James Burns’ culinary interests stem from the dinners he enjoyed at his Irish grandmother’s table in New York, as well as inspiration from his high school French teacher, who taught him the French culture and language, invoking visions of fine French food and wine. This is what inspired James to cook.
Attending Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, he worked weekends at a Bronx steakhouse. When he graduated from Iona with a degree in marketing, he worked in a nouvelle Mexican restaurant learning the grill, while waiting for an opening at the CIA. While at the CIA, he interned at Trumpets in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. Following graduation from the CIA in 1986, he was hired as the chef for the American Express corporate dining room, and then over to Tavern on the Green under Great Chef George Mastaff.
In 1989, Chef Burns, his wife and daughter moved to Charleston, South Carolina to take over the stoves at Caroline’s Restaurant, adapting to the products of the Low Country. Two years later, he moved to Anson’s where he was able to combine French and Thai techniques along with local produce.
On November 1, 1994 he took on his first restaurant called J. Bistro in Charleston’s suburb of Mt. Pleasant. In 1995 he was voted Best Chef in Charleston and later that year, the restaurant was voted Best New Restaurant. The following year Great Chefs showed up to tape Chef Burns for their Great Chefs of the South television series, as well as Discovery Channel’s Great Chefs of America series.
Chef Burns closed J. Bistro in 2006, but not before opening a new restaurant in Alberta, Canada called Pazzo Pazzo Italian Cuisine, in Edmonton.