Napa Rose, the award-winning restaurant at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, features California wine country cuisine that celebrates the bounty and heritage of the state, inspired by its rich seacoast, farmlands and vineyards. Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge at Disney California Adventure Park also features artisan ingredients, locally sourced produce and seafood and meats from throughout Southern California.
The guiding force behind both these kitchens is Culinary Director of Signature Restaurants Andrew Sutton, whose team of chefs puts on a stellar show every night of the week. Sutton joined the Disneyland Resort in 2000 to create Napa Rose, and he opened Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge in 2012.
“Both are environments in which we can we show our guests how passionate we are about creating food that is truly good and that people love,” Sutton says. “The food is inspired by Mother Nature and the bounty of wonderful food in California.”
A Lifelong Passion
For Sutton, a humble beginning spawned his love affair with fine cuisine. ”It all started with a family tradition,” he says. “I was one of four kids in a family of six. Each of us had to cook one night a week – on the seventh night, we dined out.”
It was in his home kitchen, with parents who were great cooks, that Sutton discovered his passion for cooking, a talent he parlayed into line jobs at casual eateries in his hometown of Dallas during high school.
Sutton’s professional career started when he got a call 1982 from Jean LaFont, the corporate chef of Universal Restaurants, owner of prestigious restaurants in Dallas. While working one summer for Universal, he was captivated by the “artistry and athleticism” of classic French cuisine. The flavors were explosive, reflecting the cooking of Lyon, France, and Sutton discovered his flair.
Two years later, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America to add a formal education to hands-on experience that mirrored a European-style apprenticeship. His externship translated into opening Dallas’ Crescent Court Hotel, where he encountered his first taste of California cuisine with Chef Steve Singer.
In 1987, Sutton moved to the award-winning Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, which added yet another style of cooking to his repertoire: Southwest cuisine. He worked with Chef Dean Fearing, developing not only a working relationship but a friendship that endures to this day. Sutton earned a promotion to sous chef, a position that honed a commitment to excellence that has driven his career ever since.
In 1993, he was recruited to another internationally acclaimed boutique property, Napa Valley’s Auberge du Soleil. By 1995, he had been promoted to executive chef and fell in love with the wine country lifestyle. Sutton developed his signature wine country cuisine, which he described as having “two roads – one sophisticated, the other rustic.”
Next Stop, Disneyland Resort
Sutton headed to Southern California and Napa Rose in 2000, encouraged by Disney to create a restaurant with a spacious exhibition space that would complement his energetic sense of fun. Only seasonal, hand-selected ingredients from throughout the Golden State’s diverse regions are sourced to create an award-winning menu in a dining room inspired by the Arts and Crafts architectural style that is an important part of California’s history.
“I’ve always thought the best restaurants reflect the personality of the chef,” he says.
With what Sutton calls “the best team I’ve ever assembled,” Napa Rose chefs put on a nightly show, working like a finely tuned machine, chopping, sautéing, grilling and presenting beautiful plates to guests. The restaurant also is committed to providing the best possible wine experience, and it features a staff with 35 sommeliers. Napa Rose also has a certified cicerone certified in all aspects of beer and micro-brewery.
At Carthay Circle Restaurant, the menu is “Southern California cuisine—breezy, fresh and diverse,” Sutton says. The menu features five varieties of sustainable fish, both wild and farmed. Vegetables are hand selected, with visits to the Santa Monica market and to local farms seeking the best of the best local produce.
“It’s modern cuisine that pays tribute to the bold and diverse flavors of Southern California,” he says. “We live in the ‘salad basket of America,’ with farmers, artisans and ranchers.” Sutton is a 2009 recipient of the prestigious Antonin Careme Medal awarded by the American Culinary Federation of San Francisco Chapter that honors those who have made “extraordinary contributions to the culinary profession, particularly to education and the advancement of gastronomy and the culinary arts.”