Book Review: Notes From A Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi


In his memoir, "Notes From A Young Black Chef," Kwame Onwuachi tells an inspiring story about his rise as one of America's most admired chefs. Onwuachi's story is more than a tale about the importance of tapping into your passion and turning into it a career. It's a timeless reminder about pushing through even when the cards are stacked against you. It's an inspiring story that's filled with life lessons that will resonate universally.

Onwuachi's life story is pretty amazing. He went from growing up in a rough-and-tumble part of the Bronx to moving to Nigeria to live with his grandfather. His adventure continued from there. He cooked food on a Deepwater Horizon cleanup ship and sold candy in New York subway trains to save money for his catering business. The young chef has continued to reinvent himself while getting more focused and committed to the process. He went from faking it to making it to ultimately slaying it.

"From [my mother] I learned perhaps the most important lesson in my life: Always keep moving."

I love rooting for the underdog, and I love reading books about the underdog coming out on top. Those stories are particularly inspiring in the challenging and uncertain times we live in now. I feel now it's more important than ever to turn to art, books, and music to maintain perspective. Onwuachi's memoir is one of those page-turning reads that will leave you hopeful, plus it will get you in the mood to cook. A great diversion from the bleak world around us. Every chapter in the book is followed by a delicious recipe from the hands of Chef Kwame, including a London broil, chicken curry, cheesecake, and chicken consommé with charred vegetables, Verde, and feta.

"Notes from a Young Black Chef" also provides a candid look at racism and the lack of diversity in many professional kitchens. It's a topic that the award-winning Onwuachi addresses subtly but with a clear intent by writing about his experience working in some of the world's most respected kitchens. I hope that his drive and perseverance paves the way for many other young, black chefs to be successful. 

"You can stay in the lane if you want to be, but you can't ignore the road, either."

Onwuachi appeared on a recent season of Bravo's Top Chef while he was in the middle of planning the opening of his first restaurant, the Shaw Bijou in Washington D.C. His restaurant closed soon after its opening due to circumstances beyond Onwuachi's control. It wasn't a wasted experience for the young chef who turned the experience into his life motto.

"(. . . ) Never be sorry for doing something different, for trying and failing. That every day is day one."

That motto was relevant then and still applies today as Onwuachi closed his new D.C. restaurant, Kith and Kin, this week due to the global pandemic. It underlines that the rebel chef is facing another struggle alongside all of us. But knowing how he faced the ones he encountered before, I trust that he will weather this one too. He's clearly built that way.

Onwuachi's memoir is an excellent read about life and food that I highly recommend if you're seeking an escape and looking to be encouraged. Kwame Onwuachi inspired me with his sincerity, street-savvy, and drive for social justice. Plus, he makes me want to be a better cook with all his great food stories. It's time to spice it up!

"Notes From A Young Black Chef - A Memoir" 
Written by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein
Published by Penguin Random House
Read it on Apple Books

Music I'm looking forward to in 2008


For my final post as guest blogger, I thought I’d share with you some musicians I love, all of whom have new albums on the way in 2008. I just noticed the majority are female singers… but at least there’s one guy!

Emiliana Torrini - She’s in the midst of writing and recording her new album - VERY exciting. Her voice is so unique, it just makes me happy. Her last album ‘Fisherman’s Woman’ is a favourite on my iPod. We became friends in 2007 and my most lovely memory of her is from Los Angeles in June when she came to our Temposhark show and gave me a white rose as a gift, making my night even more special!

Sam Sparro – My producer Sean McGhee told me about Sam but I don’t know too much about him yet. I like the original version of his song ‘Black and Gold’ which you can hear on his MySpace page. He sounds a bit like D’Angelo meeting electro-era Goldfrapp in a dark alley.

Julianna Barwick (photo with this blog) - Guy Sigsworth introduced me to the beautiful music of this equally beautiful New York based singer. Her mini album Sanguine is made up of zillions of loops where Julianna’s short vocal phrases become a one-woman choir. Her live performance in London last October was just SOOOOO good! Her influences range from Björk and boy choirs to Panda Bear and Thom Yorke. If you like Animal Collective, you'll surely like Julianna too. Download a free live session she did for the cool radio podcast Má Fama - it's the show dated 13th November 2007.

