Discover The Culture Behind The Restaurants Of Animal Kingdom Lodge's Jambo House

Looking for a great way to spend some time while enjoying Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge? This Disney Deluxe Resort has a wide variety of cultural programs that give life to the beautiful setting. On my last visit to Walt Disney World I stopped by the lodge to take a Culinary Tour of Jambo House's restaurants Jiko and Boma.

Discover The Culture Behind The Restaurants Of Animal Kingdom LodgeDiscover The Culture Behind The Restaurants Of Animal Kingdom Lodge

If you love to look deeper into the meaning and design of Disney hotels Animal Kingdom Lodge's Culinary Tour is a great place to start. There's no need to sign up for this tour in advance, just meet up with your tour group at the assigned time in front of Jiko. The tour lasts for about 30 minutes and is a great way to spend some time if you have early dinner reservations at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Decorative Wine RacksDecorative Wine Racks

The overall atmosphere at Jiko evokes sunset on the African savanna. I find the color scheme enchanting from the dark blue ceiling with bird-like lighting fixtures to the golden sunset lit walls very soothing. While it can get loud when the restaurant is full, the visual to be is always sort of romantic.

Tiled pillars throughout the restaurant represent the continent's cultural diversity through the many colors of tile. Golden rings that surround the pillars honor the Ndebele women who wear neck rings as part of their traditional dress, a sign of wealth and status. The rings around each of the pillars are different, just as no two women's neck rings are exactly the same.

Jiko Interior Depicts Sunset On The SavannaJiko Interior Depicts Sunset On The Savanna

Speaking of the light fixtures I mentioned above. The unique design is meant to look like "prosperity birds" flying low across the savanna against a darkening sky. Many shamanic cultures believe that to dream of birds flying around you is a positive sign that will bring you good things.

Jiko's Avian Inspired Light FixturesJiko's Avian Inspired Light Fixtures

Jiko means "the cooking place," and that is represented by the restaurant's two onstage wood-fire ovens where chefs prepare a variety of African inspired breads. Jiko fires their ovens with locally sourced Florida Live Oak both onstage and in the kitchen grills. The chef I spoke with said that the Florida Live Oak is less smokey than other woods which not only makes it ideal for the onstage setting, but allows for the delicate flavors of the breads to shine through.

Wood Fire Ovens In The Cooking PlaceWood Fire Ovens In The Cooking Place

Guests taking the tour are offered a sampling of the delicious breads from Jiko's ovens, as well as a selection of dips to top them with. It was a nice little nosh to prepare us for more tasting as we moved on to Boma.

Get A Taste Of African BreadsGet A Taste Of African Breads

Our group them moved over to Boma where we were greeted by an energetic new guide who took us through the themed decor of this family buffet. She started by explaining how no story of Africa could be complete without animals, and introduced us to the intricate carvings of some big game.

Discover The Culture Behind The Restaurants Of Jambo HouseDiscover The Culture Behind The Restaurants Of Jambo House

Because it is important to protect a village and its people from the animals, tribes erect fencing around the village, and this fencing is the boma. Around the restaurant guests will find wooden fencing that represents the protection of the boma where you can share a meal. The pillars in Boma are a play on the many colorful clay pots that African families use for both cooking and storage.

A Boma Encircles SeatingA Boma Encircles Seating

Above the buffet stations guests will notice awnings of colorful African fabrics, a familiar site used in community marketplaces to shade traders from the heat of the ever present sun. Light fixtures represent the fire of our star blazing in the sky.

Colorful Awnings Represent A MarketplaceColorful Awnings Represent A Marketplace
Light Fixtures Represent The SkyLight Fixtures Represent The Sky

After our tour of the decor we were introduced to the chef tending the massive roasting spits. Our guide reminded us of the importance of fire and how in small villages with little access to resource it can be the difference between life and death. Then we were given a tour of some of the more unusual African inspired dishes available on Boma's buffet. Each guest guest was given a bowl of Butternut Squash Soup to enjoy.

Moving on from there we came to Animal Kingdom Lodge's famous Zebra Dome desserts. Much to everyone's joy we were also allowed to taste these. The bite-size treats are made with Amarula cream liquor and take three days to produce. Proof that good things come to those who wait.

The Famous Zebra DomesThe Famous Zebra Domes

While the tour spends more time on the cultural design aspects of the restaurants than on culinary components, I found it to be quite enjoyable. Like many of Disney's free tours when you see the care and planning that the Imagineers have put in the details it seems to open a whole new world of magic.

Dates and times for the restaurant cultural tour can be found on the Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Recreation Calendar. This document changes each month and can vary slightly depending on the season. You should find a copy in your Walt Disney World Hotel Room when you check in, or you can obtain one at the front desk.

Have you been on the Culinary Tour at Animal Kingdom Lodge? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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