Can we call you Joe?

Two field trips a day, three rotations a field trip, three days a week, and sometimes more. It takes an army of volunteers to keep the Olivewood kitchen cooking! Helmed by Chef Educator Kati Butler — who creates recipes, manages the kitchen, teaches, and coordinates lessons in sync with garden and science units — the kitchen is also the domain of volunteer sous chefs and guest chefs from all walks of kitchen life.

Joe Burns is the acclaimed pastry chef at Pamplemousse Grille in Del Mar. (Before joining Pamplemousse in July of 2010, Joe had crafted desserts at George’s on the Cove, Whisknladle in La Jolla, and at Suite & Tender/Se Hotel). He’s a dedicated regular at Olivewood (he’ll log his 10th lesson in the kitchen on April 23, 2012!). We posed a few questions to Chef Joe so you could get to know him in his own words…

Q: Sometimes cooks give pastry chefs a hard time, and yet pastry chefs are probably born, not made, and we all now how ridiculously hard and intellectual the work can be. So, for you…why pastry? What do you love about it?

A: My choice to pursue pastries instead of savory cooking is nothing exciting or unique. I simply wanted to be different from everyone else. During orientation (at Johnson & Wales University) most all the incoming students choose to do savory. I wanted to be unique so I went the other route. Plus I always figured I could get a part time job working as a cook to learn the savory side of food.

Q: What made you start cooking?

A: Honestly when I graduated from high school I had no idea what I wanted to do in life nor did I have the confidence that I could do anything. I was already working at a restaurant as a busser/prep cook when a older cook suggested I go to culinary school and really learn how to cook. I had nothing else going on so I said, why not, I’ll check it out. The rest is history

Q: What is your favorite food memory from when you were a child?

A: This probably isn’t the answer your looking for but when I was younger my parents on their anniversary would always pick up some peel and eat shrimp to celebrate. That is the only time I ever saw shrimp in our house. It was so interesting to me to see how much that one simple food item brought my parents together. You could just see the love they had for each other in their eyes. That’s when I first realized the enchanting power of food.

Q: That’s exactly the kind of answer we were looking for, actually. Thanks, Joe. Now…What is your favorite flavor?

A: my favorite food by far is pizza! New York style with pepperoni and a little hot sauce. I’m a simple man with a simple appetite. Chocolate peanut butter ice cream is a very close second!

Q: How did you first get introduced to Olivewood?

A: I attended a chocolate tasting at the house of a friend of Julie Darling. [Ed Note: Chef Julie Darling inaugurated the Olivewood kitchen program in 2010. The kitchen is named “The Darling Kitchen” in her honor.] We got to talking and Julie asked if I would like to come down to Olivewood to cook for some kids. I loved the idea and jumped right on it.

Q: You’re approaching your tenth time cooking in the Olivewood kitchen. What keeps you coming back?

A: the kids. They get such a kick out of it. It is also a rewarding feeling inside, like your doing something good for no reason at all except to just do something good for others. I also love the idea of getting back to basics when it comes to cooking. Now a days its far to easy to buy prepackaged meals with all sorts of stuff in them your body doesn’t need. Its funny that organic food is such a rave these days. When my grand parents were growing up it was just called plan old food! Everything was organic!

Q: What should people know about cooking with the kids at Olivewood?

A: Whatever we prepare it should be simple for purposes of time constraint and to not over whelm the kids with too many flavors. Their palates are still young and developing let us remember. i think the dishes should be fun as well, maybe a little unique. I don’t know abt you but as a child my attention span was next to nothing so keep then intrigued. Things that are hands on for them are the best. It gets them involved and I think it makes it feel less like being in a school class room.

Thanks, Joe! See you soon!