Rising Star Chef Jonathan Whitener of Here's Looking at You - Biography

Los Angeles, CA

September 2019

Food had nothing to do with inspiring Jonathan Whitener to become a chef—not at first. While growing up in Huntington Beach, California, Whitener had his eyes set on his neighbor’s ’66 Cadillac convertible. To pay for the classic car, he was prodded to learn a trade and enrolled in occupational cooking classes. After nailing basic kitchen skills, Whitener got a job in a hotel restaurant, where a line cook introduced him to Thomas Keller—not the man, per se, but his recipes in The French Laundry Cookbook. Truly inspired, Whitener realized his calling in cooking. 

He took his newfound passion to the Culinary Institute of America. After graduating, Whitener earned competitive jobs in the kitchens of several StarChefs Rising Star Chefs in Los Angeles, including Craft's, then led by Matthew Accarrino. Whitener later relocated to the south of France, broadening his horizons and honing his skills at Mirazur. He boomeranged back to Los Angeles to work with Tony Esnault at Patina. Today, he’s the chef de cuisine of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s Animal, where he glorifies offal and makes improvisational, soulful, and personal food that everybody wants to eat. In 2014, Whitener earned a StarChefs Rising Star Chef Award for his work at the restaurant.

In 2016, Whitener opened his own restaurant with partners Shook and Dotolo. Here's Looking at You combines local and global influences and shows his Sourthern heritage. HLAY received raves from Jonathan Gold in The Los Angeles Times, was a 2017 Food & Wine "Restaurant of the Year," and made Eater’s 2018 list of “America’s 38 Essential Restaurants.”