Rising Star Chef Jonathan Whitener of Animal - Biography

Los Angeles, CA

March 2014

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.com 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.