By the time he was 27, Kwame Onwuachi had competed on “Top Chef,” cooked at the White House, and opened and closed one of the most talked-about restaurants in the District.
Drawing on his new book, Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir, he shares the remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age: one about the intersection of food, fame, and race. Growing up in the Bronx and Nigeria (where he was sent by his mother to "learn respect"), food was Onwuachi's great love. He launched his own catering company with $20,000 he made selling candy on the subway, and trained in the kitchens of some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country.
But he found the road to culinary success was a difficult one. As a young chef, Onwuachi was forced to grapple with how unwelcoming the world of fine dining can be for people of color. He spent years planning his first restaurant, the high-concept (and high-priced) Shaw Bijou, which shuttered in early 2017, just 2 1/2 months after opening.
Today, he is the executive chef at the critically acclaimed Afro-Caribbean restaurant Kith/Kin at the InterContinental Washington D.C. at the Wharf and a 2019 James Beard Award nominee for Rising Chef of the Year.
In conversation with Tim Carman, food reporter at the Washington Post, Onwuachi discusses his journey to pursue his passion, and what happened when things didn’t turn out as he expected.
Copies of Notes from a Young Black Chef (Knopf) are available for purchase and signing.