D.C.-based chef Kwame Onwuachi appeared on The Daily Show last night to promote his new memoir, Notes From a Young Black Chef.
Fresh off his win last month for the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year award, Onwuachi went through a CliffsNotes version of his life story with host Trevor Noah, talking about how he went from selling drugs in a gang in New York City to helming the kitchen at Kith and Kin, his essential Afro-Caribbean restaurant inside the InterContinental Hotel at D.C.’s waterfront Wharf development.
The Top Chef alum appeared comfortable in front of the camera, drawing laughs from Noah and the crowd with an anecdote about elements of his old life colliding with his new one during a pop-up dinner in Miami.
The most striking parts of the conversation were when Onwuachi and Noah rehashed the part of the chef’s book when he describes the wake-up call he had when he watched former President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
“I didn’t think I’d see a black president in my lifetime,” the 29-year-old tells Noah, going on to describe how he went about improving his life on a gradual pace: “I told myself every year I just wanted to be doing better than I was doing last year. And now 10 years later, here I am talking to you.”
Onwuachi’s book describes the challenges he faced as a black chef in fine-dining kitchens and questions the concept of “paying dues” for talented young cooks. On Comedy Central, he said he thinks his success story is applicable to anyone in any industry.
“Anything is possible,” Onwuachi says on the show. “If you really put your mind to it and you work and you put in the hours, and you just outwork anyone else, you can be successful in any field you’re in.”
Check out the full interview below: