April 20, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Los Angeles Culinary Community Mourns the Untimely Passing of Chef Jonathan Whitener

Tributes Pour In for Co-owner of Here’s Looking at You and All Day Baby

By Dolores Quintana

After the announcement of the tragically early death of chef Jonathan Whitener, co-owner of the restaurants Here’s Looking at You and All Day Baby, at the age of 36 last week, the restaurant community of Los Angeles has been devasted. Co-owner Lien Ta has posted remembrances of the chef and stories from the restaurants as they came through the first years of the pandemic on the restaurant’s social media. Both restaurants are local favorites that fans have worked together to save during the last few years of turbulent times. 

The comments of any post about Chef Whitener are a who’s who of the hospitality industry and independent restaurants in Los Angeles and beyond. For example, Phil Rosenthal of Somebody Feed Phil said, “Jonathan and you, Lien, have created one of the best restaurants in LA, if not the country. Jonathan’s talent and taste have been phenomenal and he will be very missed in this world. You and your team have our hearts and our support. Lots of love to you.❤.”

Chris Whitener, the chef’s older brother, has organized a GoFundMe fundraiser to raise money for the chef’s memorial ceremony, burial, and rehoming his pig. You can donate here.

The Go-Fund-Me’s statement says, “What do I say about my baby brother? He’s an award-winning chef whose creativity and passion was unparalleled. He was always ahead of his time in fashion, music, and art in general. He was a whiskey-drinking LA cowboy walking a 100lb pet pig down Hollywood Blvd. Most of all, he was a man with a huge heart who took care of those he loved before he took care of himself. He opened restaurants and built paths for others to level up their careers while mentoring and caring for them like they were family.

If you’re reading this, what can I say that you don’t already know. He was a cool-ass mutha f**ker and a teddy bear with a heart of gold.

We’re starting this fund to cover his memorial services, burial, and setting up his beloved pig, Winston with a new home. We appreciate all the help we can get with this, and thank you to anyone who loved him enough to even read this, let alone donate.”

One of the many tributes posted for chef Whitener came from Lien Ta on the Here’s Looking At You Instagram, “Jonathan Whitener is our creator. He made us into something so very special and different, and we are in his debt now and forever. All of us are overcome with an indescribable amount of grief by the loss of our Chef/Jefe/brother/partner/leader/cowboy/friend. We are heartbroken beyond measure, and we have wept, and we are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, support, and offerings of shoulders to lean on.

Jonathan and I were a couple of nobodies who thought: Let’s open a restaurant together. A hot August day in 2015, we were both wearing shorts when we signed the lease for the future Here’s Looking At You — standing inside a recently-shuttered Philly cheesesteak restaurant. We tore down a few walls to combine it with a former beauty salon and a Psychic Reader office.

His love was powerful and loyal, his love language was gifts and snacks (oftentimes snacks in the form of a gift), and he loved his corner seat 17 and the three Green Eggs we broke, like, immediately. He has made some of the best food we have ever tasted, some dishes he couldn’t even remember unless reminded, and the world is lucky to have even tasted a morsel.

Together, we have overcome the most difficult of odds, and I’m glad he subscribed to my whims and witchery. We have cultivated the fiercest of communities, and his loss has left a hole in the hearts of his many disciples. With the help of our tiny, absolutely fucking amazing team, we will continue to shepherd HLAY magic night after night.

Because you’ve so generously asked, I’ll say here: What all of us in our industry need is for you to keep going to our restaurants. All the small, independently-owned ones that are feeling challenged to compete with … everything. This business is hard, but it is fueled by passion, stress, and care, and it is difficult to understand or articulate. I hope that you will not lose faith in HLAY and the magic of little restaurants like ours.”

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