Meet Kwame Onwuachi, the award-winning Chef redefining Afro-Caribbean cuisine in the U.S

Stephen Nartey March 13, 2023
Kwame Onwuachi /Photo credit: Vogue

As a child, he never imagined that what started out as a fun activity in his mum’s kitchen would become a major cultural export of Afro-Caribbean cuisines. Though the dream was a spark, award-winning Chef, Kwame Onwuachi took cooking lessons from his mother, Jewel Robinson, with all the seriousness he could muster in those humble moments. The cocktail of flavors and cooking with a story in mind were some of the priceless gems he took away from his mum’s kitchen.

When he stepped out onto the streets of New York to start his own business, Chef Kwame’s ambition was to sell Afro-Caribbean cuisine to the world, but before he hit the ground running, he dedicated time to studying food experiences in Africa, America, and the Caribbean. Satisfied with the endless list of recipes, he established his food business in 2010. Though the “Coterie Catering” failed, he picked the lessons with the hope of redefining his story once again.

In his book, “Notes from a Young Black Chef,” Kwame shares his sentiments about failure, which he sees as one of the encounters one meets on the journey to greatness. Visualizing his success in the near future, he was ever so determined to stay focused and never give up on his lifelong dream to serve menus with diverse cultural identities.

As a person of mixed ancestry, he wanted a meal that would reflect a bit of his Nigerian, Jamaican, and American roots, according to Forbes. So, when another window of opportunity bounced at the young chef, he was clear about what he would be serving at the Lincoln Center. It was all about the black experience; an appetizing menu laced with his Caribbean, Latin American, and African recipes.

He named his second business Tatiana, a name he borrowed from his older sister, to introduce his guests to a fusion of unique flavors from diverse origins and the special moments that come along with them. He knew his dream was materializing when in 2022, the Food Institute celebrated Caribbean food as a top culinary trend to look out for.

Chef Kwame has experienced his lows and highs in his 13-year experience in the culinary world, and for him, that makes the story behind his gastronomy business more uplifting and richer than ever before. Before taking his first step on his culinary journey, his dream was to be recognized as one of the most successful chefs under 30. This came to fruition when he rose to prominence after he emerged as a winner in the “Top Chef” competition in 2015. Such accomplishments are important to him because of where he grew up.

Born to a half-Nigerian and Jamaican father, and a Caribbean mother, Kwame grew up in a modest family in the Bronx and had quite a turbulent life; from cleaning ships to working in the best restaurants. After struggling with his first business, he decided to further develop his art of cooking at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, and sold candies at the train station to fund his education, according to chicagogourmet.

Evidently, his determination and hard work have transformed his passion into a huge success. Chef Kwame has been acclaimed for his memoir, “Notes from a Young Black Chef,” which was adapted into a feature film by A24. His book contains 125 recipes, celebrated food from the African Diaspora, and highlights his own family history; traveling from Nigeria to the Caribbean and the South to the Bronx. He is reputed as one of the Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs, was featured on the TIME 100 Next 2019 list, and was also named one of the most influential chefs in America by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: March 13, 2023


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