cover image Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir

Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir

Kwame Onwuachi, with Joshua David Stein. Knopf, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3262-2

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. (Apr.)