By the time he was twenty-seven years old, Kwame Onwuachi had opened—and closed—one of the most talked about restaurants in America. He had sold drugs in New York and been shipped off to rural Nigeria to “learn respect.” He had launched his own catering company with twenty thousand dollars made from selling candy on the subway and starred on Top Chef. Through it all, Onwuachi’s love of food and cooking remained a constant, even when, as a young chef, he was forced to grapple with just how unwelcoming the food world can be for people of color. In this inspirational memoir about the intersection of race, fame, and food, he shares the remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age; a powerful, heartfelt, and shockingly honest account of chasing your dreams—even when they don’t turn out as you expected.
Chef and former Top Chef contestant Onwuachi wonderfully chronicles the amazing arc of his life, beginning with his challenging Bronx childhood in the 1990s with his African-American mother and his absentee Nigerian father. As a teen he began dealing drugs, and was later sent to Nigeria to live with his grandfather in order to "get out of my mother's hair." He returned to live with his mother, who had moved to Baton Rouge. There, he learned to cook at a local barbecue restaurant and took a job as a cook on an oil-spill response ship in the Gulf of Mexico; he eventually moved back to New York City, where Tom Colicchio hired him at Craft. In 2016, he opened his restaurant Shaw Bijou in Washington, D.C., which for him represented "years of busting my ass, of constant forward movement, of grasping opportunities manufactured to be beyond my grasp." For his customers, he writes, "I had found a way to convert, through food, not just the warmth and love of my upbringing but also the struggles I'd faced." Onwuachi includes Pan-African recipes throughout, inspired by the flavors of the African continent, the Caribbean, and the U.S., such as egusi stew and chicken and waffles. In the vein of Marcus Samuelsson's Yes, Chef, this is a solid and inspiring memoir.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Great read. Many teaching moments. Funny and heartfelt.
I bought this book because I was a fan of Chef Kwame’s food at Kith and Kin, but I learned so much about him as a person, his perseverance and strong work ethic and his drive to succeed doing what he loves. The book is well written and a great read. Full of great and funny anecdotes, life lessons and observations. Also has some great recipes. You get a sense of what makes Chef Kwame tick. Despite failure and hard times, he manages to battle through. You root for him and want to see him win. I highly recommend this book and I’m waiting eagerly for more from Chef Kwame on how he built Kith and Kin into such a successful restaurant as the book stops just before the restaurant opens. I’d also love to see a cookbook soon. Well done Chef!