Notes from a Young Black Chef
A groundbreaking memoir about the intersection of race, fame, and food, from the Top Chef star and Forbes and Zagat 30 Under 30 honoreeBy 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 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. He launched his own catering company with twenty thousand dollars he made selling candy on the subway, and trained in the kitchens of some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country. But the road to success is riddled with potholes. As a young chef, Onwuachi 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 memoir of following 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.

Notes from a Young Black Chef Details

TitleNotes from a Young Black Chef
Author
ReleaseApr 9th, 2019
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group
ISBN-139781524732622
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Food and Drink, Food, Race, Biography, Cookbooks, Biography Memoir, Cooking, Culinary, Foodie

Notes from a Young Black Chef Review

  • LeeTravelGoddess
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 chef! And it didn’t take long for him to find his niche. I am compelled to travel to DC to go to his restaurant, see the African American Museum and come back to my Coast all in a weekend. I was literally on the edge of my seat thinking this can’t be how the story plays out and thankfully it did not, I am even more convinced that our journeys are ours and ours alone... and what is meant for you will be there waiting for you when YOU are ready. Overall a wonderful book and shout out to his moms— some moms really don’t get enough credit 💚💚💚!!! TAKE THE JOURNEY WITH KWAME, I’m glad I did!
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  • Audrey
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 be pigeon holed into their background. Lastly, I loved that he talked about his love of Harry Potter mixed in with all his experiences. I hope to try his restaurant next time I’m in DC and wish him the most happiness and success.I received this arc from the publisher but all opinions are my own.
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  • Alysa H.
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 only 2 years ago and you are still not even 30.Black: Onwuachi's identity as a black man, and specifically as a black man from NYC with family from the American south (mother's side) and from Nigeria (father's side), is central, and important, and very interesting to read about.Chef: This book is an entry in a long line of chef memoirs that will satisfy lovers of the genre. Onwuachi's culinary career trajectory, and how it has intersected with his more personal journeys, is the stuff of food world legend.And the fourth word in the title? Notes. While none of the chapters read like fuzzy sketches, I would say that each one strikes a separate thematic note. The book goes more or less in chronological order, but not entirely. Some chapters do repeat bits of information and parts of anecdotes already covered in other chapters.One more editorial criticism is that there are a few factual errors in the book that kicked me right out and also made me wonder about the truthfulness of other, less provable things. For instance, in NYC, the Union Square Barnes & Noble is NOT on 14th Street, it's on 17th Street. If Onwuachi (or Joshua David Stein, or the editors) didn't check that, what else did they not check?Eh, I do get a sense that this is not the sort of book that lets hard facts get in the way of a good, emotionally honest story. That's not necessarily a bad thing; in fact it's true about many memoirs. Just... buyer beware :)** I received an ARC of this book via Penguin's First to Read program **
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  • Katie/Doing Dewey
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 his grandparents ran as a safe gathering space for black people in 1960's Texas to recipes reflecting his father's Nigerian origins. Throughout his life, his family shared food with love and his realization that he could provide this experience for other people started him down the path towards becoming a professional chef. Along the way, he had to overcome barriers shaped by racism and classism from his school years through his time in some of the most renowned American kitchens.The only other celebrity memoir I've read that acknowledges a co-author was I Am Malala and there I felt the tug-of-war between the journalist co-author and Malala's younger-sounding voice. There was no such conflict here. I thought Kwame's story was presented well, in a single, consistent tone. His passion, his nerves, his humility, and his ambition came through in a really balanced way. Personally, I also thought he used precisely the right amount of profanity to emphasize the things that mattered most to him.For all that I thought the author presented his emotions really well, the only times I felt emotionally engaged by this book were when he was talking about the racism he experienced. I thought it was heartbreaking and infuriating that at 10 years old, he could tell that his teachers saw him as more of a threat than his white peers. I thought the same thing when, as a successful adult, he still had to endure poor treatment by both a cop and a supervisor due to his race. These are incredibly important stories and I admired the forthright way he discussed the racism he's encountered. I wish other parts of his story had drawn me in just as much.I think one reason I wasn't drawn into this story more was that the writing felt a little light. In the prologue, there was a wonderful section where we learned about the history of the food Kwame was creating. I would have loved more of this. As is, we got some fantastic bits on his personal connection to the food later on, but little history. As someone who doesn't know much about cooking higher end food, I'd also have liked more details about what Kwame learned. Again, we got bits of this, as when he discussed the technique for creating a consommé, but I wanted information like this for so many of the other meals he cooked.The author did make some very insightful observations about his life. I particularly admired his discussion about how he has always shaped his appearance to the extent he could, given preconceptions about him because of his race and gender. This was a theme throughout, from his splurging on nice clothes as teen to his comfort with putting on a persona for Top Chef, since moving through the unwelcoming world of haute cuisine required him to do the same every day. I wanted more of this too. That was definitely my main complaint with this book and not the worst problem to have!The recipes at the end of each chapter would mostly be 'stretch' recipes for me, taking slightly longer than I usually spend or involving a single ingredient that I've never bought. I think they'd be perfect for someone wanting to try something just a little out of their comfort zone, while still capturing the spirit of the meals Kwame discussed in his memoir.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey
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  • Katy
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Robin
    January 1, 1970
    An inspirational story of someone who was determined to make it in the chef world. Perfect for those who liked Marcus Samuelsson's YES, CHEF.
