The newest addition to the Travaasa Ohana is a master when it comes to keeping things fresh. Executive Chef, James Watts is leading the charge in The Preserve Kitchen + Bar with our dedicated culinary team. Together, they’re shaking up our dining program.


Getting to know Chef James Watts


While tasting his creations will surely offer some insight to his culinary journey – his inspirations and travels, there is so much more to the man behind our menus! Get to know Chef James with a few fun facts and some of his favorite things.

My favorite dish to make for my friends and family is vegetarian lasagna with zucchini noodles and pesto – they love it!

My favorite meal to eat is a tie between chicken mole’ enchiladas or Lamb Shanks with red wine demi and black truffles.

When not in the kitchen, you can find me exploring. I spend my free time hiking off the beaten path to find remote waterfalls and playing music (I play guitar) with my brother Matt.

I fell in love with food at a young age. My favorite memories are of going out for special occasions with my mom who is an amazing cook and culinary connoisseur. When I left home I quickly realized that i wanted to be surrounded by all those incredible foods every day!  My first real cooking job was at The Swag Country Inn in the Appalachian Mountains where we had our own garden and I was in charge of cooking whole pigs as well as bear and free-range antelope. Under Chef Matthew Fray my love of food truly transformed.

I am excited by the turn towards a more health conscious attitude towards cuisine. I love decadent foods but it is exciting to see healing roots like tumeric and ginger and chinese greens like tatsoi and mizuna becoming commonplace.

I’m a big fan of the Coen Brothers. “No Country for Old Men” is one of my favorite movies.

My dream travel experience is to drive the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to the bottom of Argentina. I love long road trips and have visited 30 countries and spent a year driving the loop around Australia. I would love to spend a year or two exploring the Americas.

Something not everyone knows about me is… I ate the beating heart of a King Cobra in rural northern Vietnam. I spent a month there and toward the end of the trip I found a remote house where the owners ran an underground restaurant frequented by rich business men from Hanoi. My wife and I went in and selected the cobra from the snake den. The man then pulled him out and “snake charmed” him with a long bamboo rod feet away from me. He performed a pretty crazy ritual with the snake and I ended up taking a shot of homemade moonshine with the heart in it before he prepared a six-course meal from the snake’s body!