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Notes from a Young Black Chef

A Memoir
Narrated by: Kwame Onwuachi
Length: 7 hrs and 37 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (176 ratings)

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Interview: Listen in as celebrity chef Kwame Onwuachi talks about joining a pantheon of chef memoirs that share jarring truths about the industry, and leaning into his story in a new and exciting way by narrating the audio for his memoir.

The beautiful thing about cooking is that you don't wave a wand and it's all done.

  • Notes from a Young Black Chef
  • The beautiful thing about cooking is that you don't wave a wand and it's all done.

Publisher's Summary

“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 27 years old, Kwame Onwuachi had opened - and closed - one of the most talked-about restaurants in America. He had launched his own catering company with $20,000 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 onboard 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) 

Includes a PDF of recipes from the book. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Kwame Onwuachi and Joshua David Stein (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Kwame Onwuachi is memoirist turned narrator. His style is characterized by an unblinking honesty through which he reveals the story behind one of the most talked about new restaurants in Washington, DC. Onwuachi's indignation at the restaurant industry, and chronicle of his life as the child of Nigerian immigrants, is told at a rapid pace, laced with simmering critiques of both. Listeners who are unfamiliar with his story will find themselves cheering as a wayward child from the streets of the Bronx makes good on his love of food. Fans of the cooking world, including shows such as 'Top Chef,' will be entranced." (AudioFile Magazine)

“Kwame Onwuachi has given us something to crave. A culinary autobiography sitting at the crossroads of West Africa, the American South, and the Caribbean and beyond mixed with his journey to find himself and the flavors that make him unique. This is the future of Black food writing and a new chapter in the saga of how chefs come of age.” (Michael W. Twitty, author of The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

“A young black chef’s raw and gritty tale of survival, ingenuity, and hustling. Kwame takes us on this journey where he eventually finds himself captivated by the culinary world of fine dining. A fast-paced page turner with inspirational recipes at the end of each chapter.” (Carla Hall, author of Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration)  

“This book is a testament to the old adage, ‘it’s not how hard you hit but how you respond after being hit.’ Chef Kwame Onwuachi is a living example of bouncing back when hit with challenges and obstacles. Notes from a Young Black Chef is an inspiring tell-all about the reality of being a young Black chef in the world of fine dining and all the roads taken to become a culinary sensation.” (Edouardo Jordan, chef/owner of Salare, Junebaby, and Lucinda Grain Bar)  

Editorial Review

As I chatted with Chef Onwauchi, we touched on the rich tradition of food memoirs that have come before. And while it’s bittersweet to hear someone describe a delicious dish that you’re left to imagine without tasting, food writing is still such an evocative art form. Equal parts visceral and cerebral, it’s a perfect marriage of storytelling. —Rachel S., Audible Editor

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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DC should be proud to have Chef Kwame

A fan since Top Chef and someone who followed the story of the Shaw Bijou in real time here, I was excited to hear Kwame’s story. Full of ups and downs that made him the chef and person he is today, I really appreciated his ability to paint a picture with his story telling. Even better, to hear it in his own voice via Audible edition. I can’t wait to try Kith and Kin, and Philly Wing Fry has two of the best sauces in town. I was glad to finally hear the inside story on Shaw Bijou and i think it’s telling how much it all meant by opening and closing his book with it. I’m glad Chef decided to stick it out in DC even when it seemed like the food scene here turned its back on him. It’s exciting to see a young chef find his own way and carve out space for others to do the same. I’m exited to hear more out of him and the other voices in his kitchens.

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A transformative memoir of an eloquent young chef

As a former struggling chef in NYC, I could relate to so much of Kwame's experience--except that of being a young black man from the Bronx projects. I found the story of his itinerant upbringing riveting. In some ways, despite Kwame's struggles, I'm actually envious of his diverse origins. The epilogue brought tears to my eyes.

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This will be a required reading for my students!

What a gem! Kwame left me speechless and wanting more! Such a beautifully written story about cultural identity, growth, maturity, and awareness on a journey of finding your passion and purpose! I recommend this book to our the parents of our black and brown children. Enrich your family history and culture by telling, listening to, and respecting our stories! Tell any and everyone! Kudos, Chef Kwame Onwuachi!

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Super good

Great storytelling. Super interesting. Good recipes. Can I work for you? You seem like a good boss:)))

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A must read

Riveting stories of a chef trying to make it in the culinary world. Excellent narration!

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this book lit a fire under my ass

I loved kwame's story, I myself am an aspiring chef and about to start culinary college. Honestly since I come from a poor background, and hearing the story has lit a fire under my ass to get my shit started and be everything I can be.

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Despite overwhelming adversity, Kwame kicks butt

Unbelievable story. Kwame has never given up on his dreams and manages to escape the hand white America tries to force upon him. I look forward to the rest of his life story!

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As a black Chef you hit the nail on the head.

Thank you so much. This book was right on time for me. You have helped.

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Bravo!! Superb!!

I loved it. it gave me a view of a world I'd never visited. I especially liked the author's determination to reach the goals he'd set for himself. The work on the boat ,the time spent in Louisiana were very interesting to me. I could feel the love he put into the food. I will recommend this book to my friends.

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Beautifully written, thoughtfully engaging

Loved this story, and it was especially meaningful being read by the author. The story was personal and riveting, yet seemed universally applicable and somewhat educational at times. Very much appreciate the recipies!