Grit and defiance infuse a revealing self-portrait.



An ambitious chef chronicles his rocky journey to success.

In an impassioned debut memoir, Onwuachi, assisted by journalist and restaurant critic Stein, reflects on his unlikely transformation from a gang member to—at the age of 27—the chef of his own fine-dining restaurant in Washington, D.C., where he currently is executive chef at another venue. Growing up in the Bronx, he shifted between his mother’s cramped apartment and the upscale home of his sadistic father, who fell into ferocious rages and beat him. The beatings only incited the author’s rebelliousness, and his frustrated mother sent him to live with his grandfather in Nigeria to “learn respect.” Whatever self-knowledge he gained in Nigeria, though, did not survive the violence-ridden Bronx projects, where he soon earned status and money by dealing drugs. He continued to deal in college, pocketing $3,000 per week selling to dorm mates, until he was expelled. Depressed and rootless but enamored by cooking, Onwuachi took “a sad-ass parade of short-lived menial jobs” in restaurants and, briefly, worked with his mother, a caterer. As cook on a cleanup ship for the Deepwater Horizon spill, he grew certain that he had “the palate, the recipes, the heart” to be a first-rate chef. To hone his skills, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America, at the same time running his own catering company to pay tuition. An externship at the famed Manhattan restaurant Per Se and a job at the prestigious Eleven Madison Park were intense, eye-opening experiences. Onwuachi is forthright about the obstacles he faced: kitchens “poisoned by racism” and the assumption that “what the world wants to see is a black chef making black food.” Determined to succeed on his own terms, he learned “to hustle to get ahead, to write my own story, and to manipulate, to the extent that I could, how I was seen.” Recipes following each chapter show the range of Onwuachi’s talents.

Grit and defiance infuse a revealing self-portrait.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3262-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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