Yelp Elite: VIP Tour of Olive Garden’s Test Kitchen

Yelp Elite Event at Darden HQ

I have to say that this is one of my favorite Yelp Elite events to date. For this event we were invited to the Darden Restaurant headquarters for a VIP tour of Olive Garden’s test kitchen. I’d never been there before, but I knew that we were in for a treat.

Yelp Elite Event at Darden HQ


Once everyone was gathered together they brought us to a beautiful dining space in the middle of the building. We were each given a glass of prosecco before being seated. What a way to start the evening! Darden execs explain that there is a private meeting space and test kitchen for each of their restaurants. How cool is that? After meeting some of their chefs we got to sample four new appetizers that have been recently added to their menu. My favorite was the Polenta shrimp alla Greca.  It was an Italian take on southern shrimp and grits and it was amazing!

Yelp Elite Event at Darden HQ

After our appetizers we were broken up into three groups and taken into the test kitchens. They were huge and amazing! Each group was paired with an Olive Garden chef and we got to cook with them. We made their new Pizza Sandwich and the Mediterranean flatbread. Of course we were able to taste everything afterwards and it was so tasty. The Pizza Sandwich reminded me of a quesadilla, but filled with pizza toppings.

Yelp Elite Event at Darden HQ

When we returned to our seats we found my favorite Olive Garden food – salad and breadsticks! They now offer Salad toppers on their menu that can be added to their regular bowl of salad. We tried the Caprese salad topper which included the most delicious bites of mozzarella cheese. If you are looking to change up your regular OG salad or just looking to make it more of a meal, I definitely recommend trying out the salad toppers.

After the salad and breadsticks we were able to try 3 pasta dishes and 3 entrees. My table made a point of only taking small tastes of each thing that was brought out, but we were still SO full by the time the meal was over. It is hard for me to pick my favorite, but I would have to go with the Smashed Chicken Meatball sandwich or the Pappardelle Pescatore. Two totally different but equally delicious choices.

Yelp Elite Event at Darden HQ

They knew we would be out of room at this point but they didn’t want to skip dessert. So what did they do? They prepackaged their Wild Berry Layer Cake for us to take home. Genius! I had the cake the next day at work and it was amazing. I usually go for chocolate desserts when I’m out to eat, but I would definitely have this cake again. It was so light and fresh!

At the end of the evening we were given a bag with our take-home cake, an I love Pasta t-shirt, and a $25 gift card for Olive Garden. How sweet is that? I used my gift card to take my mom to dinner over Easter weekend. She is a big fan of their Chicken Parmesan 🙂

A great big thank you to Yelp! Orlando and Darden for an amazing evening!


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