request
in advance and Gordon will accommodate your wishes if at all possible.
I was part of a party of four doing the Private Affair, two of whom are
very picky eaters, and our only challenge was narrowing the menu down
to select one item per person for each course it all sounded wonderful.
The Private Affair is held long after Signals has closed for the day
in our case 6:30 p.m. After introducing the other guests to Gordon,
we were seated at our table with a direct view of the ocean and the sunset.
Gordon had set his cooking station up within our view, yet far enough
away that if we wanted privacy for our conversation we would have it.
We enjoyed talking with him throughout the evening, and he freely shared
a number of cooking tips and stories.
Cooking is done close to tableside.
Wines come with each course, and although Gordon can choose the correct
wine for each based upon what a diner orders, he encouraged us to simply
drink what we like. He asked a few questions, and was able to select the
perfect wine for each person in the party.
A variety of wines are provided.
Throughout the evening, service was excellent. Having a private chef
is such a treat, and the meal was timed to our speed rather than some
busy restaurant kitchen. By being in the same room as us, Gordon could
see when it was time to begin the next step, and he made sure to keep
our wine glasses refilled.
The meal consists of an appetizer, entrée and dessert. When we originally
booked, I thought we would need to come to agreement on the same appetizer,
entrée and dessert. However, it was Gordon who insisted we stick
with our original choices even though the four of us had each selected
a different one of the four entrees on the sample menu. The appetizer
selections (with their recommended and alternate wines) are:
French Onion Soup au Gruyere or Sea Island She Crab Soup
Lowcountry Barbecued Shrimp Saté
Recommended: Pinot Noir
Daufuskie Island Crab Cakes with Devil's Elbow Dressing
Alternate: Sauvignon Blanc
Baby Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing
Recommended: French Colombard
Alternate: Pinot Grigio
The crab cake is huge, and full of crab rather than filler.
Our group chose the onion soup, she-crab bisque, and crab cakes. The
onion soup was the best onion soup I've had anywhere delicious
flavor and not salty at all. The crab bisque and crab cake were also excellent.
A couple of the people in my party are experienced cooks and know a lot
more about food than I do, and they were highly impressed by these appetizers.
Portions were quite large, and tasted so good we forced ourselves to eat
a bit longer than we otherwise would have.
This onion soup could be a satisfying meal by itself.
The entrees were next, each accompanied by rice and green beans. Despite
having four different entrees to prepare, Gordon had everything timed
perfectly so everyone got their food at the same time without anything
getting cold. The entrée selections are:
Filet Mignon with Lemon Butter Brandy Flambé
Recommended: Cabernet Sauvignon
Tilapia Provencale with Blue Crab Stuffing
Alternate: Sauvignon Blanc
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Vidalia Onion Confit
Alternate: Cabernet Sauvignon
Herb Crusted Sautéed Grouper
Recommended: Sauvignon Blanc
Tilapia on the left, Grouper on the right.
Once again, everything was unbelievably delicious. Both fish dishes were
perfectly prepared, and the filet mignon could almost be cut with a butter
knife. The onion confit was a great complement to the pork tenderloin,
and everyone enjoyed eating what they could but ended up with some leftovers
for the next day.
Left to right: Delicious filet mignon that you can cut with a butter knife,
and pork tenderloin that goes well with the onion confit.
At this point had we been in a restaurant, it's doubtful any of us would
have ordered dessert. But since it was already included in our meal, we
somehow managed to eat part of it. The rest went home in carryout containers
and was just as good the next day in fact, it was a treat to relive
the dinner via leftovers. We also enjoyed champagne with our desserts.
The dessert selections are:
Vanilla Caramel Flan
Chocolate Pots-de-Cr¸me with Grand Marnier Cream
White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
Classic Crepes Suzette
Nobody in our party tried the Crepes Suzette, but we did order the other
three items. The flan was very good, even though I generally am not a
fan of flan. The cheesecake was made in-house, as were all of the desserts,
and was also excellent.
White chocolate raspberry cheesecake.
The hands-down winner, though, was the chocolate pots-de-cr¸me. I had
no idea what this was, except that it was chocolate. It turned out to
be one of the best things we've ever tasted, and according to Gordon is
very easy to make. He sent us the recipe, and one of these days we'll
see how easy it is for a non-Chef.
Chocolate pots-de-crème, the ultimate dessert for chocolate lovers!
The Private Affair was easily the highlight of our trip, and is something
I will look forward to repeating on future trips. I've talked to many
people who have also done a Private Affair and have yet to find anyone
who did not rave about their wonderful evening with Chef Gordon. Gordon
likes to do the Private Affair several times a week, and fills in the
other evenings with the other Longview Cooking Club events that are open
to larger groups of people.
Private Affair must be booked at least 24 hours in advance, but it's
so popular it is best to book as far in advance as possible, even if that
means booking it as soon as you make your room reservation. This ensures
Gordon that will have the greatest availability for the dates selected.
The cost of the dinner is $150 (inclusive) for up to three people, and
$50/person for parties of four or more.
In my opinion, the experience will be diminished somewhat once the group
gets larger than four to six people. The interaction with your private
chef contributes greatly to the meal, and that interaction was much more
limited when friends did the Private Affair as a party of nine. It was
well worth the $200 for our four dinners, even though I do not usually
dine at expensive restaurants with my teenage son. I may have to book
another Private Affair during our mother/son trip to Hilton Head next
Chef Gordon with author Sue Holland.
To book your own Private Affair call 843-341-4166 or send e-mail to Chef
Gordon at ChefLCC@cs.com. He's
waiting to hear from you!
Although Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort
is a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort that is generally completely sold
out, it is not too difficult for non-members to book its rooms during
the slower seasons. Summer is peak season, and availability would be most
limited during June through August. For more information, please read
my articles with information on the resort and the assorted recreational
Head Island Resort (a primer) from 4/27/01
for Kids at Hilton Head Island Resort from 5/11/01
Hilton Head Island Resort (without kids) from 5/25/01
Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since
her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning
more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.
After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in
1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at
the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.
She takes many of these trips on her own, but
she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly,
and people with disabilities.
She works as the Administrative Services Division Head
for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children
and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.
Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers.
Read her trip report archive here.
You can contact Sue here.
Get the latest info about the resort at Park
Update: Walt Disney World.