Cumberland Island, GA
The executive chef at Greyfield Inn, located on Georgia’s largest barrier island, has been making the rounds on a national book tour with the debut of “The Saltwater Table.”
The Saltwater Table: Recipes From The Coastal South
Chef Whitney Otawka appeared on CBS This Morning’s “The Dish,” (watch video clip of the interview about her new cookbook further below). Locally, Chef Whitney is scheduled to make an appearance in downtown Fernandina Beach at The Book Loft.
Amelia Island’s Neighbor
For those unfamiliar, Cumberland Island, GA is Amelia’s next door neighbor, just across the water from Fernandina’s Fort Clinch. Greyfield Inn’s private ferry, the Lucy R. Ferguson (pictured), transports guests daily from the downtown Fernandina Beach marina.
Southern Coastal Cuisine
The substantial cookbook, in both girth and content between its covers, includes some unique insight into what life is like on this wild, Southern sea island at the Florida-Georgia border. Besides recipes and luscious-looking food photos, there’s also imagery of captivating Cumberland Island. We agree — it’s a book “that is true to the beauty of this magical island,” (Chef Whitney’s words in the book’s acknowledgements).
Seasons Of The Coastal South
Cumberland Island is a place known for its wilderness, wild horses, amazing sand dunes and empty seashore. Otawka says she’s been inspired by the nature that surrounds her on this southeast Georgia barrier island.
“The hot, humid summers, long growing season, and short, cool, damp winters influence the way I cook and what I want to eat,” she also notes in the book.
The chef has divided the year into five cooking seasons presented as follows:
- Oyster Season — January To March
- Vegetable Season — March To May
- Shrimp Season — April To June
- Heat Season — June To September
- Smoke & Cedar Season — October To December
Here at the coast, discerning chefs source wild-caught Atlantic shrimp from local area waters (avoiding the farmed/aquaculture Asian imports that flood the national seafood market).
A key industry around the Florida-Georgia border in the early 1900s, Fernandina Beach is considered “the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry in America.”
Otawka comments in the cookbook, “everybody on the southeast coast knows a shrimp guy.” She mentions sourcing wild-caught shrimp, including how they pull their boat alongside the “Ashlee Michelle,” a local shrimp boat. This is one of the shrimp boats Amelia Island Living photographed this month, as it was returning home from the sea. (Pictured above as seen from the Fort Clinch shoreline along the Cumberland Sound.)
Fernandina Beach has been celebrating shrimpers for more than half a century. The 57th Annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival will be held on Amelia Island May 1-3, 2020.
Amazing Chef Garden
One of the unique aspects of being the inn’s executive chef is having immediate access to the homegrown vegetables from the Greyfield’s wonderful garden. The inn employs full time farmers who cultivate this enviable 2-acre organic chef’s garden.
We visitied the Greyfield garden around the time when the estate became beekeepers (May 2015). Their first bee hives had just been placed by an Amelia Island beekeeper, the “Hive Pirate.” Thus, Greyfield also produces their own Cumberland Island honey, besides growing a variety of vegetables and citrus. Lovely flowers, as well, thrive in the garden, used in arrangements at the Inn.
Greyfield Inn’s Chef, Whitney Otawka
Fernandina Beach Book Signing
Chef Whitney Otawka is scheduled to be at a book signing at The Book Loft (214 Centre Street in downtown Fernandina), Saturday, December 21, 2019 from 2 – 4 pm. Stop by to meet her, enjoy a taste from the cookbook, and pick up a copy. For those not local, the cookbook is also available online at Amazon.
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