Otawka had seen a PBS special about Cumberland Island, a national seashore famed for the wild horses that gallop on its pristine coastline, and the luxurious Greyfield Inn tucked among the palmettos protected from development by heirs to the Carnegie family who built it. She pitched a hyper-local culinary program to its proprietors that would capture its abundant resources and rich history with ties to the Caribbean, West Africa and Europe. After tasting her cooking, they hired her.
A decade later, Otawka continues to explore the island's flavorful secrets, and shares what she's learned in "The Saltwater Table: Recipes from the Coastal South" (Abrams, $40). Enchanting prose and photography capture the wild beauty of her adopted home. Interspersed among recipes for Cumberland Paella and Banana-Walnut Bread with Salted Coffee Butter are guides to oyster-roasting, picnic-packing, campfire-cooking, and throwing a Lowcountry Boil her way, with Burnt Lemon Aioli and Cubanelle Pepper Butter for dipping.