Chef Kwame Onwuachi has cooked for high 
society on Madison avenue and for crews on oil spill cleanup ships in the Gulf. He’s cooked in New Orleans BBQ joints and on reality television. But Mr. Onwuachi seldom cooks for himself. “I don’t eat breakfast. I’m on the go. When I do remember to feed myself I’m usually having an espresso and maybe an egg,” he said.

Mr. Onwuachi’s fast-paced lifestyle could be due to his recent meteoric rise, fall, and rise again, all chronicled in his memoir, Notes From a Young Black Chef. His life is only going to get more dramatic.

Notes from a Young Black Chef will be adapted into a movie starring Lakeith Stanfield whose credits include starring roles in Get Out, Sorry to Bother You, Atlanta, among others. On July 15, the entertainment company A24 announced its acquisition of the rights to the memoir. Mr. Onwuachi will serve as executive producer of the film.

But at 11:30 a.m. on a Friday in July, Mr. Onwuachi had just stepped off a plane from a food event in Ireland. He was back in the kitchen of Philly Wing Fry, his restaurant in Washington D.C., and thinking about the Vineyard.

“I’ve never been to Martha’s Vineyard, but I’m excited to see what it’s all about,” he said. “I like being by the ocean. I’ll really get into the culture of the place. Cultural experience is big for me.”

Blending of cultures is nothing new for this chef. “I’ve been doing it my whole life, switching between worlds. Most of the working class lives outside of Manhattan and so did my family. You have to be able to navigate all sorts of worlds. Put them together and shift between them. My food does that too.”

Notes From a Young Black Chef chronicles Mr. Onwuachi’s odyssey through the Bronx, Washington D.C., Louisiana, Nigeria and back to Washington D.C. once more.

After attending the Culinary Institute of America, he opened Shaw Bijou, his first restaurant in Washington D.C. It was a high-end dining experience, with a $135 tasting menu. A combination of negative reviews and the high prices proved to be lethal. Shaw Bijou closed within two and a half months of opening.

In his book he writes: “As soon as Shaw Bijou closed, I was pretty much paralyzed with depression. I felt humiliated.”

His memoir is a tale of reinvention and revitalization. He sold candy on the subway to pay for culinary school. He started his own catering business. Things imploded, and new avenues unfolded. His mother, girlfriend and sister all gave him the push he needed to get back on his feet. Mr. Onwuachi dedicates the book to them and the other women in his family.

While his memoir ends with the closing of Shaw Bijou, the story continues.

In October, he opened the casual food franchise Philly Wing Fry in Washington D.C.’s Union Square Market. Then he opened a new high-end restaurant, Kith/Kin, and in May won the James Beard Award for Rising Chef Star of the Year.

The idea for Philly Wing Fry came from his love of chicken wings, cheese steaks and waffle fries. He has told reporters that he got the idea for the restaurant while smoking marijuana one evening after a long day in the kitchen at New York’s Eleven Madison Park restaurant.

Kith/Kin is located inside Washington D.C.’s Intercontinental Hotel. The menu centers around West African, Creole and Caribbean flavors. It debuted to critical acclaim and continues to have a full dining room.

“Being inside a hotel is great, because we get people who are already walking by, but it isn’t just people from out of town,” he said. “My restaurant is a neighborhood spot because D.C. comes out to eat there.”

Mr. Onwuachi has lived in neighborhoods all over the U.S. and outside of it. In his memoir, he chronicles his time living with his grandfather in Nigeria. Interspersed with tales of travel are recipes for oxtail, suyas and curries. There are also recipes for London broil and shrimp etouffee.

“It's validating when I can be in Dublin or Detroit and people love my food,” he said.

The food itself is only a part of the equation. “I realized that being a cook wasn’t only about providing people with food, but rather providing them with the feeling that they were cared for,” he said.

And while he is often too busy to feed himself, cooking for a community provides a different kind of nourishment.

“It's really cool. Most people eat three times a day and I can be an integral part of that, a celebratory ritual, to have a hand in that,” he said. “I mean I get to change someone’s life every day. I’m grateful for it.”

On Saturday, August 3 at 1 p.m, Kwame Onwuachi will take part in a panel called Memoir: Where We Came From; Who We Came to Be. On Sunday, August 4 at 9:50 a.m. he will participate in a discussion with Jessica Harris.