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Notes from a Young Black Chef

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  100 ratings  ·  25 reviews
A groundbreaking memoir about the intersection of race, fame, and food, from the Top Chef star and Forbes and Zagat 30 Under 30 honoree

By the time he was twenty-seven, Kwame Onwuachi had competed on Top Chef, cooked at the White House, and opened and closed one of the most talked about restaurants in America. In this inspiring memoir, he shares the remarkable story of his
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
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4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  100 ratings  ·  25 reviews

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Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tops
Am I biased?? MAYBE, but so what!!! We don’t get many black chef memoirs and I gobbled this up like I was a hungry bear! The story was wonderful, tantalizing, a filling course of the best foods and I tell you I still want more. It’s funny how I was reading two very different stories by two very different men named Kwame— 💚.

This particular memoir is not your Normal “rags to riches” but rather a gathering of life’s lessons to become someone and something that was kind of unfathomable— a freakin c
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This was an excellent food memoir. I admired Kwame when he was on Top Chef and thought his food looked and sounded amazing. I didn’t realize that his first restaurant closed soon after Top Chef aired. Kwame brings up a lot of relevant issues with race in the restaurant industry. While I think mistakes were made in the opening of his restaurant (pricing of the menu as well as not vetted partners), he raises valid points as to what people expect from chefs who are not white and how easy it is to b ...more
Alysa H.
I enjoyed this book very much. Kwame Onwuachi has a powerful and timely story to tell, and I was riveted by his experiences. In a way, all you need to know before you decide whether to read this book is right there in the title: he's young, he's black, and he's a chef.

Young: Onwuachi has had a busier life than some people twice his age, but I admit to sometimes rolling my eyes when he expresses dismay at his own youthful exploits -- "Oh, I was so young and naive then!" It's like, dude, it was on
Katie/Doing Dewey
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Summary: This was a thoughtful memoir that tackled issues of racism head-on, but I wanted a little more depth.

"By the time he was twenty-seven, Kwame Onwuachi had competed on Top Chef, cooked at the White House, and opened and closed one of the most talked about restaurants in America." (source) These incredible accomplishments were in part possible due to the influence of his family. His mother inspired his love of cooking from a young age, passing on family recipes with origins from the bar hi
{I received this ARC e-book from Edelweiss}

I was so excited to receive this ARC for early review! Being a self proclaimed foodie I couldn't wait to devour (haha) this one. It didn't disappoint. I had not heard of Onwuachi before, though I have watched both Iron Chef and Top Chef in the past (I guess not his season...). I loved hearing about how Onwuachi got to where he is in the food world. This guy worked his tail off to achieve his successes! I am impressed with his street wise and work ethic,
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

This memoir is written during a really interesting period of the author's life: right after his first well-hyped restaurant closed. I read that he had already started the book before that happened so at first I wished this had included his eventual success with his current restaurant, but it's probably a more fascinating narrative to reject the redemption arc. This is especially true in light of the book's questions about who is allowed to par
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
(Follow @morganreadsalot on Instagram for more reviews)
Thank you for the free book @aaknopf

In Notes From a Young Black Chef, Kwame Onwuachi shares his upbringing, and the story of his life so far with us through words, while also telling us about how he found his voice as a chef by telling his life story through his food. Chef Onwuachi is still young, but the life has already lived feels expansive.

I’m no foodie, but I still found the glimpse into the inner workings of a kitchen, and Onwuachi’s
Joy Melody
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kwame’s authenticity shines through in this memoir. It takes a lot of guts and strength to tell the whole truth even the ugly parts. I highly recommend this book. It truly is a must read.
Through each chapter you’re informed of how race and class truly touched every part of his aspirations.
This book is something i will revisit for sure.
Christy Rogers
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Through most of the book I caught myself waiting for Kwame to cook. That stopped once I realized he was simply putting into words the courses he carefully crafted out in Bijou and the Dinner Lab. The first half is about his past, his childhood that is filled with smells and flavors and sounds of his mother and sister in the kitchen. His story is heartbreaking and amazing and I deeply admire his hustle and determination to make a name for himself.

I wish that the writing was more clear. There were
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book from the very fist pages. Diving into the heart of Kwame Onwuachi was a ride both beautiful and heart wrenching. I've known so many young men with backgrounds and dreams similar to Kwame's and I couldn't help but see their faces and their ambitions in every word I read. His story was a fascinating tale that took me from highs to lows to new highs. It was an emotional roller coaster always rooting back in the beauty, comfort and complexity of food, how and what we eat or share w ...more
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Never watched 'Top Chef' or heard of him before but was intrigued by the cover and title and the story on how author Onwuachi became a chef and the road he took to get there. We follow his life and times, career with all its highs and lows and what it's like being a Black man navigating a culinary world that is dominated by people who, well, don't look like him.

