Executive Chef Walter Wilkes, left, and Sous Chef Holly Dietz head the kitchen staff at the White Dog Bistro in Mathews. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day
“We want to be known for fine dining but not too stuffy. We want to be entertaining both in service and food and we are trying to connect personally with our customers,” replied Chef Walter Wilkes, when asked what he hopes to accomplish as executive chef at the White Dog Bistro in Mathews.
And in fact Wilkes is accomplishing this four nights a week, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, serving dinner at this old home in Mathews Court House. Circa 1840, the building was once a Mathews hotel, but is remembered by many locally as the Bailey Hudgins house; it is now listed on the National and Virginia Registers of Historic Places.
“We make everything here, use as many fresh products as possible, love to create new dishes with new names, and I don’t claim to be a pastry chef but do as much as needed,” said Wilkes. This is the formula in the Wilkes kitchen where he works closely with sous chef Holly Dietz.
Wilkes was born in Chile, grew up in Richmond, and is now a resident of Gloucester. Having spent the first part of his adult life as a painter, becoming a chef was something that happened in a unique way. “I’ve always loved to cook,” he said, “so when the opportunity came about, I gave it a try. My wife was working at the Red Sky Restaurant in Middlesex; we were living there at the time. She came home one evening and mentioned that the chef was looking for some help. I decided I would give it a try for two days a week. The two days a week turned into five days a week. That was my beginning. When the chef left to open his own restaurant, I stayed on as executive chef.”