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Having an office next to the director of Food & Beverage for Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek  has it perks.  Especially when that office is occupied by Francis Metais, one of the most brilliant minds in food and beverage today.

Sometimes, Francis would emerge from his office and make an official pronouncement of the day’s conquest, often to nobody in particular.  It was a ritual to mark the beginning of his latest project.

This happened time and time again, always with amazing results… and a parade of “test meals” fresh from the Waldorf Astoria kitchens, located one floor below.

These were innovative  ideas that eventually became menu staples, along with raves from our guests – items like “The Lemon” and “Pasta Explosion” at Bull & Bear, for instance. Sometimes they were twists on a favorite, like hummus made from edamame, or a chocolate dessert made from lentil beans.

I didn’t always comprehend his vision, partially because of his perfectly thick French accent.  But the proof, as they say, was always in the pudding.  And I (as well as other members of the Marketing and PR team), made sure we were readily available to lend our taste buds to the cause.

Bonnet Creek Cinnamon Rolls But one day, I understood Francis loud and clear:  “Keith, this week we will make the most amazing cinnamon rolls you have ever tasted,” he said.  “I will bring you one.”

As you can imagine, it was difficult to work that morning.  I love cinnamon rolls, and I had no doubt these would dazzle.  Francis is a classically trained pastry chef from France, and his work alongside executive pastry chef Kurtis Baguley is legendary.  He is the pastry team’s biggest cheerleader, as they have developed new menu items that lead the Orlando market.

That afternoon, I heard the door open, and a team of chefs came in, led by chef Kurtis.  I could smell the sweet aroma of cinnamon.  My mouth began to water.

I heard muffled conversations, followed by a click.  The door closed. The cinnamon smell slowly faded away.

Oh no.  Panic set in.   I could hear the ticking of the clock.  My mind raced.

Confused, I stuck my head in Francis’ office.  “Where’s the cinnamon rolls,” I said, hoping to find a platter in his office.

“They were good – really good,” he said.  “But we had some more ideas.  We’ll try again tomorrow.”

This happened several more times that week:  a team of chef came in… followed by discussions… and the team of chefs would leave with an unfinished platter of cinnamon rolls in tow.

I could barely stand it.

Then finally one day, Francis appeared in my office:  “Keith, we are ready,” he proclaimed.  “Take a bite.”

The magic hour had arrived.  It all came down to this.

And one bite was all it took.  I was in love.

I could see the smile on Francis’ face.  “Now that is a Waldorf Astoria cinnamon roll,” he said.

If this were a movie, there would have been a crescendo of music.  People would have applauded.  Tears would have been shed.

Me?  I took a second bite.

Wow.  The dough,  a wonderful mixture of textures similar to that of a croissant or a Danish, was extremely light, airy, and flaky.  The icing soaked into the dough, creating, well, the perfect cinnamon roll.

Hungry?  You can experience for yourself what we refer to as the Bonnet Creek Cinnamon Roll.  At Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, they are served warm at MUSE, the lobby coffee and sweet shop.   Guests come down early in the morning to claim their treat before we sell out for the day.   Yes, they are that popular.    At Waldorf Astoria Orlando, they are often found on the breakfast buffet at Oscar’s, where a pastry bar is filled with the many of innovations of Francis and Chef Kurtis… all developed with enthusiasm and baked with love.

A visit to either hotel just isn’t complete without a bite.  And listen for the crescendo of music in your head!

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