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Debra Whiting was a visionary FLX chef …

  • debra with mixing bowl
  • debra looking up
  • debra smiling
  • debra with ravioli
  • debra whiting with plate of food

…and was a pioneering localvore chef before it was cool. During the 12 years that Debra led the culinary team at Red Newt Bistro, she was a leader in the development of farm to table relationships that blossomed with the development of the burgeoning wine industry of the Finger Lakes. The Bistro featured an eclectic and seasonal menu that changed every three weeks.

The Bistro has been celebrated in its emphasis on building relationships with local farms and producers and fostering the concept and practice of regional cuisine.Debra’s passion was not just the food as it appeared on the plate, but the food as it grew on local farms, supported local farmers and communities, and offered a wholesome and rewarding lifestyle to an entire region. Drawing on her relationship with husband and winemaker David Whiting, the evolution of a truly inspired regional cuisine was developing on her plate.

As chair on the executive board of the Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty – an organization committed to increasing the awareness of regional products and developing relationships between regional chefs and farmers – Debra had seen the regional restaurant farm scene transform from a handful of local, sustainable farms to a region with dozens of farms producing greens, produce, meats, and artisanal cheeses.

In addition to her efforts in the bistro kitchen, Debra was very active in promotional activities and teaching. She presented at 171 Cedar Arts Center in Corning, NY and at the NY Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY – both as lectures/demos and as hands-on workshops. In New York City she presented Master Classes at Vintage New York in Soho, and co-hosted “a Finger Lakes Regional Dinner” at the James Beard House in New York City.

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