The National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Robert Chicoine)

“This doesn’t happen every night,” said chef Kwame Onwuachi of the almost open Shaw Bijou, in perhaps the understatement of the century — or maybe just that evening. “This” being an intimate Thursday night dinner prepared by the young superstar chef himself on the exclusive fifth-floor terrace of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in honor of the building’s superstar architect David Adjaye.

In fact, it was the first such event the newly opened museum had hosted, a particularly this town-style bragging right not lost on the 60 or so VIP guests, including actress Emayatzy Corinealdi, artist Lorna Simpson and museum council co-chair Linda Johnson Rice.


Guests at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Robert Chicoine)

Hosted by Dom Pérignon and the museum, the four-course meal set against the backdrop of impossible views of the Washington monument all the way up to the U.S. Capitol, was a “pinch yourself” moment for Adjaye and his firm David Adjaye & Associates.

“This museum really is a hundred years in the making,” said Adjaye, whose company was selected to design the building, a contemporary bronze crown on Constitution Avenue, in 2009. “To go from a thought in the middle of the night to being here now is kind of a magical moment.”


Architect David Adjaye and his wife, Ashley, at a dinner held in his honor at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Robert Chicoine)

Adjaye, who was once rumored to be on the shortlist to design President Obama’s library in Chicago, then thanked his wife, Ashley, a former model turned MBA, who he said endured “lots of pain” during the seven-year design process.

“So it’s nice to be drinking champagne,” Adjaye joked.

After the plates of candied yam velouté and new shell lobster, which induced a steady stream of “wows” and “ahhhs,” were cleared, the crowd headed downstairs to the museum’s Contemplative Court, a meditative space which features a cascading waterfall. On the ride down, one attendee summed up the night thusly: “This is something we’ll remember forever.”