  • Yaaresse
    January 1, 1970
    With the exception of Malala Yousafzai, who has lived more in 21 years than many people will in a lifetime and has a Nobel Prize to prove it, I'm not sure anyone under 30 really has had enough time to know themselves well enough to write a memoir. (Same could be said of many over 30 who have written memoirs, too.) Onwuachi 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 one are we getting here?" I su With the exception of Malala Yousafzai, who has lived more in 21 years than many people will in a lifetime and has a Nobel Prize to prove it, I'm not sure anyone under 30 really has had enough time to know themselves well enough to write a memoir. (Same could be said of many over 30 who have written memoirs, too.) Onwuachi 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 one are we getting here?" I suspect we're getting which ever one he believes will cause the most buzz. (And why would someone who was a "gifted" student and wrote essays to win small culinary grants need a co-author to tell his own story anyway?) Onwuachi seems far more invested in being a "brand" and flashy than in anything else. His wins, he is quick to take credit for. For his stumbles, he is even quicker to find excuses. He seems fixated on luxury and appearances. He (or his co-author -- it's hard to tell) is quick to tell us about his designer shoes or how someone was allegedly impressed with his fine wool suit. He mentions going to "the best" restaurants, by which he means the most expensive, but we get no details on the meals or even if they were memorable for him beyond the bragging rights of eating at a "known" place. He goes on and on about how, when planning for his first restaurant, the luxurious and custom-made doors, plates, chairs, etc. They "agonized for months" about the lighting fixtures. Funny thing is, he never says much about food except a few bland lines that sound like they could apply to anything and a few quotes from other people praising his cooking -- which seem to be tossed in to convince us that other people think he's brilliant rather than to tell us anything about what they ate. Onwauchi is quick to point out the rarity or cost of an ingredient, but he never really says anything about it's smell, taste, texture, history, etc. It's all about the image, never about the flavor or the craft. It's far more about the "celebrity" than the "chef." He really presents as shallow and self-absorbed, quick to take offense and quick to claim entitlement. He may be talented, and he may be smart, but he's not very likable, and he comes off as insincere and drunk off his own bathwater. I think the part where he really lost me is that he mentions (many times) how much his mother (and later his half-sister) always struggled to make ends meet, but while his closet is full of Prada and Armani clothes that he bought when making down thousands a week selling drugs, not once does he mention helping out either of them with some cold, hard cash. And you think he'd mention that because it would make him look good, and he's all into looking good. But then, broke because he blew all his "hard earned" cash on designer clothes and partying, he turns around and convinces his mother to drain her meager savings account to help pay his culinary school tuition. I guess it was her money and her decision, but that is some serious entitlement. And when his father goads him by saying "Why don't you just go back to selling drugs?" Onwuachi suddenly has scruples and gets offended? Yeah, it was hardly great parental advice, but I can't help but wonder if what his father was really saying was, "Oh, OK, so when you were flush, you screwed around and wasted your resources, and now you come around asking for handouts because suddenly something is important to you?" His dad sounds like a major jerk -- although we're only getting one side of the story -- but you can't expect to sever the relationship, even with good reason, and still have a claim on the other person's wallet. When he finally gets around to talking about being a chef, he talks about creating an autobiography through menu...at the ripe old age of 26. Then he complains that people call him pretentious. Well...yeah. That's definitely pretentious. To have an autobiography that means anything to other people, you have to have experienced something outside yourself. Maybe, if still around in a decade or two, he'll have something to say worth reading. Right now, he's just not nearly as interesting or unique as he thinks he is.
