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Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson
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Yes, Chef: A Memoir (2014)

by Marcus Samuelsson

Other authors: Susan Turner (Designer)

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» See also 79 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
We enjoyed the audio version of the book. The author's voice beautifully expessed the passion, humanity and energy which are part of his work made this a wonderful story. This is much more than the many celebrity tv show chef kitchen escapade books common now. ( )
  LadyVivace | Jul 13, 2018 |
I don't generally read memoirs, but I've seen this author on several cooking shows and he seemed very personable and his food looked really good, so I tried his book and enjoyed it. The audiobook was read by the author and he did a good job. He writes well and seemed to be trying to avoid being too easy on himself.

Marcus and his older sister were adopted by a Swedish couple after the children's mother died of tuberculosis in Ethiopia. Marcus was about 2 at the time so he has no direct memories of his mother, but she was very brave in saving her children by getting them to a hospital. Much later in his life he discovered that his father and many step siblings were still living in Ethiopia.

Food connects Marcus to both his Ethiopian and Swedish roots and along the way he has added influences (and languages) from Switzerland, Austria, France and Africa. He has led a very focused life, which is what it takes to succeed in the world of high end cuisine, where "yes chef" is the only acceptable response. I first heard of him when he became the head chef of Aquavit in NYC when he was only 24. Later, he had to buy his way out of that relationship and is now the owner of restaurants in Harlem. Along the way, he won Top Chef Masters and executed the first Obama state dinner. Charmingly, he also cooked the identical meal in his apartment for a group of Harlem grammar school students. ( )
  fhudnell | Jun 8, 2018 |
(Book club selection)

An Ethiopian child is adopted by a Swedish couple, then becomes one of the most respected new chefs in the United States (with detours along the way in several European countries.)

Samuelson is a gifted chef, but he's also a good writer. His passion for food (and soccer and language) is evident. This could have become another formulaic "how I succeeded against the odds" story, but Samuelson admits his childhood was relatively easy (once he was adopted) and doesn't shirk from admitting his mistakes, especially concerning his own child. ( )
  Yaaresse | Apr 24, 2018 |
A fascinating story of a young Ethiopian boy and his sister who get adopted by a Swedish couple and his rise to become a renowned chef. I had this on my "to read" list for a while, and I am glad to say the wait for the book to come out in paperback was definitely worth it.

The book tells of his life, from being orphaned at a young age in Ethiopia, only to be adopted and to be raised in Sweden. Samuelsson travels around the world, from Sweden to Austria to France to the US and places in between, gaining experience in kitchens of various chefs and to go on to opening his own restaurants.

Admittedly I felt the book was quite mixed and varied. I thoroughly enjoyed his telling of his beginnings from Ethiopia to his childhood in Sweden. His early years in culinary school and rising as an inexperienced chef were also quite interesting, but after a while I found his stories about how to make foods and dishes a little tedious--that's not something that interests me, especially when it seems like they pop up every few pages.

I also found his description of his personal life and experiences very fascinating. It's clear cooking is what he does and being a cook is who he is. But when he ends up becoming a father after a one night stand, he isn't ready to be a father. He sends money, but I couldn't help but feel a little sad for his daughter, Zoe. It seems the mother wasn't particularly invested in maintaining a relationship (it was a one night stand), but I couldn't help but be reminded of Grant Achatz, who also wrote a memoir and discusses aspects of his personal life, his relationship with his own sons and their mother. These amazing foods and cooks often come with a price, and that's one of them. However, Samuelsson seems to settle down as he becomes more established, marries and establishes a relationship with his daughter. We also find out a bit more about his background when he goes back to Ethiopia and sees members of his biological family.

It's hilarious and sad to see some of the components of race discussed in the book. Based on his background Samuelsson is obviously very different from the Gordon Ramsays (who gets an interesting anecdote...) of the world and brings a different POV. He acknowledges his skin color has sometimes been a hindrance based on prejudice, but his view on race and seeing blacks in America was good to read. Some, like Ramsay, seem to be (at the least) uncomfortable about it. But there are others who don't seem to care either. The author does acknowledge that sometimes having diversity among the food staff (based on skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc) can create tension and frustration in the kitchen (like anywhere else), and I'm glad he wrote about it.

Overall it was a good read, and I recommend it for those who are interested in food/restaurant/chef memoirs. Others like Ramsay and Bobby Flay (or food critic Ruth Reichl who seems to be important in helping the author get noticed) get mentions, but they are not a part of Samuelsson's story. But the author has a different take on cooking and the restaurant that might give one food for thought. :) ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
4.5 Stars

I first heard of Samuelsson's story when I was binge watching Chopped one day and he mentioned being adopted from Ethiopia by a Swedish couple. I immediately wanted to know more so picked up his book. This memoir takes an in depth look at cultures, race, and family all through the lens of food and cooking. One of the best memoirs I've read. ( )
  Kristymk18 | Jun 22, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marcus Samuelssonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Turner, SusanDesignersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To my two mothers, Ahnu and Anne Marie
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I have never seen a picture of my mother.
Quotations
I believe there's a door that opens from inside any great kitchen, a door that opens out and gives us the world. (p. 277)
Mormor had the unique experience of being surrounded by luxury despite living in poverty her entire life.
Bookstores are a giant present waiting to be unwrapped, full of stories and discoveries and lives.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385342608, Hardcover)

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 Göteborg, 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—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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:16 -0400)

"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"--… (more)

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