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The Simple Secret to Beautiful Buttermilk Biscuits

by Sarah Karnasiewicz

COOKS ARGUE over many things, but about Southern-style buttermilk biscuits there is consensus. Flaky, light and tall as a top hat: These are the signs of an ideal specimen. The daughter of Connecticut Yankees, I’d always thought of superior biscuit-making mojo as akin to perfect pitch or noble blood—you’re either born with it or not. Then I met Whitney Otawka and Ben Wheatley. Read More

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Sugar Snap Pea Salad With Calabrian Pepper and Fennel

by Kim Severson

Whitney Otawka, whom you may remember from “Top Chef” or Hugh Acheson’s Five & Ten restaurant in Athens, Ga., cooks at the Greyfield Inn. It’s the only place to stay on Cumberland Island, the largest barrier island off Georgia’s coast. The farmers who live there grow sugar snap peas, which she welcomes as one of the early tastes of spring. She is also a fan of Calabrian peppers packed in oil, which she started eating at Antico Pizza in Atlanta. She uses them to make a dressing base that enlivens the peas. The fennel, which needs to be sliced very finely, adds crunch and depth. Buy baby fennel, if you can find it. Read More

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A Southern Kitchen Garden

Words by John Kessler

Guests enjoying cocktail hour at the sixteen-room Greyfield Inn on Georgia’s Cumberland Island often like to walk with their beverages to the vegetable gardens about a hundred yards away. There they can get a preview of what will be on Whitney Otawka’s nightly three-course menu, which is based entirely around the day’s haul.

“I’m completely spoiled by all this and don’t know how I’ll ever go back to the real world,” says the chef. She talks excitedly of the eight varieties of tomato that ripen in late spring, the sweet baby Zephyr squashes no bigger than her pinkie, and all the exotica that the gardeners Ryan Graycheck and Maya Velasco grow for her. Two examples from this year’s crop: Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers the size of marbles, and ice lettuce—a lemony-tasting succulent that appears to be studded with tiny crystals…… Read more…

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Off The Eaten Path: Cumberland Island

Words by Lauren Titus
Photos by Jesse Brantam

If looking for a complete break from one’s daily routine, planning a getaway usually requires choosing a location far from home. Sometimes, however, the unknown adventure may be hiding in plain sight. Such is the case with Cumberland Island National Seashore, located just off the coast between Fernandina Beach and St. Marys, Georgia.

If there were such a designation, this barrier island could indeed be classified as a natural treasure. Cumberland Island, the largest of Georgia’s Golden Isles, is not necessarily remote, but access is limited, which reinforces the feeling of spatial distance from modern times, inviting visitors to appreciate the rustic natural setting of sand dunes and marshes teeming with wildlife….. Read more…

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Southern kitchen stays true to its roots

Words and Photos by Lyric Lewin

When Whitney Otawka walked into a restaurant in Berkeley to apply for a job waiting tables, she couldn’t imagine that in a few years she would be a contestant on “Top Chef” and running the culinary program on a historic island. But that’s exactly what happened.

Otawka moved around, working in the front and back of the house (restaurant-speak for waiting tables or line cooking) at various places, but it wasn’t until she moved to the South that she realized cooking was her true passion…. Read more…

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Should We Really Be Eating Shrimp?

Words by Tamar Adler
Photos by Eric Boman

I flew to McIntosh County in coastal Georgia, determined to talk my way onto a shrimp boat. It seemed, however, a prudent first step to throw a local-shrimp dinner party. If the shrimp weren’t as Athenaean as I’d been told, I could spare myself a day amid what Shakespeare called “a very ancient and fishlike smell.”

So I called chef Whitney Otawka and her husband, Ben Wheatley, who run the kitchen of Cumberland Island’s Greyfield Inn, the former Carnegie-family retreat best known as the site of JFK Jr.’s marriage to Carolyn Bessette. We agreed to meet the following day at a nearby restored sorghum farm, Canewater, where my fête de shrimp was to be hosted… Read more…

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Biscuits: A Love Story

Words by Jed Portman
Photos by Emily B. Hall

Whitney Otawka has been cooking in Georgia for a decade. Still, the chef at the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island has yet to make a biscuit. Growing up in California, she didn’t eat biscuits, turnip greens, or crackling cornbread. Then she met Ben Wheatley, from Washington, Georgia.. Read more…

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Marsh Mud & Sea Salt: How to Throw A Low Country Boil

Words by Whitney Otawka
Photos by Emily B. Hall

Long-eluded throughout her career, adoptive Southern Chef Whitney Otawka finally discovers the secret to perfect Frogmore Stew – or as it is more commonly known, a Low Country boil – on the sleepy coast of Georgia. Read more…

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DISCOVERING CUMBERLAND ISLAND

By Lyric Lewin

The only way to arrive on the shores of Cumberland Island is by boat. Once you step off the dock, you have entered into a living history book. Tangled branches overhead lock antiquity and mystery into the fabric of the island. Under Spanish moss tinseled throughout the branches of Southern Live Oaks, and up the well-worn dirt paths laden with prints from horses’ hooves, there is a gracious southern mansion from a bygone era. This was the playground of the Carnegie family and now the legacy lives on as the Greyfield Inn. Read more…