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  • Writer's pictureAnnabelle White

Celebrate Anaheim with Local Chef JJ Burton

Updated: May 23

 Executive chef of the Westin Resort Anaheim at 32 years of age is an impressive achievement, but for J J Burton ( James Joseph ) with his humble, easy and down-to-earth manner,  he says it’s  all about the great culinary training from the local Cypress Community College Culinary  & Hospitality programme.

Executive Chef JJ Burton

“They train us well, as they know working in Anaheim (being a bucket list destination for so many visitors) the pressure is on and this Westin Resort is a shining new star." They respond to the pressure every day with 618 rooms and 750 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) per day and sometimes catering a staggering 1,000 meals per day.Burton has been here for one year in this role.

So what is the most challenging part of his job? Would it be the increasing dietary issues and requests?

No”, says Burton with a broad smile “we can do anything for anyone and take it seriously, but it’s about keeping my team excited and motivated every day to do the best possible food service.

‘We do this by being creative and responding to Disneyland connections – like we recently did a Star Wars shaped waffle for May 4th (May the 4th be with you )  and Star Wars themed  s’mores – ( a gooey cookie  filled with marshmallows, chocolate and Graham crackers)  it’s important to make those connections so visitors have an even better time.”

Burton started cooking on a very practical level – “my mother was a solo mum and wanting to help out in the kitchen I started trying different things and being a Southern Californian boy you quickly develop a fusion of food  - for example, Latino and Asian.”

Many of these collaborations are reflected in the food in the hotel – for example, chicken wings are  popular bar snack across the USA, but chef Burton says their popular  Thai Popcorn Chicken Wings “ is a play on flavours you pick up in the neighbourhood – everyone loves chicken wings as a bar snack – so let’s add some of the sweet and salty flavour notes any Southern California cook knows making them so delicious and so popular.”

One of the dishes here that really appeals to Kiwi visitors is the fresh plump scallops from Mexico lightly cooked and drizzled ever so lightly with a with maple vinaigrette dressing. Curiously I always knew walnut oil was a secret partnership, but these scallops were incredible.

Scallops drizzled with maple vinaigrette

Another must try at the hotel is head to the roof top bar and order the Pacific oyster in the Michelada style – A Michelada is a Mexican drink made with beer, lime juice, assorted sauces, spices, and chili peppers. It is served in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass. The cocktails are popular so why not combine with fresh oysters?. “They are a local favourite and a style of serving local fresh oysters with tomato juice spiked with beer and tequila –  it’s like a bloody Mary with a little Tajin (Mexican chilli spice of lime, chilli peppers and salt) - they are incredibly good – you must try” , says Burton.


So now the hard questions:

Favourite ingredient and why?

"Himalayan Pink Salt – the unique flavour profile gives not only punch, but they colour to the plate and there is something about that salt that gives such a unique depth of flavour – I never use anything else."


When do you use the salt in cooking?  Do you add salt before or after cooking a steak? Do you add it as you sweat your vegetables for a soup or stew?

"No, always add at the end as the reduction process and cooking intensify the flavours and adding it before can be too much."


Local food suggestion after a enjoying his food here – where could I go?

"A ten-minute drive from here The Old Brea Chop House never disappoints and I always order the pork chop or the Delmonico steak – always good."


At Disneyland over the road?

"People always go for the Corn dog and the Monte Cristo at the Café Orleans but you have to go early for the breakfast sandwich as they often sell out.

A Monte Cristo sandwich is an egg-dipped or batter-dipped ham and cheese sandwich that is pan or deep fried. It is a variation of the French croque monsieur".


His favourite ride in Disneyland ?

"Big Thunder Mountain – it’s a long standing favourite,  but it does everything right – roller coaster plus."


Cooking tip for Kiwi cooks?

"Always use cold butter, never warmed butter for mashed potatoes as the cold butter helps bring better texture to the end result."


When he has finished a big day at work and he heads home – what is in his fridge?

"Milk, butter, eggs and his go-to-snack is salt and vinegar chips and cheezit ( cheese crackers ). Another favourite late night peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some potato chips inside the sandwich ( crispy, salty, sweet and delicious)"


Curiously what does he enjoy doing to relax at home?

I love baking – I know its crazy, but I love baking breads, making pasta, but not cakes more cookies or my ultimate favourite brownies.

 He also recommends the great mini blueberry muffins made by his talented pastry chef who never fails to disappoint.

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