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  • Sheri
    January 1, 1970
    {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, {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, especially his not wanting to berate and belittle his staff like so many other Chefs do. That is admirable and reflective on the kind of person he is. The recipes at the end of each chapter is a cozy and sweet touch to the memoir, though I don't think I'll ever really try them as they look to me to be a bit involved! I'm a foodie, remember, not a fellow chef! This was a well written book, the details he shares with his readers are calculated and fit in the smoothness of transition from one life chapter to the next. The stories he tells shapes and molds who he believes he is as a person, or wants us to know of him, and they make him out to be respectable, endearing, and hard working. I would totally save up to eat at his restaurant some day for sure! I love his tenacity and refusal to stoop to cliched stereotypes. One small bit of feedback is this: I feel like the memoir's ending was a tad...abrupt. I thought they would circle back to what was taking place at the beginning, serving his meal at the African American Museum, or even to the opening of his restaurant. I was kind of thrown off at the sudden end after the closing of his first restaurant. But this is just my opinion! :)
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  • Ann
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 participate in the culinary world and who is kept out, who is allowed to be confident in their abilities and who must pay their dues, and whose food is fine dining and whose is home cooking. This is a great addition to the culinary memoir canon from a new and vital voice.
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  • Kalen
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 Onwuachi's story but it only really kicked into gear when he started cooking. This is a good addition to the chef memoir genre and even if you don't know him from Top Chef or his restaurants it is worth a read.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    I’m so thankful I opened that Penguin Random House email sharing their CEOs picks. This is the important coming of a age story of an eager chef who’s been through a lot. As if trying to be a professional chef isn’t hard enough in itself, Onwuachi had many other life obstacles to combat before the idea of being a chef was even a thought. Though frequently heartbreaking, I appreciated learning about his experience as a black man. With the cooking scene being so heavily Caucasian, this is a very im I’m so thankful I opened that Penguin Random House email sharing their CEOs picks. This is the important coming of a age story of an eager chef who’s been through a lot. As if trying to be a professional chef isn’t hard enough in itself, Onwuachi had many other life obstacles to combat before the idea of being a chef was even a thought. Though frequently heartbreaking, I appreciated learning about his experience as a black man. With the cooking scene being so heavily Caucasian, this is a very important book. (But seriously, I’d also like to know: what if Hilary DID win?!)
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  • David Wunderlich
    January 1, 1970
    I listened to the audiobook, and I think that’s the way to go. The author holds nothing back, and hearing his inflection as he discusses his life added a lot to the mere words.The author’s life is not a boring one, and it has a wider range of experiences that most people will never know. It’s worth the read for that alone, but he has a varied perspective of being African American in the Bronx while also being tied to Africa through his family in Nigeria. His story here doesn’t end well, but his I listened to the audiobook, and I think that’s the way to go. The author holds nothing back, and hearing his inflection as he discusses his life added a lot to the mere words.The author’s life is not a boring one, and it has a wider range of experiences that most people will never know. It’s worth the read for that alone, but he has a varied perspective of being African American in the Bronx while also being tied to Africa through his family in Nigeria. His story here doesn’t end well, but his drive will take him far yet.
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  • morgan
    January 1, 1970
    (Follow @morganreadsalot on Instagram for more reviews)Thank you for the free book @aaknopfIn 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 (Follow @morganreadsalot on Instagram for more reviews)Thank you for the free book @aaknopfIn 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 descriptions of his food really interesting, and enticing! Wether your a foodie or not, this memoir of a young Black chef and the path that brought him to this point is really wonderful.
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  • Kristina
    January 1, 1970
    Nice chef memoir. I came to this as I live in DC and I remember all the drama surrounding Shaw Bijou’s opening and closing. Nice to read more about the background from the chef’s point of view. And I’m looking forward to trying out his new restaurant in the city.
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  • Cortney (cortingbooks)
    January 1, 1970
    It’s me not you
  • Joy Melody
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Matt Shipman
    January 1, 1970
    I've read quite a few food/cooking/chef memoirs over the years, and this is one of the best. It balances biographical details and discussions of cooking with insights and observations about food, the restaurant industry and U.S. society at large. Worth the investment of time for both foodies and those who are simply looking for an engaging read.
