Rising Star Chef Whitney Otawka of Farm 255 - Biography
Whitney Otawka’s leap into the culinary world was inspired by her inner Francophile: while taking French classes at the University of California-Berkeley, she responded to an ad for a waitress position at a local French creperie. While she didn’t get that job (no waitressing experience), she did get hired as one member of the two-person kitchen. The owner filled the menu with his mother’s Brittany-based recipes and spent evenings introducing Otawka to a world of gastronomy and fine wine. It was in this bare-bones, unassuming locale that Otawka discovered her innate discipline and rigor, and a passion that would allow her to thrive in the grueling environment of a restaurant kitchen.
Otawka continued her culinary schooling in restaurants throughout California, developing a keen appreciation for the farm-fresh produce and sustainable nature of the West Coast. In 2005, she headed Southeast to Athens, Georgia, were she quickly worked her way up to sous chef of Five & Ten under 2007 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Hugh Acheson. During much of this time, the tireless Otawka simultaneously worked as chef de partie for 2007 Rising Star Chef Linton Hopkins’ Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, taking time out to hold numerous stages in some of New York’s finest restaurants including Per Se and Le Bernardin, and working with chefs and winemakers across Europe (a Francophile’s collective dream).
In 2010, Otawka left Athens for a unique opportunity, living on a coastal Georgian island where she served as executive chef of the prestigious Greyfield Inn of Cumberland Island. What eventually tore her away was filming “Top Chef Season 9” in Texas. After filming wrapped, Otawka returned to Athens proper to take over the kitchen at Farm 255. And there she approaches her menus with the goal of bringing new flavors to rustic cuisine while exhibiting utmost technique and craftsmanship—the kind of Cali-Franco-Southern flavors only she can produce. This journey led her to become one of the 2012 Atlanta Rising Stars.