Uniting Cultures Through Food

Bonnie Anderson, Scribe Reporter

Kwame Onwuachi, an astounding chef, most known for his appearance on Top Chef, as well as his heavily decorated prize titles, added to his list of accomplishments with his debut cookbook: My America. Released in May, the cookbook includes nearly 100 recipes for house seasonings, hearty mains and everything in between.

Not only has he won multiple James Beard awards, been honored as one of Food and Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs 30 under 30 in Forbes. In addition to all of these awards, Onwuachi also comes across as a genuinely personable and amicable person. Best known for his bestselling novel Notes From a Young Black Chef, he has also published a memoir chronicling his initial experiences with food and  wide travels during his childhood. 

Onwuachi’s begins his cookbook with a pantry section, in which he provides detailed directions in creating sauces, stocks, and spice blends that  become the basis for almost all of the recipes later on.  

All of his recipes, but especially his pantry items place a strong emphasis on cultural accuracy in regards to  the flavors as well as the sourcing of the ingredients. His specificity surrounding ingredients such as sweet paprika and grapeseed oil truly allows the cook to experience the authentic aspect of the dishes. His recipes all build upon one another, so you can begin to see overlap even within his house sauces. Each chapter focuses on a particular staple of cooking, ranging from grains to shellfish and finally concluding with desserts. 

Intermittently throughout the book, Onwuachi includes snippets of information about certain areas where he was influenced by the cultural food. Quite possibly my favorite was his description of Trinidad and Tobago where he vignettes a family trip with his father in the context of the local food fare. 

Though all of the recipes are detailed and have building levels of flavor, they are more difficult to approach for the average homecook. The restaurant quality of presentation and depth of flavor found only in fine dining has difficulty translating to an accessible cookbook for people of all cooking abilities. Overall, though, Onwuachi’s cookbook portrays a true work of culinary genius, with the vivid photography only adding to the effect of professionalism.

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