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  • Christy Rogers
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 often qualifiers in his sentences, leaving his paragraphs full of run-ons and unnecessary words. I wish the editing had been tighter and the book made into more of a conversation between Kwame and the reader. Also, it was hard to keep track of time in the book. Events in his life seemed to just pop in, and there was really no explanation. Perhaps it’s because he focused more on describing starting new projects and not necessarily finishing them (Did he actually graduate from the CIA? How did he meet his Fiancé when he was always on the road? How was Craft so impressed by his knowledge of Foie Gras that they hired him, sight unseen, yet he had to stage at EMP and other restaurants?) Overall, Kwame’s is such an important story to tell and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
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  • Ruby
    January 1, 1970
    "I haven't waited to be summoned for my big moment by a tap on the shoulder from a mysterious, benevolent stranger. It doesn't work that way where I'm from. You make your own opportunities where I'm from.""Sometimes racism takes the form of ugly words and actions. Other times it remains unspoken, communicated by hostile looks and secret snickers. But the most corrosive form, and often the hardest to address, is not being seen at all.""You meet each other as friendly strangers, melt away the year "I haven't waited to be summoned for my big moment by a tap on the shoulder from a mysterious, benevolent stranger. It doesn't work that way where I'm from. You make your own opportunities where I'm from.""Sometimes racism takes the form of ugly words and actions. Other times it remains unspoken, communicated by hostile looks and secret snickers. But the most corrosive form, and often the hardest to address, is not being seen at all.""You meet each other as friendly strangers, melt away the years with memory and the heat of nostalgia, and you're a kid again, and friends again, and for a moment you're back at the beginning.""The difference between a home and a prison is in the mind of the occupant.""My ability to slide through two different worlds was my greatest asset in those years. It made me invisible when I had to be and visible when I wanted to be. And it landed me jobs.""I knew how to be black in Nigeria, black in Soho, black in Harlem and the Bronx. But I didn't know how to be black in the South.""No one can deny that America is built on the backs of black and brown people. But at least in New York you can kid yourself.""No one saw me as a failure because no one saw me at all.""I get it. You're scared. You're sad. You think you deserve better. But I'm going to tell you this right now, though it's something you should have learned already: No one deserves anything. You get what you work for.""That time on the Maine made me a chef. Granted, my kitchen was small and my staff only one other person, but that's not what mattered. I learned to see beyond my own biases, to see that when it came to eating, these guys, who looked nothing like me, just wanted something that reminded them of home, something made with love. And I learned that I could be the guy who could give them that. I had the skills, the palate, the recipes, the heart.""If I had followed the rules, the guidelines and parameters that had been set for me-as a young black man in America-would have ground me down by now, legs cut off, subservient to someone. Obedience is not an option when the system is aligned against you. Taken to the other extreme, though, in the red zone high revs of rule-breaking, bucking the system quickly turns to screwing yourself over.""One of the heaviest burdens of walking through life with the scars of abuse is loving your abuser, respecting them, trusting them. Because if you do, it means you deserve their scorn, their blows, their insults.""The most insidious kind of racism isn't always being called the N-word. At least that's shameless enough to get you fired. It's the unspoken shit, the hard-to-prove, hard-to-pin-down, can't-go-viral day-to-day shit. It's being passed over, time and time again. It's having opportunities you know you earned never materialize. It's that no matter how hard you work, it's never good enough. It's not even seen.""I would not survive if I didn't know how to play that game, to hustle to get ahead, to write my own story, and to manipulate, to the extent that I could, how I was seen.""It was audacious, ballsy, maybe a little arrogant. But everything I had learned and all that I had experienced had confirmed my belief that I couldn't wait until someone gave me an opportunity. I had to make things happen on my own. I had to force the situation. I've always had to.""Money doesn't change you; it just reveals who you truly are."
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 with others. Each chapter ends with a recipe that correlates with the stage of Onwuachi's life that I had just read about and I'm so excited to put these recipes into practice and try my hand at these incredible sounding dishes. From the food to the fiercely honest stories of how Onwuachi got to where he is now and how one's greatest triumph is often connected to their most painful moments, I adored this book and would highly suggest it to anyone even mildly interested in biographies, food or hard work. I can't wait to add this book to my shelves and make these recipes over and over again.
