The Bronx being one of the most ethnically diverse places in New York City means that it’s a recipe for great culinary delights.
At least that’s the way one Bronx chef, Kwame Onwuachi, who’s getting ready to open his own restaurant in Washington, DC sees it.
Saveur, a magazine dedicated to the world of food, writes:
“No—for Onwuachi, who’s about to open The Shaw Bijou in Washington, D.C., “it started in the Bronx with [his] mom.”
That meant a steady diet of West African fufu, Jamaican jerk, and Puerto Rican pernil, everything a Creole-Jamaican-Nigerian family needs for a taste of home, and everything a curious cook, who started peeling shrimp in his mother’s kitchen at the age of eight, needs to kick off a lifelong obsession with global cooking.
In the Bronx, a borough that draws more foreign immigrants than entire metropolitan areas, about half of the area’s households speak a language other than English at home. It is, bar none, one of the most linguistically and ethnically diverse places on Earth, where Puerto Ricans rub shoulders with Ghanaians, Bangladeshis, and Jamaicans. All of those communities cook—in many cases extremely well—and this is where you’ll find New York’s mightiest roast pork, its most delicate Salvadoran pupusas, and its only instances of, say, Garinagu cuisine or hyper-obscure Italian charcuterie.
Yet in a city that prides itself on eating globally with residents who will gladly travel and queue up for good food, most adventurous diners who live outside the Bronx have never actually set foot in a restaurant there. And that’s a shame. A population that boasts fearlessness regarding, well, everything shouldn’t need Anthony Bourdain to uncover the cooking happening a few subway stops away.
“I think people just write off the Bronx as not a destination,” Onwuachi says, “but I think it’s our job as chefs to educate people about different places that are meaningful.”
If you look at the chicken with mojo sauce on Shaw Bijou’s menu, you don’t have to go far to see where it comes from. Onwuachi’s untraditional mojo may be a fluid gel set over tempura-style fried chicken, but it begins with the Puerto Rican and Dominican diners around Baychester Avenue. His lamb sweetbreads with smoked white sesame and chiles? An homage to the halal cart lamb over rice you’ll find all around the Bronx.”
Head on over to Saveur and check out which restaurants Onwuachi likes to go to in our borough.
What are you favorite restaurants in our borough, we’d love to hear from you as always!