2024 Universal Orlando Mardi Gras food focuses on flavor authenticity

Pancit Bihon at 2024 Universal Orlando Mardi Gras
Pancit Bihon at 2024 Universal Orlando Mardi Gras / Cristine Struble

While the first notes of those jazz songs have everyone excited to clap to the beat, guests are moving their feet to get a taste of all the 2024 Universal Orlando Mardi Gras food. From New Orleans favorites to tastes from around the globe, this carnival of flavors celebrates how food brings people together.  

From before Fat Tuesday to long into the Spring, the annual Universal Orlando Mardi Gras celebration allows all ages to embrace the jubilant moments from day to night. While the days can be spent tasting their way across the globe, the nights come alive with flying beads and visually creative floats. When it is time to pass under the arch, guests will feel satisfied, and more importantly, will be asking when they can do it all again.  

Over the past several years, the Universal Orlando chefs have pushed the creativity level with their special event offerings. As seen in last year’s Halloween Horror Nights, flavor is coupled with visual complexity. The dishes need to make a lasting impression not only with taste but also with that shareable photo.  

With the 2024 Universal Orlando Mardi Gras food, the idea of carnival of flavor is more than just a tag line to entice people to sample the many tasting portions from around the global. It is a celebration of culture and the authenticity that the culinary team brings to the plate.  

During a recent media event, Jens Dahlmen, Universal Orlando Resort's Vice President and Executive Chef of Operations, shared insight on this year’s menu. Specifically, he mentioned that the culinary team wanted the food “to be authentic to the country and the culture.” 

Although he admitted that the chefs wanted to have a little fun with each of the offerings, they wanted to represent each country well. It is a careful balance of pushing the edge while still staying true to the heritage and the culture.  

Speaking about the German Biergarten, Dahlmen explained why the curry wurst is a dish that everyone should try. “Curry wurst was invented in Berlin and it is a staple there. It is eaten on the streets and it is a fun food.” That vibe fits in perfectly with the Universal Orlando Mardi Gras spirit. Everyone wants to let the good times roll.  

In some ways, how the country marketplaces were grouped together helps the guest experience. As Dahlmen explained, “when we activated our kiosk and food offerings, we considered groups based on geographic locations.” For example, the San Francisco area features the Asian cuisine and the Gramercy Park has the French offerings. Tying the food to specific locales makes for a more engaging experience.

Dahlmen believes that the groupings allows guests to take a journey through similar cuisines. He recommended that guests consider exploring geographically. From some spicy Asian food for lunch then maybe end the day with a concert beignets and an espresso martini.  

Given the robust menu and numerous selections, Dahlmen believes there are enough food and beverage options for people to come back two or three times during the festival's run. It might be impossible to enjoy all the 60 offerings in one visit, but it is a challenge that some people might be willing to attempt.  

The Universal culinary team has created tasting menu portions so that guests can sip and sample many offerings. Dahlmen believes that portions and costs invite guests to try something new. People might not commit to a $20 dish at a sit-down restaurant, but they may be more willing to spend $5-10 on a dish that they have never tasted before. The risk/reward ratio is worth rolling the dice. Maybe even the spice weary would be willing to try an order of that Spicy Smashed Cucumber.  

While the bold, authentic, and creative flavors have many guests hungry for that first bite, the culinary team worked hand in hand with the beverage team to complement the offerings. Whether it is a fruity pina colada or a crisp German lager, the beverages are as important to creating that overall experience.  

For anyone excited to get tasting and sipping, the Universal Mardi Gras event runs now through April 7, 2024. The parades and concerts (on select nights) are included with theme park admission. The Carnival of Flavors food and beverage offerings are purchased separately. Tasting lanyards are available.