Whipping up breakfast at home in Shaw, Kwame Onwuachi is focused on another kitchen nearby. The Shaw Bijou, his highly anticipated restaurant, has just opened in a row house within view of his apartment’s gleaming white kitchen, where the sleep-deprived chef is savoring a rare morning off with fiancée Mya Allen and their puppy, Clove.
The couple’s spice collection, which ranges from Calabrian chilis to Ethiopian berbere, hints at Onwuachi’s global approach to cooking. “My mother is Creole and my dad is Nigerian and Jamaican. I grew up in the Bronx, a melting pot of all different cuisines,” he says. “I tell my story with food.”
So far, his crowd-pleasers include Alaskan king crab in garlic sauce with grated uni bottarga, and a play on steak and eggs combining wagyu beef with soubise and a pickled quail egg. “Flavor and spices translate over different continents,” he says.
Before moving to DC in 2015, Onwuachi launched a catering company, studied at The Culinary Institute of America and survived 12 episodes on Bravo’s “Top Chef.” He created a series of pop-up restaurants around the country, Washington investors came calling and The Shaw Bijou was born.
The couple hasn’t set a wedding date yet, but Onwuachi has a wish list for his dream kitchen in a future home: an island with refrigerator and freezer drawers, a French-top range with gas burners and a combination oven (heat and steam).
For now, his sights are set on The Shaw Bijou, where a 13-course meal starts at $185 per person and where, Onwuachi says, he wants guests to feel as though they’re dining in “a very nice house.”
ALWAYS ON HAND: “Chilis, garlic, ginger, lime and sambal for something spicy and acidic. And leftover Chinese food.”
MUST HAVES: “My Vita-Prep blender so I can make a sauce on the fly. And my handmade Japanese knives.”
DINNER AFTER HOURS: “After a long day, I’d probably sear a piece of steak, straight up. That’s it.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Following the publication of this article in December 2016, The Shaw Bijou announced its closure on January 15, 2017.