Kate Havnevik – Kate’s album ‘Melankton’ spent a lot of time on my stereo in 2007, so I’m really excited she’s currently recording her second album in Norway, Poland and London. I believe she is producing this next record herself but as always, she’s collaborating with some super talents. Catch her video blogging from her studio over at YouTube.

Like An Icon - If you, like me, are intrigued to hear the new hip hop influenced Madonna album, then I recommend reading a new book all about her music written by Lucy O'Brien. This book stands out from previous Madonna biogs because its main focus is on her actual music rather than delving too much into her personal life. It has insightful behind-the-scenes interviews with musicians, producers, dancers and directors including one I did for the book when I was in New York with M’s old stylist Maripol, who was responsible for Madonna's early image and rubber crosses. She told me lots of cool stories about late 70s/early 80s Manhattan working alongside Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Blondie. You can pick it up now at a bookshop near you or Amazon UK and USA.

Laura Marling – Laura is a young British singer (she's only 17 I think) who recently signed to Virgin records. She was on Later with Jools Holland and I fell in love her song ‘New Romantic’. Her first album 'Alas I Cannot Swim' is released on 4th Feb in a unique Song Box format containing the CD album, exclusive concert ticket and set of album mementos. Gotta be good!

Map The Music - an indie documentary film following musicians around the USA on tour including Imogen Heap, Rachael Yamagata, Kate Havnevik, and even Temposhark. I haven’t seen any of the footage yet but I know we all had a lot of fun filming it. An early preview trailer is up now, while Sam Hale and her team finish editing the film.

Mirah - I've been a fan of Mirah for years now and am always surprised by what she does next. Her remix album from last year 'Joyride' was amazing. She has 5 albums, on the awesome K Records label, all of which are worth getting. She's a true indie artist with an amazing voice and lyrics. Hear some of her albums at iTunes or find her CDs (and cool Tshirts) at the KRecs.   

Lastly, Zero 7 star Sia's new album is streaming at MySpace and she is about to tour in the USA. I like her new song with Beck called 'Academia', plus she's covered The Pretender's classic 'I Go To Sleep'. I also used to be mad about her song 'Fear' from her debut album 'Healing Is Difficult'.

Right that's it from me! A big thanks to Arjan for asking me to contribute, I’ve really enjoyed it… Happy new year, sending you much love for 2008.


The Diaries of Courtney Love


Courtney Love would make a fantastic blogger. FSG recently released "Dirty Blonde: The Diaries Of Courtney Love" that is a collection of notes, lyrics, photos and other personal scraps that Love collected throughout her life. This glossy coffee table book reads like a personal blog with its  opinions about live, brief comments scribbled on photos and her to-do lists for the future. Click here to see some pages from the book.

After previously reading the controversial and bizarre "Love & Death," I was not really sure what to make of Love. Is she just an overly-dramatic narcissist or a brilliant rock goddess with a troubled past (or perhaps both depending on what day it is)? This new book leaves plenty of room for interpretation but it also shows that Loves remains a compelling figure in rock regardless of what people say about her.

VH1 aired a Rock Docs documentary this weekend that followed the singer this past spring (when she was only three months out of rehab) preparing the release of this book and recording her upcoming new album "How Dirty Girls Get Clean." Love gave a British reporter unprecedented access to her life, from the late night sessions in the studio to candid interviews in her bedroom. Click here to see a clip from the documentary in which Love talks about her book and show photos of her with Donatella Versace and Elton John.

Her new album is produced by pal Linda Perry who earlier told that she and Courtney Love are "like peanut butter and jelly." The teaming of those two dames of rock could possibly produce some incredible material that bring Love the hit record she is desperately aiming for.

Courtney Love is at her best when she keeps it real without the fumes of a drug-induced haze. This is exactly why "Dirty Blond" is such a compelling read. The books shows the vulnerable and authentic side of Courtney Love that people love, admire, fear and root for.