Walter Whitewater
Walter Whitewater

Walter Whitewater

Title: Contributing Writer

Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Expertise: Native American cuisine, contemporary Native American cuisine, cooking, recipe development
- 30+ years as a professional chef
- Native American chef from the Diné (Navajo) Nation
- Leads cooking classes on Native American foods of the Southwest


Chef 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 and has since cooked at a number of diverse restaurants, expanding his culinary skills and knowledge of global cuisines.

Walter was the culinary advisor for Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook written by Lois Ellen Frank, Ph.D., highlighting the foods and ways of life of Southwest Native American tribes. He's also worked as a food stylist for various cookbooks, editorial and advertisements. These days, Walter teaches cooking classes at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, showcasing Native American foods of the Southwest. He's a chef at Lois's Native American catering and food company, Red Mesa Cuisine.
This bright, satisfying salad recipe combines pre-Colonial ingredients like cactus pads and piñon (pine) nuts with navel oranges, a common food delivered to Indigenous communities via the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. This recipe is part of our spotlight, There's a Movement to Revitalize Indigenous Cuisines and Knowledge—Here's Why That Matters.