The newly-appointed head chef at the Radisson Red at the Waterfront, Burton Leo, says he is ready to openly express his creativity when it comes to food at the hotel’s eateries.
“I love that Radisson Red allows me to be creative, quirky and adventurous! Watch the space, its going to be lekker.”
Chef Burton, who is from Heathfield, but now lives in Steenberg, said his love for food started when he was just seven years old, while watching British celebrity chef, Keith Floyd’s cooking show with his father.
“The show usually aired on Sunday evenings. It didn’t take my father long to realise that I had a passion for food – let’s just say my father was my first teacher in the culinary arts.”
After school, Chef Burton trained at the Steenberg Estate Hotel & Winery at the age of 19, where he landed his first opportunity to work for one of the youngest head chefs at the time, Garth Almazan.
As a former member of the South African Olympic Culinary Squad, he has honed his skills working under some of the most renowned hospitality houses in the country such as the Marine Hotel in Hermanus, Radisson Blu, and the Table Bay Hotel.
Chef Burton said having worked in so many different environments, he really enjoys fine dining style cuisine.
“I like experimenting with food. I learned a lot from various chefs and it helped me in my ability to express traditional flavours using contemporary methods.”
He said he was also a fan of using seasonal and sustainable produce. “To me, food is a culture, not only something to sustain life but also a way to tell stories, share experiences and forge friendships.”
The more relaxed and local menu of the Radisson Red, said Chef Burton, makes it a very different hotel from anywhere else he has worked. “I absolutely love it because I’m allowed to be completely creative with no limits. I love the quirkiness and the playful twist on the conventional.”
And although Chef Burton is excited to experiment, he said some of the dishes will be kept the same, including the hotel’s vegan food, which was introduced as its special Christmas menu two years ago.
“Vegan food will still be a huge focus of the hotel. Vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise, both locally and abroad – and diners are becoming a lot more aware of where their food comes from.
“I made a conscious decision many years ago to be open about learning new cooking methods and recipes to cater for vegan and vegetarian menus. It’s our responsibility as chefs to be able to cook for all dietary requirements. I love learning new things and I’m up for the challenge.
“Every day in the kitchen is like a blank canvas, it’s the only profession that allows you to use all five senses.
“The beauty of it all is that the industry is constantly evolving and you never stop learning.”
Radisson Red’s lead curator, Leonie Andereya, said she believes Chef Burton will add a new dimension to the Radisson Red kitchen. “We are really chuffed to have Chef Burton join the Red team. He comes from a varied and creative space and we love his almost futuristic approach to food.
“We can’t wait to see how his skillset, vast knowledge and creativity unfold at Red, so watch this space!”
Chef Burton says having one signature dish was never his strategy. “I always put passion, love, and soul into everything that I make. I do have two favourite cuisine styles that I love exploring here at Radisson Red V&A Waterfront, which are mainly Asian and Mexican style foods, which I like to call honest foods with big bold flavours.”
One dish locals can look forward to is Chef Burton’s new vetkoek burger which is inspired by the South African favourite.