At a Crossroads with chef Aar贸n Sanchez

While the House of Blues in Anaheim鈥檚 Downtown Disney is a very comfortable place to see live music, the food in the on-site restaurant鈥 well, it might not have reflected the star quality of the acts onstage.

To the rescue鈥攃elebrity chef Aar贸n Sanchez. Sanchez has recently begun the roll-out of a completely revamped menu for all 13 locations now called Crossroads at the House of Blues. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Diego Crossroads have offered the new menu for a little more than a month, and Sanchez was in Orange County this week to supervise its August 29 implementation at the Anaheim location.

Sanchez, who appears on Food Network鈥檚 popular 鈥Chopped鈥 (among many other duties on the network), has put together a lineup of Pan-American classics with a twist. 鈥淗ouse of Blues has always been about everything together鈥攆ood, music, spirituality,鈥 he said. 鈥淏ut now the food will be up to the level of the rest.鈥

The chef put solid, flat-top griddles in the kitchens of all the restaurants, mostly for one thing: Burgers. 鈥淵ou gotta have a great burger. And cooking it on a griddle is the only way to keep the fat in there, so the burger stays juicy.鈥 The beef used is certified Angus, and patties are hand-formed in the restaurant. (There鈥檚 also a Jamaican-spiced turkey burger option.)

This reflects Sanchez鈥 commitment to what he considers most important: How the food tastes.鈥淪ometimes on 鈥楥hopped,鈥欌 he said, 鈥渟omeone will tell a nice story鈥攐h, on a Greek island I had this octopus salad and it was like this.鈥 I鈥檓 sorry, I鈥檇 like to eat your story, but I can鈥檛. It has to be on the plate.鈥

鈥淲orking with Aar贸n was a very enjoyable experience,鈥 says Anaheim Crossroads executive chef Dermot Driscoll. 鈥淗e鈥檚 a creative genius鈥攂eing able to collaborate on numerous dishes to bring sexy and bold flavors to the menu was great. The Yummy Chicken (a marinated half-chicken grilled with a chipotle glaze) and Shrimp & Grits have been well received by guests, and so have the meatball and pork sliders, and street tacos.鈥

In addition to his TV work, Sanchez has two restaurants in New York, a host of consulting gigs, plus a baby son, Yuma, with wife, musician Ife Mora. Later this year will see publication of his new book, Simple Food, Big Flavors: Unforgettable Mexican-Inspired Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours (Atria, 2011, $26.99), and the opening of a new restaurant, Mestizo, near Kansas City, Missouri. Sanchez鈥 mother is noted restaurateur and cookbook author Zarela Martinez, and Mestizo will serve the Mexican cuisine he鈥檚 been cooking from his earliest days, filtered through years of chef experience.

Crossroads at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, 714-520-2334. Open 11 a.m. daily for lunch and dinner; breakfast Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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