Interview with Chef Kwame Onwuachi of Kith and Kin restaurant in Washington, DC

KWAME ONWUACHI ‘14 is executive chef of Kith and Kin. Kwame’s mother first exposed him to cooking in the family’s Bronx apartment, where he helped peel shrimp and fabricate vegetables for her catering company. At age 11, he moved to Nigeria to live with his grandfather, who introduced him to a much different culture and cuisine from that of New York City. After returning to the United States and graduating high school, Kwame moved to Baton Rouge, where he got his first kitchen job cooking for the crews cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast. The job allowed him to save enough money to move back to New York City, where he found a job waiting tables at Craft. Wanting to venture out on his own, he sold candy on the subway, raising $20,000 in two months. The funds allowed him to start his own catering company, Coterie Catering. Kwame found his passion for cooking through catering and yearned for formal training, so he enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. The training led to jobs at Per Se, Thomas Keller’s Michelin-starred New York City restaurant, and Eleven Madison Park, the upscale Madison Avenue restaurant headed by famed chef Daniel Humm. In 2014, Dinner Lab selected Kwame to join eight other chefs for its pop-up dinner competition that awards the winner a chance to open new restaurant. He spent nine months cooking across the country, eventually winning the competition. Kwame went on to participate on Top Chef, ending as a semi-finalist in the top 6. He also was named among Forbes and Zagat’s 30 under 30 lists. He has cooked at The White House, James Beard House, as well as Chef’s Club in New York City. Kwame has secured a book deal with The Knopf Doubleday Group for a memoir and is now the executive chef of Kith and Kin in Washington DC. (Washington, DC)