Photo Credit: Kwame Onwuachi
Chef Kwame Onwuachi's 'Family Reunion' Event Is A Celebration Of Black Food Culture
Chef Kwame Onwuachi was barely five years old when he says his mother threw an apron on him to help out in the kitchen. She owned a catering company that she operated from their home, which meant all hands on deck. That was his introduction to the culinary world, but it’s always been the family business.
“I come from a long line of cooks,” he shared with Travel Noire. “My grandmother had a restaurant, my great grandmother had a restaurant, and it was just natural that I stepped into that.”
Onwuachi has carried on the family legacy proudly. He is now a James Beard Award-winning chef who has amassed a truckload of accolades including Esquire Magazine’s 2019 Chef of the Year, one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2019, a place on the Time 100 Next List, a 30 Under 30 honoree by Zagat and Forbes, and the most important Chef in America according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He also penned a memoir entitled ‘Notes from a Young Black Chef.’
Now he is turning his attention to amplifying Black and brown voices in the food industry with the Family Reunion, an event celebrating Black cooking culture. From August 19 to 22, 2021, guests will be treated to a spectacular blowout starting with a Cook Out (naturally), lavish dinners, wine tastings, sessions with some of the industry’s brightest stars including Padma Lakshmi, Carla Hall, Nina Compton, Carlton McCoy, Mashama Bailey, Rodney Scott, and a Sunday Service Gospel Choir.
To help bring his idea to life, Chef Kwame got an assist from Sheila Johnson, Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder and the lone African-American woman to fully own a Forbes five-star resort. Food & Wine magazine is also partnering with Johnson’s Salamander Hotels & Resorts for the initiative, which will aid the fight against childhood hunger and provide mentorship and scholarship towards diversification of the hospitality industry.
Chef Kwame spoke with Travel Noire about what guests can expect at the Family Reunion, his culinary style, and plans for future editions.
Travel Noire: How did the concept of the Family Reunion come about?
Kwame Onwuachi: I always wanted an event that could celebrate Black contributions in the food industry. You can’t really talk about America and its cuisine or any of its history without highlighting the Black experience. And the Black experience isn’t monolithic. We’re so diverse: from the Caribbean, West Africa, and many more places. So, I think this event is a culmination of that and is really going to celebrate that in its entirety.
TN: How did the partnership with Sheila Johnson come together?
KO: I met Sheila Johnson in the Bahamas at The Coterie Retreat. And we connected and really wanted to figure out a way to work together, but also to create something that was different and needed in the culinary industry. So the Family Reunion was born. And now we’re about to throw the biggest food party of the year.
TN: What can guests look forward to at the Family Reunion?
KO: Culture. You can expect inspiration. You can expect great food and great wine. I would say there are so many things that you can take away from this, but most importantly, you’re going to come as friends and leave as family. There’s going to be cooking demonstrations, breakout sessions, and panel discussions. You can learn the history of jerk from Andre Fowles. You can learn the history of suya from Michael Elégbède. You can learn how to fish. You can go zip lining. There’s gonna be an African night market with drummers and special performances. There’s going to be a block party with special guests and food indicative of that. So this is just highlighting all the beauty that Black creatives in the food space are and have been contributing, and it’s going to give a voice to the inaudible.
TN: You mentioned Caribbean and West African cuisine earlier. What is your culinary style?
KO: My food style is very diverse. I definitely have a heavy influence or heavy background in Afro Caribbean cuisine. My family is from Jamaica, Trinidad, Nigeria, and Louisiana. So you have a lot of flavor there and a lot of history. And I like to tell a story on a plate.
TN: I know this is the first one, but do you envision this as an annual event?
KO: Yeah. We’re hoping to do this annually, but we’re gonna see how this first year goes. And then take it from there.
Tickets for the Family Reunion can be purchased at www.SalamanderHotels.com/FamilyReunion.