Celebrity chef Kwame Onwuachi is planning a surprise return to DC’s southwest waterfront

Acclaimed chef Kwame Onwuachi is making a triumphant return to DC this fall with the opening of a new restaurant at the foot of the chic Salamander Washington DC.

The national culinary icon and author, who plans to make the blockbuster announcement today alongside Salamander Collection CEO Sheila Johnson, will reveal her restaurant’s name, cuisine and theme at a later date. The 200-seat newcomer will reactivate the lobby level space where Eric Ziebold’s long-closed CityZen once sat. Last September, Johnson bought the stylish 373-room property that once flew the Mandarin Oriental flag and transformed it into Salamander (1330 Maryland Ave SW).

The new restaurant will be located to the left of the Salamander roundabout entrance.

Bentel & Bentel, the architects behind the luxurious looks of New York’s Gramercy Tavern and the three-Michelin-starred Bernardin, will redesign the DC Hotel’s flagship dining establishment.

Onwuachi hasn’t cooked in DC since the early days of the pandemic, and this marks his second act at another swanky hotel along the scenic Potomac River. In July 2020, he suddenly left his position as executive chef at Kith/Kin, the fine Afro-Caribbean restaurant he opened in fall 2017 at the InterContinental hotel at the Wharf. (This sleek, waterfront lobby-level space is now home to chef Kevin Tien’s modern Vietnamese centerpiece, Moon Rabbit.)

Under Onwuachi’s watch, Kith/Kin’s jerk chicken with tamarind barbecue sauce, whole fried snapper escovitch and other hit dishes that traced the roads of the African diaspora helped him win the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Award and winning the title of one of Food & Wine‘s Best New Chefs in 2019. That same year, he published a best-selling memoir chronicling his rise in the world of fine dining as a young black chef. Kith/Kin was the ultimate comeback story for a chef whose first DC restaurant, the ostentatious and ambitious Shaw Bijou, collapsed within months.

The Bronx native returned to his New York roots last fall with the highly anticipated opening of Tatiana, his Afro-Caribbean restaurant at Lincoln Center that received rave reviews in its first months of operation. Much like Kith/Kin, Tatiana honors her family’s origins in Nigeria, Jamaica, Trinidad, and New Orleans, as well as her upbringing in all five boroughs.

“The time has come to return to DC, and I can’t think of a more fitting place to open a new restaurant that speaks to DC’s character and lineage than at this legendary Salamander property,” Onwuachi says, in a communicated.

Sheila Johnson, CEO of Salamander Collection.
Drew Xeron

During the pandemic, Onwuachi has developed a close bond with Johnson in co-creating Family Reunion at his flagship Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia. The quaint equestrian town hosts foodies each August for the multi-day Culinary Festival that celebrates diversity in the hospitality industry. The third annual edition, in partnership with Food & Wine (August 17-20), poster already sold out.

“From the moment we launched Salamander Washington DC, I wanted to help bring Kwame back to our capital,” Johnson said in a statement. “He is an inspiration and a generational talent, and we look forward to playing our part in his next success.”

The first black billionaire businesswoman, recently named CEO of the Year by the Washington Business Journal, is also president of the titan Monumental Sports & Entertainment behind the Washington Wizards of the NBA, the Washington Capitals of the NHL and the Washington Mystics of the WNBA. The BET co-founder is also releasing her own memoir in September.

His private Salamander Collection hotel group also includes resorts and upscale hotels in Jamaica, Anguilla, Aspen, Colorado, Charleston, South Carolina and St. Petersburg, Florida.

Family Reunion 2022

Sheila Johnson and Chef Kwame Onwuachi (front row center) pose with the Class of 2022 Family Reunion Chefs at the Family Reunion at the Salamander Resort on August 20, 2022 in Middleburg, Virginia.
Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images

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