Chef Joe Burns is “big into sweet potatoes, yams, cheesecakes, and bread puddings.”
  • Chef Joe Burns is “big into sweet potatoes, yams, cheesecakes, and bread puddings.”
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Waters Fine Foods & Cafe

1122 Morena Boulevard, Linda Vista

I got into baking because I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing. In culinary school, we had to choose either the savory or pastry track. It seemed like everyone chose savory so I chose pastry. At first I didn’t like it. I wanted to cook more, but I had already put the time in and I didn’t want to start all over again. I stuck with it, even though I was one of the only guys in the group.

Once I graduated, baking grew on me. I started to see the artistry in the craft and all of the amazing things you can do with pastry. As a dessert chef, you create the final impression a person has of the restaurant. I don’t bake much at home unless it’s someone’s birthday or Thanksgiving. Right now, at home, I’m really into lentils and white beans. I love to grill up some pork chops and I’m a fan of heirloom tomatoes.

I grew up in the South and my desserts still have a “down South” cooking vibe. I love making pies, candies, and crêpes. I’m big into sweet potatoes, yams, cheesecakes, and bread puddings. One of my favorite things to make now is a red velvet cheesecake because the color is so red and rich. You can make them into individual frozen cheesecakes on a stick and dip them into chocolate. You don’t expect the color to be so red and gorgeous.

Of course, living in San Diego, people aren’t as into buttercream as they are in the South. I’ve had to adapt. Luckily, the produce in San Diego is so lovely. You can make peach or cherry tarts with toasted almonds and it tastes amazing. You don’t even need sugar. I get a lot of requests for gluten-free and sugar-free and I have to get creative to make desserts without flour or sugar. But, like with most things, if you have an open mind, you can do almost anything.


Makes one 10˝ cheesecake


  • 3 cups finely crushed graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup melted butter


  • 1 1/2 pounds room-temp cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  •  18 oz semisweet chocolate (chopped into small pieces)


Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined. Place mixture in a 10-inch spring form cake pan and pat down. Spray the sides of the pan with a non-stick coating.

Place cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder in a bowl and cream until smooth and there are no lumps. Mix in eggs one at a time. Add in the food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar. Mix until well combined. Pour mixture into prepared cake pan, leaving about 3/4 of an inch between the top of the pan and the cake batter. Bake in oven at 275 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until the center has become semi firm to the touch. Cooking time will vary depending on your oven. If the edges begin to burn, cover with foil. Once the cake has come out of the oven and cooled down, unmold it. I finish the cake by coating it in a dark-chocolate ganache.

Heat heavy cream to scalding. Pour over chocolate and stir with a spoon until smooth. Place cake on cooling rack and pour the ganache over it. Smooth off any extra ganache with an offset spatula 

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