In Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi and Joshua David Stein, we learn about Bronx native Onwuachi and his relationship with food. Kwame has lived in many places, including Nigeria, but the place that matters the most is the kitchen. From a young age, he was watching his parents in the kitchen. Wherever he lived or visited, Kwame paid attention to what everyone was cooking and how it could make a difference.
Kwame was very honest about his past and some of the mistakes that he had made. He was kicked out of college for a minor drug-related offense. He spent too much time on selling weed and not doing much of anything productive. One day he woke up and was hungry – literally and figuratively. Kwame spent the morning cooking and knowing that he needed to make changes.
So Kwame moved away in order to get started on his fresh start. It wasn’t easy. He moved in with his mom and slept on her couch. She had to push her baby bird out of the nest. He had to get a job or get out of her house. He worked in several different restaurants which taught him many things about cooking and what direction he wanted to go with his career. He even sold candy bars on the subway to make money for starting a catering business.
Kwame did fairly well with his catering business but he knew he needed to learn more to be successful. He enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America. While attending the CIA, Kwame worked and studied in several fine dining restaurants. In 2015, he was on the 13th season of Top Chef.
He didn’t win but the experience led to several opportunities. Kwame worked with investors to open Shaw Bisou in Washington, D.C. It could have been successful and it was a learning experience. However, the investor closed the restaurant in 2017 without too much notice. Honestly, Kwame was better off by not being in business with that guy. It was still a major disappointment. He didn’t sit around for too long before he started looking for what was next for him. At this time, he was only 26 which is way too young to give up on his dreams. Currently, Kwame is about 31 years old.
Kwame also talks about racism in the restaurant industry. Someone told him that people weren’t ready to see an African-American chef at a fine dining establishment. I think people better get ready. They should’ve been ready decades ago. Luckily, Kwame didn’t buy into that load of b.s. He went on to do mostly successful things.
If you are interested in books about food and the experience of people of color in the kitchen of fine dining establishments, then read Notes from a Young Black Chef. Seriously, it is a great book with a few recipes thrown in the mix. I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish reading Kwame’s memoir. I have no regrets, except that I’m so hungry and sleepy now. Where can I get decent seafood gumbo in Ohio?
If you are not interested in reading about people of color who are not doing what youuuuu want them to do, then I’m sorry you are stuck in some racist time warp. Also, it sucks to be you probably.
I definitely recommend this book. Also, if anyone tries out the recipes, let me know how it goes.