Celebrated chef Kwame Onwuachi will join a star-studded roster chosen to serve hungry tennis fans at the US Open this summer, Side Dish can reveal exclusively.
Onwuachi, the Long Island born, Bronx-raised Nigerian-American chef, wowed New Yorkers with his restaurant Tatiana when it launched at Lincoln Center’s Geffen Hall last year — including my colleague Steve Cuozzo, who called the short rib pastrami suya on the menu his favorite new dish of the decade so far.
Now, the former “Top Chef” star and tennis fan will make his first appearance on an even grander stage in Queens.
“I’m so excited to be a part of this year’s US Open,” Onwuachi tells Side Dish. “As a native New Yorker, it’s always an exciting time in the city. I went to the Open with my grandmother when I was 12 and saw Venus and Serena play. It was amazing. Tennis is a global sport, with elite players descending from all over the world.
“The global influences of Tatiana’s cuisine, along with the underlying nod to the food and culture of New York City, should be a good match for that.”
Onwuachi says he will be cooking up some of Tatiana’s greatest hits, including hamachi escovitch with avocado, carrot nage and marinated peppers; black bean hummus with berbere-spiced lamb, sweet pickled sultana and M’semen; crispy okra with honey, mustard and peppa sauce; and pepper steak, a 14oz ribeye, with stewed peppers and pickled onions.
He will be joined by a pair of other food court first timers: Michelin-starred chef James Kent, of Crown Shy and SAGA eateries, and Melba Wilson, the revered chef whose Southern comfort food has been a longtime hit at iconic Melba’s Restaurant in Harlem.
When she’s not dishing out her signature chicken and eggnog waffles at her Harlem-based empire, Wilson also likes to take in a tennis match.
“It has parallels to life for me,” she said. “You know that there are many people in the village of the player that show up to give all of what the village pours into them. It reminds me of the village that shows up for me everyday. My village — my Harlem.”
She recalled attending her first US Open in 1983 and the joy she experienced in watching Yannick Noah.
“It was magical watching him move across the court with Harlem Globetrotter moves, swinging his racket, behind his back and between his legs. His performance was like nothing I’d ever seen,” Wilson said. “The crowd, the excitement, the thrill of being in that space excited me and showed me that diversity in a game matched what I aimed to achieve through my culinary gifts in the kitchen.”
Other chefs slated to return to the US Open stage include Alex Guarnaschelli, Josh Capon, Masaharu Morimoto, David Burke, and burger baron Pat LaFrieda.
Foodies and tennis fans will have a chance to taste some of their signature dishes and meet them in person at the US Open’s second annual premiere food event, “Flavors of the Open,” on Aug. 24. Tickets for the event cost $175, with some of the proceeds going to the USTA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the United States Tennis Association, said USTA’s Nicole Kankam, managing director of marketing and entertainment.
The event attracted 1,200 people last year and USTA hopes that number will be higher this year, Kankam added.
More than 700,000 people flock over the two weeks the US Open is played at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center each year, said US Open executive chef Jim Abbey, who overseas a team of 250 people who prepare food across seven restaurants, 60 concession stands and 90 suites.
“It’s one of my favorite food events of the year. For both the veterans and new players at the US Open, this is a great moment to shine,” Guarnaschelli said.
“I love being a part of the US Open, because all of the food from all of the venues share a great synergy with the sport of tennis and its incredible players. It’s honestly a privilege.”
The Flavors of the Open event will also showcase some great tennis stars, headlined by legendary doubles duo Bob and Mike Bryan, and Caroline Wozniacki, the former world No. 1 and Australian Open champ who announced she will come out of retirement and play in this year’s US Open.
“Flavors of the Open combines great food from world class chefs and benefits the USTA Foundation, which does amazing work for young people across the country,” Mike Bryan said.
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