Chef Kwame Onwuachi — known for the Shaw Bijou and Kith/Kin in Washington D.C., plus Tatiana in New York City — will open an Afro-Caribbean restaurant inside the Black-owned Salamander Washington D.C.
In an interview with the outlet, Onwuachi discussed how Banneker’s influence on the city’s design became the impetus for the restaurant’s theme.
“I really looked at the land. That’s what I like to do. My mantra is, if something has a story, it has a soul,” Onwuachi said, per the publication.
The Bronx native, named “Rising Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation in 2019, is no stranger to the city. Onwuachi’s grandfather was a professor at Howard University, and Onwuachi considers D.C. a “second home.”
In addition to heading the now-closed Shaw Bijou, a tasting menu-based restaurant in Northwest D.C., Onwuachi became the executive chef at Kith/Kin in 2017.
At the time, Kith/Kin was owned by the Intercontinental Hotel Group, and upon leaving the restaurant in 2020, Onwuachi shared his desire to cook for a Black-owned establishment.
“Something that profits off of Black and brown dollars should be Black-owned,” Onwuachi told The New York Times when asked about his departure.
In 2022, Sheila Johnson — owner of the Salamander properties, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), and America’s first Black woman billionaire — partnered with private equity firm Henderson Park to purchase the former Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Southwest D.C. The deal was reportedly worth $140 million, according to NBC4 Washington.
Since 2021, Onwuachi has hosted the Family Reunion, a celebration of diversity and inclusion in the restaurant industry, at Salamander’s Middleburg, VA, property. He was on board when Johnson approached him about opening a restaurant in the newly-conceived hotel.
Alluding to his earlier comments, Onwuachi told The Washington Post he is thrilled the business will be “Black-owned, top to bottom.”
The menu isn’t finalized yet, but Onwuachi revealed to the outlet that diners can anticipate an astronomy-themed vibe, in a nod to Banneker and dishes that will celebrate his Afro-Caribbean heritage while honoring the history of this city.
According to Dōgon’s website, the restaurant is set to open in spring 2024.