Behind The Menu: Carowinds’ Chef Krzysztof Siuta
More and more, food is becoming a larger part of the overall theme park experience. From food festivals to “one-of-a-kind” menu items, you can rarely visit a park these days without taking part in some sort of culinary masterpiece. In fact, many parks around the country are hiring their own executive chefs. We wanted to go “behind the menu” at a few parks, and find out a little bit more about some of the people behind your favorite theme park fare.
The first chef we’ll profile is Carowinds’ executive chef, Krzysztof Siuta, who has been at Carowinds since 2014.
C101: Tell us a little bit about your culinary background.
Chef Krzysztof Siuta: My interest in culinary arts started as a freshman in high school, studying at a local culinary vocational school in New Jersey. I pursued that passion and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. After many years as a practicing chef, I became a Certified Executive Chef in 2010.
C101: Cumulatively, how long have you been a chef?
KS: I have been a chef for 24 years.
C101: How did you make the decision to become a chef in the theme park industry?
KS: I wanted to try something new. I was previously working in corporate healthcare and was looking for something more fun and exciting that gave me the chance to create my own dishes. The theme park industry/Carowinds provided the perfect opportunity for me.
C101: When creating a new menu or item, where do you draw inspiration from?
KS: A new menu item always begins with a concept. Then, I throw that concept into a mixer or pan with key ingredients. I try sautéing, roasting, smoking, etc. – anything that can add dimensions to a dish. Then I get to eat it and share it with people, which is my favorite part. I often travel with new menu items to news stations or in our Carowinds food truck, so I can see if I have the dish that guests are looking for.
C101: Do you put your personal touch on Carowinds’ menu?
KS: My personal touch is on most of our Carowinds’ menu items. The seasonings mix in our barbecue, for example, is a blend of my own. The little spin on the Jukebox burger by putting it on brioche, or creating funnel cake fritters are just small ways you can see a chef’s touch on traditional food.
When I started at Carowinds, there were between 15-20 menu items to choose from; I have expanded the menu to about 40 one-of-a-kind dishes.
C101: What’s your favorite food item at Carowinds?
KS: My favorite food item at Carowinds is always the next new item. Nothing beats seeing guests from all over enjoying my newest creation.
C101: How do you feel about food becoming a bigger part of the overall theme park experience?
KS: Everyone is a foodie these days and social media is a platform to share interesting food pictures. It’s great to see people posting Carowinds’ menu items via social media. Our menu items exceed expectations because they are exciting and unique options, and of course, most importantly, delicious! We want our guests to get the full experience when they visit.
C101: What’s the most rewarding/your favorite part about working at Carowinds?
KS: The most rewarding part is speaking to guests who say they can’t believe they’re actually eating food from an amusement park!
C101: What advice would you give to home cooks or anyone wanting to get into the amusement industry on the food side?
KS: You need to cook a lot of food. If you think you’ve made enough, you should probably make more.
C101: We are a roller coaster website – do you ever get to ride any of Carowinds roller coasters, and what’s your favorite?
KS: I enjoy riding our attractions with my wife and children, and our guests! If I had to choose, I would say Ricochet is my favorite ride. And I also really enjoy Carolina Harbor Waterpark on hot Carolina days. I’m especially looking forward to the new rides we opened in the new County Fair area of the park. Our funnel cakes will taste even better after swinging on a classic ride like the Zephyr!
Thanks to Chef Kris for his time. Follow him on twitter at @CarowindsChef!