Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein


Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein. Adapted for Young Adults. Delacorte, 2021. 9780593176009

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

What did you like about the book? Beginning at what seems like the pinnacle of his career, Onwuachi traces his journey as chef from his childhood in the Bronx to the opening of his own high end restaurant in Washington D.C. As he looks back, the reader is treated to a memoir as compelling and suspenseful as a novel. Onwuachi takes the warm food memories of his mother’s Creole cooking and his time living in Nigeria with his father’s family, and weaves in a tricky childhood in New York City. He is smart, but challenged by lack of money and by racist stereotypes, both in school and restaurant kitchens. He spends a year dealing weed, then turns himself around, applies to the Culinary Institute of America, opens his own catering business, and interns at fancy NYC restaurants, all before his mid twenties. I love how the racist experiences of his youth inspire him to create a team of his own which is “… young, … gifted, … black and brown and caramel and yellow and white.” He stays connected with his past but creates the world he wants to see in his food and his team. It’s really inspiring.

The narrative easily swings back and forward in his life, dipping into childhood detail along with descriptions of food and restaurant life to make a rich stew (pun intended!) of a read. This young adult adaptation was really fun to read for this adult reviewer, so I feel comfortable recommending the book to all.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I would have loved a photo or two, but the cover is a great depiction of the chef.

To whom would you recommend this book? For high school readers who like memoirs, especially those who are interested in restaurant careers or young Black movers and shakers.

Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Biography

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: May `13, 2021

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