Rising Star Chef Kelly Whitaker of Basta - Biography

Boulder, CO

March 2017

Kelly Whitaker holds a degree in hospitality management from Colorado State University, but the world has provided his real schooling. Early in his career, he studied abroad at Hotel Institute Montreux in Switzerland. Th is led him to his first culinary stint in Italy on the island of Procida, off the coast of Naples, where he fell in love with wood-fired cookery.

Back stateside and in Los Angeles, Whitaker honed his skills as an opening cook at Michelin-starred Hatfield’s, and later as poissonier at two-Michelin-starred Providence. He then made way to Colorado, co-founding Id Est Hospitality Group, and ultimately opening Basta in Boulder in 2010. Wood-fi red Basta earned the number two spot on 5280’s “Denver’s 25 Best Restaurants” list in 2016, the year after Whitaker received the magazine’s “Best Chef” accolade. He also owns Æ (Ash), a mobile, wood-fired kitchen from which he caters events statewide and hosts singular pop-up experiences.

Whitaker has twice been named Eater Denver’s “Chef of the Year”; for his latest win in 2016, he was both the readers’ and editors’ choice.

In addition to being an active member of Chefs Collaborative (he received the “Heart of the Collaborative” award in 2014), Whitaker sits on the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, and founded Noble Grain Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the use of domestic, milled-to-order grains. Th rough a partnership with the University of Colorado, the Noble Grain Alliance educates local farmers, encouraging them to grow grains, as it builds demand from Colorado chefs.