Arts & Culture News

Be Our Guest: A Dallas Food Blogger’s Disney-Themed Dinners Go Viral

But did any of the guests bring "the smolder"? Katie-Rose Watson's Tangled-themed dinner.
But did any of the guests bring "the smolder"? Katie-Rose Watson's Tangled-themed dinner. courtesy The Rose Table

Is Disney the security blanket of the millennial generation? For whatever unexplored psychological reasons, young people are obsessed with the soothing memories of Disney-specific nostalgia. The internet is brimming with song quizzes and villain makeup and so much princess art. One Dallas blogger is combining the love for the brand with an all-ages, timeless subject: food.

Katie-Rose Watson is a publicist who works with several art institutions. She also owns a blog, The Rose Table, where she shows off her culinary skills, which she started the same year she opened her PR firm.

“2014 was hilariously impactful for me,” she says.

For the last few years, she's earned a steady following with her Disney-themed dinners.

Watson has been cooking since she was little, when she learned that “the ticket” to hanging out with her brothers was to offer baked goods. A few years ago, she started inviting small groups of friends over to play croquet and catch up over three-course meals. Her friends kept asking for her recipes and one of them suggested she start a food blog.

“I said, ‘Who would read that? And she said, ‘Who wouldn’t read that?' ” Watson remembers of the exchange.

She started posting videos of her dinner parties and built her following. And in 2017, she had an idea to attract younger audiences.

“I thought, How can I get young people to entertain and not see dinner parties as something that your grandma did, as something stuffy?” she says.

She’d stumbled across a photo of deep-red apples “with some woodland-type stuff on a table,” which reminded her of Snow White. That night, she dreamt that she threw a “12 months of Disney theme,” so she called her mother and explained her new plans.

“I’m gonna do that,” she says she told her, to which her mother replied: “Or, you could be a normal person and not do that.”

Watson isn’t a caterer or party planner and doesn’t profit directly from her dinners. She simply hosts her friends and posts those videos online to bring joy to others, she says. The monthly Disney theme not only fit the current zeitgeist but also felt personal.

“I felt like this would give people a reason to tune in every month, and I feel like if you get Disney you get me, because Disney doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s very whimsical and fun,” she says.

Watson kicked off her project with a Frozen-themed dinner.

“I basically ‘froze’ my dining room with these blue chandelier lights,” she says, adding that the evening featured a Norwegian-inspired menu, after she learned that Arendale was based on a Norwegian town. The video got 10,000 views, and her fan base grew with each post.

“I went from about 12,000 fans to about 100,000 fans in one year,” Watson says. “It was insane."

Halfway through, she says Facebook invited her to join their creators program.

“I basically got a six-month deal to do a video for Facebook,” she explains.

This was the first time Watson made any money as a blogger. She continued throwing dinners for five guests, which cost about $100 for food, she says, and some for decor, which gets to be less as she accrues dinnerware.

On one special occasion, she threw a big Cinderella ball where she cooked for 60 people and decorated her entire house. Because of this, she skipped her February dinner, and this upset some fans in particular.

“I got an email from (someone from) Disney saying, ‘Why didn’t you do a Disney dinner this month?’... and I said, 'I didn’t know that you knew about those,'” Watson says with a laugh.

Eventually, she started partnering with different film’s marketing departments. Her first sponsored dinner was for Mary Poppins Returns, followed by Captain Marvel and Maleficent.

“The rest of them are just for fun,” Watson says.

“It’s just a really nice escape to disappear into that happy fantasy land, and I think we could all use a little bit more magic in our lives.” – Katie-Rose Watson

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Alice in Wonderland is her most popular video, with 430,000 views. Despite her popularity, Watson says people don’t copy her ideas because of the sheer amount of work required (“I think because it’s so labor intensive”) but also, this isn’t your mom’s Disney party Pinterest board come to life.

“The whole idea is they were dinner parties for adults so they’re not kiddie at all. There are no cut-outs or characters or anything like that,” Watson says. “The idea is that if you are a Disney fan you would see all the references. … If you’re not a Disney fan it just looks like an elegant dinner party.”

One of the dinners Watson’s most proud of was inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean, her all-time favorite movie. For the occasion, she served what she believes to be the oldest rum punch recipe in the Caribbean, along with coconut shrimp and chocolate rum cupcakes. Her personal favorite dinner also happens to be her least viewed, and a bit of a cult favorite, Princess and the Frog — for which she served Cajun food as it's set in New Orleans.

But for all her Disneying, Watson says she’s not as die-hard a fan as some others.

“I’m not nearly as obsessed as people who go to the (Disney) parks all the time,” she says. “It’s just a really nice escape to disappear into that happy fantasy land, and I think we could all use a little bit more magic in our lives.”

Watson had been planning her Tangled-themed dinner for several months when the stay-at-home orders happened. She had already ordered the decor and had the menu planned since January. She realized that, at the earliest, she wouldn’t be able to resume her plans until June, and after speaking to her friends, she concluded that the dinners were for her followers just as much as for the singular guests invited to them, so she kept them going by hosting her virtual guests.

Watson decided to play up Rapunzel’s isolation.

”I thought about how Rapunzel herself was quarantined for 18 years, when she was locked in the tower,” she says. Watson lip-synced a version of the song “When Will My Life Begin” sung by her friend, as a spoof of the movie’s opening.

“Which is literally a song about how to entertain yourself in quarantine,” she says. The best part? She had leftovers for days.
click to enlarge Ahoy. The Pirates of the Caribbean-themed dinner table. - JESSICA SERNA
Ahoy. The Pirates of the Caribbean-themed dinner table.
Jessica Serna
click to enlarge This one should be a no-brainer. - DARLING PHOTOGRAPHY
This one should be a no-brainer.
Darling Photography
click to enlarge Table for seven ... dwarves. - MARY BATCHELLOR
Table for seven ... dwarves.
Mary Batchellor
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Eva Raggio is the Dallas Observer's music and arts editor, a job she took after several years of writing about local culture and music for the paper. Eva supports the arts by rarely asking to be put on "the list" and always replies to emails, unless the word "pimp" makes up part of the artist's name.
Contact: Eva Raggio