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Notes from a Young Black Chef

By: Kwame Onwuachi, Joshua David Stein

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Imprint: Knopf

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9781524732622

Other Formats:

Electronic | Audiobook Download

On Sale: | Pages: 288

  • About the Book
  • Reviews
“Kwame Onwuachi’s story shines a light on food and culture not just in American restaurants or African American communities but around the world.” —Questlove By the time he was twenty-seven years old, Kwame Onwuachi (winner of the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year) had opened—and closed—one of the most talked about restaurants in America. He had launched his own catering company with twenty thousand dollars that he made from selling candy on the subway, yet he’d been told he would never make it on television because his cooking wasn’t “Southern” enough. In this inspiring memoir about the intersection of race, fame, and food, he shares the remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age. Growing up in the Bronx, as a boy Onwuachi was sent to rural Nigeria by his mother to “learn respect.” However, the hard-won knowledge gained in Africa was not enough to keep him from the temptation and easy money of the streets when he returned home. But through food, he broke out of a dangerous downward spiral, embarking on a new beginning at the bottom of the culinary food chain as a chef on board a Deepwater Horizon cleanup ship, before going on to train in the kitchens of some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country and appearing as a contestant on Top Chef. Onwuachi’s love of food and cooking remained a constant throughout, even when he found the road to success riddled with potholes. As a young chef, he was forced to grapple with just how unwelcoming the world of fine dining can be for people of color, and his first restaurant, the culmination of years of planning, shuttered just months after opening. A powerful, heartfelt, and shockingly honest story of chasing your dreams—even when they don’t turn out as you expected—Notes from a Young Black Chef is one man’s pursuit of his passions, despite the odds.“This is an astonishing and open-hearted story from one of the next generation’s stars of the culinary world. I am so excited to see what the future holds for Chef Kwame—he is a phoenix, rising into better and better things and showing us all what it means to be humble, hungry, and daring.” —José Andrés
This rip-roaring tale of ambition is also a sobering account of racism in and out of the food industry.... Aside from Onwuachi's extraordinary energy, what's most striking about his story is its unorthodox trajectory from rapid ascent to spectacular failure.... Onwuachi's eventual success lies beyond the book's pages, when — unsurprising, given the man we meet in this fierce and inspiring memoir — he landed on his feet as executive chef at Kith/Kin in Washington. He was named Rising Star Chef of the Year for 2019 by the James Beard Foundation.
—New York Times
As a book, “Notes From a Young Black Chef” is engaging and well crafted. The narrative is largely chronological, and Onwuachi's life is so full of adventure and fascinating detours that the story never drags. The memoir is written with restaurant critic Joshua David Stein, and while the seams between one writer and the other aren't evident, there are moments when emotional urgency seems diminished by an arm's length presentation. But the book is worthy of attention, and Onwuachi is, too.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
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