Chef Kwame Williams Disrupts Jamaican American Tradition Through his Culinary Art

Chef Kwame’s innovative take on Jamaican-American cuisine tests the boundaries of authenticity and identity.

Chef Kwame Williams Profile

Photo Cred: Chef Kwame Williams

Chef Kwame’s menus showcase traditional Jamaican flavors with distinct new combinations

Kwame’s transformations of Jamaican-American cuisine create shock and awe while also providing a sense of comfort. Whether the dish is his deconstructed beef patty pasta or strawberry shortcake with white strawberries, Kwame pushes the boundaries of traditional recipes.

Chef Kwame Williams Quote

Kwame's hunger for experimentation grew from childhood wonder and curiosity

Coming from a Caribbean background, his childhood memories center around Sunday meals, where food dominated family gatherings. Hosting large dinners with family mirrors how he creates private dinners and serves his guests today.

Coming from a Caribbean background, I'm the first generation of Jamaican parents and grandparents, and in particular, Sunday meals were always a big thing. Whenever we had meals over the weekend, it was a big family affair – like you couldn't eat at the table because there was so much food on the table.

Within each of his dishes, Kwame incorporates core memories of his childhood meals into his menus. Memories of vinegar from sandwiches from his local corner shop bodega to the aromas from his parent’s kitchen show up in each of his dishes.

Before studying culinary arts, his education began with commercial kitchens

Kwame started cooking in commercial kitchens when he was 15, and his passion grew naturally. Preparing meals for scale and practicing his curiosity with experimentation was his day-to-day. Following his studies at the Institute of Culinary Education, the school solidified his desire to become a chef and opened new doors for him as an artist.

I remember one time doing a strawberry shortcake with white strawberries. The strawberries themselves are entirely the same, but they look oddly different. Naturally, you think it's unripe and will taste sour or hard and textured. But then, the moment it touches your mouth, it's a familiar flavor. It sparks the curiosity of presenting something very familiar in an unfamiliar way.

The deconstructed beef patty pasta

Through experimentation, Kwame combines well-known traditional Jamaican flavors with the unfamiliar. His deconstructed beef patty pasta dish is a unique blend of nostalgia and tradition. The dish is transformed into pasta made from flour, turmeric, and curry and topped off with a brown butter sauce and beef. It represents an homage to his roots and showcases his unique technique of fusing Italian and Jamaican flavorings.

Chef Kwame Williams Quote 2

Throwing out traditional ideals of authenticity allowed Kwame to grow as a chef

Struggling to find his authentic self, Kwame dedicated his culinary art to better understanding his true identity. As a first-generation Jamaican American, Kwame initially wanted to recreate dishes solely from his childhood. However, when he found himself in the kitchen, he gravitated toward uncommonly used spices and ingredients.

He can create new tastes and experiences by recreating new versions of authenticity. Within the middle of both cultures, he shares his true identity through the blend. Above all, while throwing out tradition and authentic cuisine, Kwame hopes to draw attention to the experiencing identity within the American experience.

Even with my restaurant, I often felt it had an identity crisis. And my food identity crisis was actually my own. I've realized my food is very contemporary American, but the spices and Jamaican flavors in the tradition are still pumping strong.

Pushing boundaries in the culinary world allows Kwame to continue to evolve and transform traditional recipes into his own. Having reconciled his feelings of identity, Kwame uses food to share his experience of how he learned how to accept his authentic self. Kwame’s guests join a nostalgic tour of his childhood while experiencing continuous evolutions of unique food combinations.

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