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  • Kim
    January 1, 1970
    I read an e-galley of this book and loved it so much I bought a copy to keep. Kwame Onwuachi grew up on the Bronx and Nigeria with a dedicated-but-busy mother and a largely absent father. After hustling for years, Onwuachi got a fresh start as a chef on a Deepwater Horizon cleanup ship, kicking off his love affair with food and his life in the restaurant industry as a culinary student, line cook, caterer, Top Chef contestant, and aspiring restaurateur. From the moment I picked this one up, I did I read an e-galley of this book and loved it so much I bought a copy to keep. Kwame Onwuachi grew up on the Bronx and Nigeria with a dedicated-but-busy mother and a largely absent father. After hustling for years, Onwuachi got a fresh start as a chef on a Deepwater Horizon cleanup ship, kicking off his love affair with food and his life in the restaurant industry as a culinary student, line cook, caterer, Top Chef contestant, and aspiring restaurateur. From the moment I picked this one up, I didn’t want to put it down. Onwuachi has this amazing sense of confidence and ease that comes through on the page, but he’s also frank about the highs and lows of his life that have gotten him to that place. He’s also honest about the casual and overt racism he experienced as a chef and doesn’t pull any punches while sharing those stories. The book also has this great insiders tone, I felt like I was getting pulled into this world of high-end cuisine. This is a great book, I highly recommend it!
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  • Bookworm
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 interesting story and I'll bet there will be plenty of people who would enjoy it but I thought the writing was really bad. I'm not sure how talking about spending time in both New York and Nigeria could be such a slog to read but unfortunately it was.Which is not to say there isn't value to the book or Onwuachi's story. I just don't feel he was served very well by his co-author.If you're interesting in similar books, I recommend Marcus Samuelsson's 'Yes, Chef'.Borrow this one from the library.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 you don't but continuing to put one foot in front of the other is so important. I would definitely recommend and read anything else Kwame Onwuachi comes out with. I also loved that each chapter had recipes at the end of them that connected so well to the story. They sounded complicated but also seemed so approachable.I received this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion through First To Read.
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  • Lili Kim
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 learned to see beyond my own biases, to see that when it came to eating, these guys, who looked nothing like me, just wanted something that reminded them of home, something made with love. And I learned that I could be the guy who could give them that. I had the skills, the palate, the recipes, the heart.”
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  • Alexa Hamilton
    January 1, 1970
    This book doesn't try to do more than the title says--it is notes from a young black chef about his life, his dreams, his family, his restaurants, his cooking. You can tell that he wrote it in chunks, with some overlap at the beginning and end of each chapter, the flow is helped by having a writer to help it out. But honestly, Kwame is an interesting dude. This book doesn't try to spin his story into something like a fairytale, or even like one where the ending was always known. It wasn't and ho This book doesn't try to do more than the title says--it is notes from a young black chef about his life, his dreams, his family, his restaurants, his cooking. You can tell that he wrote it in chunks, with some overlap at the beginning and end of each chapter, the flow is helped by having a writer to help it out. But honestly, Kwame is an interesting dude. This book doesn't try to spin his story into something like a fairytale, or even like one where the ending was always known. It wasn't and honestly, this isn't the end. Kwame is younger than I am, he still has plenty to do.If you like chef memoirs that have a bunch of food but aren't completely focused on food, try this one. If you think you'll get any insight into Top Chef, skip it because that is not what this book is about.
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  • Roryz
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 a respectful responsible young man. And from what I read, she’s succeeded. I’m rooting for Kwame.
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  • Chanelle
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 definitely recommend this one.
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  • (a)lyss(a)
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this ebook from firsttoread.com 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 I received a copy of this ebook from firsttoread.com 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 identity and perseverance.
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  • Sheri S.
    January 1, 1970
    Onwuachi had always been interested in cooking and when it came time to choose a career path, he chose to attend the Culinary Institute of America and pursue his dream of opening a restaurant. The book tells the story of Onwuachi's early life and experiences and how food and travel played a part in his upbringing. He writes about the challenges he faced, particularly with regards to drugs and poverty, and how he worked to overcome many obstacles to follow his dreams. His style is one of honesty Onwuachi had always been interested in cooking and when it came time to choose a career path, he chose to attend the Culinary Institute of America and pursue his dream of opening a restaurant. The book tells the story of Onwuachi's early life and experiences and how food and travel played a part in his upbringing. He writes about the challenges he faced, particularly with regards to drugs and poverty, and how he worked to overcome many obstacles to follow his dreams. His style is one of honesty as he reflects on his life thus far and what he hopes to accomplish in the future.
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  • Laura Sterkel
    January 1, 1970
    Daunting, inspiring memoir. Picking up on the analogy between Hogwarts and Harry Potter with attending the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY, the setting and our protagonist grittier, the narrative similarly winding and paced, peppered with colorful characters and dark humor. Something about Kwame Onwuachie and company had me all-in for every course, through determined struggle and compelling re-creation, cultivating a deep respect and desire for triumph over the odds.
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