Food

Star Chef Kwame Onwuachi Has Left Kith/Kin at the DC Wharf

The Afro-Caribbean restaurant, a tribute to Onwuachi's family roots, remains open.

Photograph courtesy of Kwame Onwuachi.
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Kwame Onwuachi has left his high-profile Afro-Caribbean restaurant, Kith/Kin, at the DC Wharf. The lauded chef and Notes from a Young Black Chef author announced the departure via Instagram on Monday.

“Change is difficult and sometimes uncomfortable, but change is necessary for growth. Whatever my next venture is I will continue the dream and open something of my own where we can all stand taller together,” Onwuachi says.

View this post on Instagram

This is hard. This isn't easy, but it's necessary. Yesterday was my last service as the Executive Chef of Kith/Kin. Opening Kith/Kin was a dream, for me and for many. It was a dream for the 272 slaves from Georgetown that sailed down the Potomac, leaving from right in front of where Kith/Kin stands, not knowing where they’d end up. For the 77 slaves in 1848 that were trying to achieve freedom by commandeering a ship from the wharf with the goal of equality. A dream for the Native Americans and Africans who
met here, where these buildings stand, trading ideas and practices in order to survive. This place was for dreamers, least notably me, but dreamers who maintained faith that one day their culture would be accepted as equal and significant.
The road has been tough, the journey sometimes treacherous, but what truly brought us joy was our ability to contribute – to make Washington, D.C. a place where those dreams can come true. A place where everyone is welcomed; where the inaudible have a voice, and anyone can be themselves.
To my team, I have learned so much from each and every one of you. Thank you for pushing 110% every day and giving us almost 4 beautiful years of service. To the District, thank you for giving us a platform in order to give opportunities to all. Change is difficult and sometimes uncomfortable, but change is necessary for growth. Whatever my next venture is I will continue the dream and open something of my own where we can all stand taller together. Thank you for everything.

A post shared by Kwame Onwuachi (@chefkwameonwuachi) on

Kith/Kin debuted nearly four years ago in the Wharf’s InterContinental hotel as an intimate, finder dining tribute to Onwuachi’s family roots in Nigeria, the Caribbean, and New Orleans. National accolades soon followed, including a James Beard “Rising Star Chef” award in 2019. Despite Onwuachi’s departure, the restaurant will remain open. In a joint statement from Onwuachi and the InterContinental, hotel general manager James Ryan says, “The original spirit and vision of Kith/Kin remains alive and well as the restaurant is open in accordance with D.C. COVID-19 regulations, serving locals and guests from around the world.”

Onwuachi declined to comment directly for this article.

Onwuachi’s departure closely follows that of Kith/Kin rising star pastry chef Paola Velez, who announced on Instagram last week that she was leaving the restaurant to join the team at Logan Circle’s Compass Rose and Maydan. Most recently Velez spearheaded Bakers Against Racism, a grassroots campaign started by three DC pastry chefs that raised $1,859,234.08 for racial justice organizations worldwide. 

 When Covid-19 hit the DC area in mid-March, Onwuachi was among the first high-profile chefs to close the doors and lay off his staff instead of experimenting with a takeout model, telling Fast Company,I want to be optimistic. I think Kith and Kin is going to be all right. But a lot of small restaurants are uncertain about their future.” The restaurant reopened in June with a more casual approach, serving Onwuachi’s riffs on Jamaican carryout fare on the patio.

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Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.