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Yes, Chef

Samuelsson, Marcus

(Book - 2012)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Yes, Chef
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"It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother's house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations. Marcus Samuelsson was only three years old when he, his mother, and his sister--all battling tuberculosis--walked seventy-five miles to a hospital in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Adaba. Tragically, his mother succumbed to the disease shortly after she arrived, but Marcus and his sister recovered, and one year later, they were welcomed into a loving middle-class white family in Gothenburg, Sweden. It was there that Marcus's new grandmother, Helga, sparked in him a lifelong passion for food and cooking with her pan-fried herring, her freshly baked bread, and her signature roast chicken. From a very early age, there was little question what Marcus was going to be when he grew up. Yes, Chef chronicles Marcus Samuelsson's remarkable journey from Helga's humble kitchen to some of the most demanding and cutthroat restaurants in Switzerland and France, from his grueling stints on cruise ships to his arrival in New York City, where his outsize talent and ambition finally come together at Aquavit, earning him a coveted New York Times three-star rating at the age of twenty-four. But Samuelsson's career of "chasing flavors," as he calls it, had only just begun--in the intervening years, there have been White House State dinners, career crises, reality show triumphs and, most important, the opening of the beloved Red Rooster in Harlem. At Red Rooster, Samuelsson has fufilled his dream of creating a truly diverse, multiracial dining room--a place where presidents and prime ministers rub elbows with jazz musicians, aspiring artists, bus drivers, and nurses. It is a place where an orphan from Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, living in America, can feel at home. With disarming honesty and intimacy, Samuelsson also opens up about his failures as a man--the price of ambition, in human terms--and recounts his emotional journey, as a grown man, to meet the father he never knew. Yes, Chef is a tale of personal discovery, unshakable determination, and the passionate, playful pursuit of flavors--one man's struggle to find a place for himself in the kitchen, and in the world"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Random House, 2012
ISBN: 9780385342605
0385342608
Branch Call Number: 641.5092 S1939y 2012
Characteristics: 319 p., [16] p. of plates :,ill. ;,25 cm

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Marcus Samuelsson was only three years old when he, his mother, and his sister--all battling tuberculosis--walked seventy-five miles to a hospital in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Adaba. From these tragic circumstances, a cook was born.

Yes, Chef is a tale of personal discovery, unshakable determination, and the passionate, playful pursuit of flavors--one man's struggle to find a place for himself in the kitchen, and in the world.


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Having no idea Samuelsson has "celebrity chef" status, I picked this up because I'm interested in professional cooking and kitchens, and by the diverse experiences of fairly recent immigrants to the U.S. This book delivers on both those counts, offering entry not only into an elite world of cooking, but also into the deeply personal journey of an impressive person with a passion for flavor and equal opportunity.

Jul 22, 2012
  • ksoles rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

In his elegantly written new memoir, Marcus Samuelsson chronicles his remarkable journey from near death in an Ethiopian tuberculosis epidemic to celebrity chef. Largely, "Yes, Chef" reads like a personal tale about the bonds Samuelsson forms with his family: his adoptive Swedish parents, the biological father he had long thought dead, his half-siblings and the estranged daughter he fathered during a fling as a young culinary student.

But above all, this is a tale of hard work. Samuelsson applies himself to cooking with boundless love and devotion. He pushes himself through cooking school and into starter jobs and unpaid internships in increasingly prestigious restaurants all over the world. Landing in New York, he joins the kitchen of Swedish restaurant Aquavit and, at the age of 24, becomes executive chef and receives a three-star review from "The New York Times" restaurant critic, Ruth Reichl. He goes on to win a James Beard award, appear on “Top Chef Masters,” and create the Obamas’ first official state dinner.

Anyone interested in a career in the kitchen will benefit from the anecdotes and advice in “Yes, Chef.” Anyone interested in food and the restaurant industry will thoroughly enjoy Samuelsson's story. It strips away any misbegotten notions of glamour that aspiring chefs may have gleaned from food television. Instead, it offers a model of how to comport oneself in the kitchen, with humility and endless effort. The memoir also offers insight into how chefs think, build flavors and create dishes.

Samuelsson eternally champions the flavors of the world and challenges the dominance of French cuisine. “Food and flavours,” he writes, “have become my first language.”

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