Executive Chef Raoul Whitaker brings a straightforward approach to cooking and affinity for seasonal, market-sourced ingredients to SoHo’s David Burke Kitchen, resulting in approachable yet innovative American cuisine. Rustic and refined, the chef’s menu benefits from more than a decade of intercontinental experience to select and balance diverse flavor profiles into creative and playful dishes rooted in classical French technique. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we definitely have fun with it, looking for different ways to combine flavor profiles while keeping it logical and approachable,” the chef explains.
Whitaker’s childhood in San Francisco exposed him to his grandmother’s cooking in abundance, within the soulful barbecue restaurant she ran for over 30 years and around the family table for holiday dinners. Whitaker left the West Coast for the small town of Knox, PA at age 11, and found himself in restaurant kitchens by 15, when he began washing dishes part-time.
Ascending the ranks as he gained experience on the job, Whitaker settled into the restaurant industry, eager to excel. Lofty aspirations brought him to New York in 2003, when he joined the kitchen team of a country club in Westhampton. Soon after, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America, gaining precise instruction in French technique, and finding his entrance to Big Apple fine dining through celebrity chef David Burke.
During his 2005 externship at David Burke & Donatella, Burke mentored Whitaker on his playful style of cuisine, propelling the young chef through the kitchen stations. Whitaker then earned the position of sous chef for Burke’s Fishtail in 2008, spending six months in the seafood venue before pursuing the opportunity to cook for the legendary Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel.
Well-versed in NYC’s fine dining landscape, Whitaker sought international experience in London, where he joined three Michelin starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsey in 2009 to work under Claire Smyth. He later spent time at La Chapelle as sous chef under Jeff Galvin, helping the restaurant earn a Michelin star, before shifting gears to collaboratively open and run a brewpub in North London.
In the wake of the brewpub’s success, Whitaker returned to New York to rejoin the David Burke Group at David Burke Kitchen and then Townhouse. He soon rose to executive chef, first at Fishtail in 2014, then returned to Kitchen in 2015, a testament to his classically trained, internationally honed culinary techniques, and his talent for balancing flavor, familiarity, and fun.