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Campus Book Read 2020: Notes from a Young Black Chef

This guide includes supplemental teaching resources to help you discuss Notes from a Young Black Chef and the book's themes with your students.

Notes from a Young Black Chef

Discussion Questions

  1. The title of Kwame Onwuachi’s memoir, Notes from a Young Black Chef, riffs on the title of a similar book, Daniel Boulud’s Letters to a Young Chef.  While both books offer mentorship to up and coming chefs, Boulud assumes that all chefs have equal opportunities within the meritocracy of a fine-dining kitchen while Onwuachi assumes nothing and points out ways that seeming meritocracies can work against people.  In what ways did seeming meritocracies work against Onwuachi?  What can all readers, not just young chefs, learn from Onwuachi’s experiences?
  2. “Paying your dues” is a recurring topic in Notes from a Young Black Chef.  In what ways is “paying your dues” necessary, and in what ways is it a tool to keep minorities (women, LGBTQ+, people of color, etc.) out of professional kitchens or other workplaces?
  3. Kwame Onwuachi doesn’t shy away from naming names and calling out inappropriate behavior in the kitchens he has worked in.  Is it important to openly talk about these incidents using real examples?  Why or why not?
  4. Onwuachi’s food is inspired by African, Caribbean, African-American, and other influences.  He resists being pigeonholed into cooking soul food because that is what people expect from a black chef.  Why do you think Onwuachi places so much emphasis on authenticity and cooking food that tells his story?

Additional Resources