Culinary Director, Greyfield Inn
On Cumberland Island, Whitney oversees the inn’s food and beverage program, kitchen operations, and menu creation. She strives to create a seasonally-driven menu using the best available products. Whitney loves bringing rustic-style dishes to the modern table with roots in beloved Southern traditions.
Whitney Otawka grew up in the high desert of Southern California and studied anthropology at The University of California, Berkeley. Living in the Bay Area as a young adult introduced her to an unfamiliar way of eating and an endless supply of fresh produce, seafood, grass-fed beef, organic grocery stores, and more.
At the age of 19, Whitney steered her sights towards the culinary world and began working at a French creperie in Oakland, California (she had always been a bit of a Francophile). Here, she met her first mentor, Eric Leroy, who made everything from scratch, kept a clean and organized kitchen, and loved engaging in lengthy discussions about French wine, food, and ciders. Whitney quickly discovered her innate discipline and rigor for cooking – a passion that allowed her to thrive in the demanding environment of a restaurant kitchen. She continued her culinary education in restaurants from San Francisco to San Diego, but in 2002 took a brief break to follow her other passion – historic preservation. It didn’t take long for Whitney to realize that her heart was in the kitchen.
In 2005, Whitney moved to Athens, Georgia, where she walked into 5&10, Hugh Acheson’s acclaimed restaurant, and asked to be a prep cook. Impressing Chef Acheson with her tenacity, Whitney got the job and quickly worked her way up to Sous Chef. For part of her tenure, she worked simultaneously as Chef de Partie of Linton Hopkins’ Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta and attended culinary school at Le Cordon Blue Atlanta. During her stint at 5&10, Whitney also staged in some of New York’s finest restaurants including Per Se, Le Bernardin, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
In 2010, Whitney pursued a unique opportunity to serve as Executive Chef at the prestigious Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island, Georgia, but in 2012 moved back to Athens to become executive chef at two restaurants – Farm 255 (where she was awarded a Rising Star Chef award for Atlanta) and Cinco de Diez. She briefly left Georgia to film Top Chef Season 9 in Texas, and in 2015, accepted an offer to return to Greyfield Inn and become Culinary Director. On Cumberland Island, Whitney oversees the inn’s food and beverage program, kitchen operations, and menu creation. She strives to create a seasonally-driven menu using the best available products. Whitney loves bringing rustic-style dishes to the modern table with roots in beloved Southern traditions.
Whitney’s recipes have been published in The New York Times, Garden & Gun, Southern Living, and The Local Palate. You can follow her adventures and at www.whitneyotawka.com
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