Unfortunately he wasn't served well by his co-author. The writing is...pretty pedestrian. It's a pity because he has a really interestin
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was so fascinating. I have never watched Top Chef nor have I ever worked in a kitchen so I walked into this book with no idea what to expect. The voice of the storytelling was compelling and succinct, and yet so full of detail I could envision it all. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, and so well described that I felt like I was able to see what he was seeing. His honest descriptions of people and events showed that people are both good and bad, situations can go how you want and how yo ...more
Lili Kim
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love you, Jaquan. What an amazing friend indeed.

I read this in just a couple of days-Kwame Onwuachi shares all of his struggles, mistakes, hustles and grit in this moving memoir (which also inspired me to check out some fine dining spots myself!).

Notable lines:

“I was too young to read between the lines, to know the difference between a smile and a grimace, or when the former hid the latter.”

“Rage and pain and sadness and fear took root inside me, planting their toxic seeds in my heart.”

“I lear
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
Interesting, but.

29 strikes me as really young to write a memoir that names names in a relatively small industry where everyone knows each other and is so reliant on connections and who knows who. But, a memoir that doesn't name names probably doesn't get the media attention this one is getting. And on the upside, addressing racism in the industry is critical if it's ever going to change so hopefully Onwuachi's honesty helps propel the conversation and changes in kitchens.

I liked the book and
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Chef Kwame tells his story from his early Bronx years to his time on television, from his high school days to his rocky role as a chef at a high priced ill-conceived concept restaurant.
He tells his story, though, as if he were watching a play with a character named Kwame as the protagonist. There’s something dispassionate about the telling.
Also, I feel there’s not a real understanding or accountability from him.
I give his poor mother a lot of credit; the woman tried so hard to raise him to be
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
There is so much that I loved about Kwame Onwuachi’s story. It is very honest, emotional, and funny. He takes us on quite a journey.. from his childhood in the Bronx, his relationship with his mom (who sounds like superwoman), to living in Nigeria, through his drug dealing days, and of course, his experiences in the culinary world. I learned a lot about what it takes to work in fine dining, especially for a black man. There is a lot packed into this book. If you enjoy reading memoirs, I definit ...more
I received a copy of this ebook from in exchange for an honest review.

This is a short and interesting read.

Following Onwuachi from his childhood selling candy to pay for his first catering company to the opening of his restaurant in DC this is a fascinating read. I didn't realize Onwuachi had been on Chopped and would have liked a bit more in depth about his success as a chef and what that means for him now. The book is relatively short and shares a compelling story about identi
Jed Sorokin-Altmann
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good book overall. Kwame Onwuachi's life story is fascinating, his experiences with racism in the fine dining world infuriating, and his candor welcome.

But as a Top Chef fan, I was very disappointed by the scant attention his experience on the show received. Don't pick this up, as I did, expecting for an account of life on the show or any other sort of a backstage view of Top Chef. It is talked about in terms of the chronology of Onwuachi's life, but that's about as far as this book goes.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was not the usual chef memoir. Living outside the US, I didn't know the TV show nor had I read anything about the author, but he has had quite the memorable life so far and he isn't even 30! If I lived in DC, I'd be eating at his restaurant tomorrow. Could not put this book down.
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, library
Inspiring story. Loved his experiences at the CIA and his time at Top Chef.
Cynthia Stephenson
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Loved it.
Shavawn Ellsbury
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had no idea that I would like this book as much as I did. From the first chapter to the acknowledgements at the end, I was hooked. This is an absolute must read.
Linda Barlow
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Kwame has overcome many obstacles and his strength and perseverance is remarkable and inspiring.
Lindsay Simpson
rated it it was amazing
Apr 21, 2019
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Mar 18, 2019
Nicole O
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Mar 27, 2019
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Jan 26, 2019
Mickey Kowaleski
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Jan 08, 2019
Barbara Leung
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Apr 15, 2019
Alissa Nance
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Mar 23, 2019
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Kwame Onwuachi is the executive chef at Kith and Kin and owner of the Philly Wing Fry franchise in Washington, D.C. He was born on Long Island and raised in New York City, Nigeria, and Louisiana. Onwuachi was first exposed to cooking by his mother, in the family’s modest Bronx apartment, and he took that spark of passion and turned it into a career. From toiling in the bowels of oil cleanup ships ...more
“Nothing is a turnoff like a New York City housing authority kitchen. People want to hear about that once you're successful, not when you're living in it.” 1 likes
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