Despite a few obstacles that deterred Chef Burwell’s dreams of studying in Hawaii, including a hurricane that destroyed the island of Kauai, his surfer attitude prevails.
“I am a surfer first, and a chef second,” stated Chef Burwell, the Executive Chef at the Crab Catcher.
After his many travels from abroad to scenic spots like Hawaii, Indonesia, Tahiti, and Australia, Chef Burwell has been trained to respect all sea-life; incorporating into his main dishes the oceanic themes from the exotic places he’s visited, as well as gathering only the best and local ingredients for his mainly organic menu.
By the time he was twelve, Chef Burwell was already helping out in his parent’s restaurant, The Crab Catcher. During those early years, he started off doing the basic kitchen tasks like peeling shrimp, stuffing mushrooms, and all the little things that brought him in on the weekends. At the age of 18, he started a summer job baking bread and many other pastries and rolls, which gradually segued into his appreciation for desserts.
After high school, Chef Burwell got a job at Chart House and from there ascended the proverbial ladder embarking on his career as a chef at Sushi on the Rock, a well-known Japanese restaurant in La Jolla.
“So Chart House was great,” said Chef Burwell. “We’d cook in Hawaiian shirts and shorts and baseball hats. It was a lot of fun. I did that for three years, and worked my way up in the system. From there I got hired as a chef at Sushi Mori on Girard. I was trained by some really cool and interesting guys who were owners and partners of Sushi Mori. I got a lot of good skills and training from them.”
Following his erudite experience at the Chart House and Sushi Mori, Chef Burwell catered for private parties and events. Some of the circles he’s worked with include presidential candidate, John Kerry and other choice accolades of society.
But once Chef Burwell felt that he had sufficiently proved himself in the culinary world, he returned to the San Diego Crab Catcher to demonstrate his chef prowess. His innovative spirit and surfer attitude emerged as he began to shape the family-owned restaurant into the impressively wrought dining experience it is today.
“At that time I was back working at the Crab Catcher, and I was trying to build a sushi bar here. I asked my old man for the green light if I could put a sushi bar as an addition to the restaurant. We’ve got live music in here now on Fridays. We try to do Thursdays and Fridays and build them onto Saturdays for next summer. I started all this last year on my own. That’s how I knew from my history that I will take on so many other things, which is why there is so much to do in a day.”
What separates Chef Burwell from your regular culinary expert is his adamant daily precision to detail. With his many ties to local commercial fishermen, he procures seafood fresh from the sea as well as locally grown vegetables from the regional farms and farmers market to put into his dishes. Even the menu establishes his artful taste and superb management skills. On the front page of the Crab Catcher menu is the origins sheet that shows you exactly where all the seafood arrived from that day. The dates as well as the seafood-origins are adjusted daily.
Chef Burwell’s tasteful innovations to the family-owned business have definitely rendered him his top status. His gradual ascent towards Executive Chef, from helping in the kitchen to calling the shots, speaks of his intuitive nature as well as his exquisite taste and daily practice to detail. With not that many restaurants that can combine a cool vibe and a great scenic view along with quality food and service, the Crab Catcher definitely has a certain essence that Chef Burwell has worked so hard in setting up. Without a doubt, Chef Burwell’s chill attitude and the relaxed setting that he has established over time is greatly prized within San Diego’s culinary circles. Equipped with a relaxed surfer’s vibe and laid-back attitude, Chef Burwell’s Crab Catcher definitely stays in-tune with San Diego’s beach culture.