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Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  4,710 ratings  ·  576 reviews
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 memoir, he shares the remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age. Growing up in the Bronx and Nigeria (where he was sent by his mother to "learn respect"), food was Onwuachi's great love. ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  4,710 ratings  ·  576 reviews

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Larry H
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A memoir AND recipes? I’m so here for that.

Writing a memoir before the age of 30 may seem a little premature, but the life Kwame Onwuachi has led up to this point, and his accomplishments in the culinary world, a community not known for its diversity at the top, is noteworthy. (He is currently the chef of an acclaimed restaurant in Washington, DC, Kith/Kin, and he was recently named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine.)

In Notes from a Young Black Chef , Onwuachi talks about his diffic
Diane S ☔
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
From Louisiana to the Bronx, from Nigeria and to the Culinary Institute, landing in Washington D. C. this young man has learned to cook his own story, his own culture. A childhood filled with abuse from his father, support and love from his mother, to his grandfather in Nigeria, who taught him that his ancestors would always be part of him. Selling drugs in college, then cooking for some of the best restaurants to competing Top Chef, he has pulled himself together and fought for a life of which ...more
Jul 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Cooking has always been a passion of mine, so when my co-moderator at the nonfiction book club mentioned that she wanted to read a new memoir by an up and coming top chef, I decided to join her. Notes From a Young Black Chef came at a good time for me as this year celebrity memoirs have become my go-to genre in between denser reads. Reading this story that is dubbed as rags-to-riches but is a really one of a person of color breaking through a glass ceiling in his field, one can not help but be c ...more
Rating 4.5

I had no idea who Kwame Onwuachi is and had no knowledge of this book. While browsing my library for new audio books I came across this one. To be honest, I grabbed it just based on the title. It had the word 'chef' in it. I figured I could hear about the lifestyle of a chef and more importantly food. I'm a sucker for any foodie book. So I grabbed it and jumped in with no expectations.

This one tells the life story of twenty-seven year old Kwame Onwuachi. I know, I know...I thought the
Anne Bogel
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
You may recognize Kwame Onwuachi's name from his stint on Top Chef. But before that, he started his own catering company with twenty thousand dollars he made selling candy on the subway in NYC and worked in notable restaurants across the country. By age 27, not only had he competed on Top Chef, he served dinner to Present Obama at the White House and closed his fine dining restaurant shortly after opening it. He's honest about his mistakes but he also delves into the racism he's experienced in t ...more
With the exception of Malala Yousafzai, who has lived more in 21 years than many people will live in a lifetime and has a Nobel Prize to prove it, I'm not sure anyone under 30 really has enough self-knowledge of life experience to write a memoir. (I realize the same could be said of many people over 30 who have written memoirs, too.)

Onwuachi certainly knows how to market himself. He admits in the book that he puts on different personas for different audiences, so the reader can only ask "Which
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
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
I first learned of Kwame Onwuachi when I saw him on Top Chef several years ago - He was one of my favorite contestants that season. Despite being a pretty terrible cook, I absolutely love the show and have been a die-hard fan for years.

Notes from a Young Black Chef is Kwame’s memoir detailing his rise in the culinary world and the lessons he’s learned along the way. He’s only 30 but has experienced a lot in life already.

Kwame grew up in New York and briefly spent time in Nigeria with his grand
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
"I come from a long line of restauranteurs, from a family whose roots were made of gravy and whose blood ran hot with pimentón."

I enjoyed Kwame's memoir (and he's still very young and has many successes and breathless leaps ahead of him.) I had no idea how varied his experiences were and how much he had done even before Top Chef. I hope to eat in one of his restaurants eventually, especially if he stays in DC.
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
Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)
3.5 stars
Listened to the audio of this book, narrated by the author. I became a fan of Kwame during his stint on Top Chef, so I was fascinated by his family background and all he has overcome in order to be the success he is at such a young age. He's a bit arrogant, but overall his memoir is so intriguing because he has had to rise above racism, classism, and so many other things to show the world that a young black chef can cook fine dining meals and do it well.
His relating of his history is qu
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. The first half of the book is really strong. Kwame has honed telling his origin story and knows how to sell his success. He also names names in a very juicy way. I would love to hear how they feel about their portrayals in this book. I can also see plenty of people wondering about his mentions of race throughout. He attributes this to the nebulousness of racism that’s not attached to the n-word. It’s can be hard to pin down for outsiders when it’s not attached to a hood.

