Walter Whitewater was born in Pinon, Arizona and is from the Diné (Navajo) Nation. He grew up in a traditional family and began cooking as a young boy after seeing people cooking at some of the traditional ceremonies his family attended. He began cooking professionally in 1992 in Santa Fe, New Mexico at Cafe Escalera under executive chef, David Tannis. Chef Tannis was taught to cook by the legendary Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California.
After cooking there for five years, he then cooked at Mu Du Noodles. This restaurant was a new Asian restaurant in Santa Fe at the time, where Chef Whitewater cooked under executive chef Mu Jing Lau, learning about Asian foods including many ways to prepare noodles with a variety of Asian sauces. In 1998, after approximately one year, Whitewater left Mu Du Noodles and began cooking at the Bishop's Lodge.
Whitewater learned contemporary Southwest foods under executive chef Zachary whom worked with Whitewater for approximately eight months, before Chef Zachary left for Denver, Colorado to work with a different group of creative professionals. Under several chefs with varying ethnic backgrounds, Whitewater continued to work at Bishop's Lodge. This gave him the foundation of his line cooking experience, which he became very good at, until he began running the cooking line at night under Executive Chef Alfonso Ramirez. Chef Whitewater learned the traditional cooking techniques of making sauces and food presentation with Chef Ramirez.
As Culinary Advisor on the cookbook, Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, Whitewater along with Lois Ellen Frank, Ph.D. won the James Beard Award in the Americana Category. He has appeared on several Food TV shows including, “Southwest Cooking with Bobby Flay” Food TV Network, “Native Foods and Farming: Market to Market” Iowa Public Television IPTV and “The Secret Life of Southwest Foods” Greystone TV, Food TV Network.
Chef Frank started a Native American Catering and Food Company named Red Mesa Cuisine. Today Chefs Frank and Whitewater cook for private events, weddings, parties, corporate meetings and gallery openings as well as Native events for Native organizations all over the United States and Internationally. Together, they have worked with, the Cultural Conservancy (TCC) in San Francisco, CA, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), the Tohono O'odham Community Action group (TOCA), the Center for Sustainable Environments at the University of Northern Arizona University (CSE), the California Indian Basket weavers Association (CIBA), Museum of Natural History in New York, and opened the exhibit Totems to Turquoise at the Autry National Center and Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, with a food tasting and lecture. Chef Whitewater was one of the featured Native American chefs at the event, Connecting Communities: Native Foods and Wellness at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, (IPCC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
During Chef Whitewater's professional cooking experiences, he has remained active in many of his traditional ways at his home in Pinon, Arizona returning for ceremonial obligations and to help his father with their flock of sheep which include the Navajo Churro breed. Chef Whitewater is helping to reintroduce the important breed into his family's sheep.
Presently, Whitewater teaches cooking classes, at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, on Native American Foods of the Southwest with chef Lois Ellen Frank. Their cooking classes feature recipes from the James Beard Award winning cookbook, Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations. Walter Whitewater also teaches private Native American cooking classes and does guest chef appearances have taken him to many restaurants Nationally. He worked on two Public Education DVD's featuring plant based ancestral Native American ingredients for healthy Native American cooking entitled "The Power to Heal Diabetes: Food for Life in Indian Country" which were recently released. He continues to be active in all aspects of his career and traditions.