The second ha
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thanks AAKnopf for sharing NOTES FROM A YOUNG BLACK CHEF with me. memoirs have a special place in my book loving heart. This one is no different. It is Kwame's coming of age story, navigating life as a young black male in a predominantly white (and unwelcoming) industry, and his perseverance on never giving up on his dreams. It was well written, engaging and I loved the recipes at the end of each chapter.
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Through food, Kwame passionately, and honestly, unfurls his life story. His tumultuous upbringing resulted in several moves and you can taste the influences in his dishes. Maybe one day, I’ll be fortunate enough to dine at one of his restaurants. I admire his confidence and drive to succeed in an industry that wanted him - a black chef - to fit a certain niche. Solid memoir. More than just food. Much more.
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Kwame Onwuachi may seem too young to have a memoir on the shelf but once you read his impressive story, you won’t be surprised.
Growing up in the Bronx, Onwuachi was surrounded by amazing food and a mother who made it her career. He was sidetracked as a youth by the streets, an abusive father, and an awareness of racism that left him frustrated and angry. His mom sent him to Nigeria to learn respect, where he lived with his grandfather and began to understand and appreciate his ancestors.

While h
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Chef Kwame Onwuachi wrote this memoir when he was 28 years old — shortly after his signature achievement, the Shaw Bijou, closed a mere three months after its opening. It was a brutal blow in a brutal industry driven by massive egos, ambition, relentless stress, and too often, a level of rage and abusiveness that would make Gordon Ramsay seem mellow by comparison.

However, Onwuachi's memoir is about much more than the elite world of haute cuisine. It is an unsettling view of the world seen throu
Esther Espeland
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
I liked parts of this and he has had an interesting life! But I also think it’s a tough deal to write a memoir before you’ve hit thirty
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can’t figure out why this book isn’t higher rated on GR. I found it fascinating. The story of Kwame Onwuachi - his voyage from the streets of New York to Top Chef and beyond. I found his backstory and evolution interesting and the behind the scenes peek of Michelin starred restaurants fascinating. Heard Micheal B Jordan’s bought the film rights - can’t wait to see it. Highly recommend.
This book is excellent. It does everything it should do as a memoir but takes it a step further with commentary on the American education system and all the ways it teaches young black boys who they are and more importantly who they should never dream of being. I love that it doesn't pull punches or hesitate to drop names regarding the racism he experienced from the food industry. I love the recipes. The writing. I just really enjoyed this book.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've really been on a memoir kick this year- and #6 did not disappoint.

NOTES FROM A YOUNG BLACK CHEF is Kwame Onwuachi's story about coming up in New York and coming into his career as a chef. He finished 6 on Top Chef and just closed his dream restaurant- all before the age of 30.

He talks a lot about his upbringing and what it's like to be Black in America. There's a dash of behind the scenes at Top Chef thrown in, but what I loved the most was his fearlessness. He's not at all afraid to name n
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a pleasure this book was! I'm always down for a great restaurant read and this hit all of that and more. I remember rooting for Kwame on Top Chef and I loved how he presented the 'chicken and waffle' incident here in this memoir, its interpretations because he's Black, and the reasons for it / why he had to "please pack your knives and go" on that episode. It wasn't the concept, it really was the frozen waffles.

Other highlights:
- comparing the Culinary Institute of America to Hogwarts
- m
Beth Anne
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
I ended up reading most of this book in just two days, I couldn’t put it down. Kwame’s story is real and powerful. It’s not an exaggeration to say that cooking literally saved his life. He was honest about his failures and about his work ethic. He worked hard to become who he is, and yet he is also the product of his ancestors — their hard work, heritage, and even their flaws. I loved the recipes that were I clouded in this memoir and hope to try some myself.
Kaytee Cobb
3.5 stars. I think Kwame has a unique perspective and I'm glad for this book, I just wish he gave himself more time to season and marinade (see what I did there?) through his life experiences. This book would be richer for it.
Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)
Love this! Read it along with Sweetbitters by Stepany Danier. A perfect foodie pairing of novels...

PopSugar 2020 - Book written by an author in their 20s
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
i’ve long been obsessed with food culture/writing and chefs since my early days of watching iron chef (the original) and anthony bourdain’s ‘no reservations’. however, it wasn’t until the third season of netflix’s chef’s table that a question began to spin in my mind: where are all the black chefs? it’s as if they didn’t exist in the world of fine dining, or michelin stars. the most i’d see of them on cooking centered shows was over a bbq pit or serving up local cuisine in a small restaurant. th ...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
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rounding up to 4 stars. I'm not entirely sure why I picked this one up since I'm neither a foodie nor knowledgeable about the culinary world / fine dining, but I ended up being interested by Onwuachi's journey even if I had to google a few food terms.
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
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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

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“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.” 3 likes
“But more infuriating is the question about to whom I should have been paying dues. It seems like the only ones keeping track are the white guys with tall hats. And how did those guys get into the club? By paying dues to older white guys with even taller hats. As for the thousands of black and brown chefs—dubbed cooks, domestics, servants, boys, and mammies who were kept out of restaurant kitchens or overlooked within them—they were beyond consideration. Their work, like them, was invisible.” 1 likes
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