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Yes, Chef: A Memoir (2012)

by Marcus Samuelsson

Other authors: Veronica Chambers, Susan Turner (Designer)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7277423,845 (3.83)97
"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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» See also 97 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
nonfiction. A nice cooking memoir, once you get into it (i.e., past the author's childhood, which is unusual and important backstory, but not all that interesting). I have read other chef biographies before, but did not realize (or had forgotten) just how much work it is to work your way up to the top of the kitchen hierarchy. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
This was fine. I think I just don't really care for memoirs/autobiographies. Not the fault of the book. ( )
  ssperson | Apr 3, 2021 |
Following the tragic death of his biological mother, Marcus Samuelsson was adopted at a very young age from Ethiopia and raised in a loving family in Sweden. From as early as he can remember, food and flavors were at the forefront of their domestic lives, and he grew determined to study to become a chef — not just a chef, but one of the best.

Samuelsson's memoir is a quick, engaging, fluid read. His determination is incredible. I think I would have liked to see a bit more introspection about some of the more challenging experiences he's had, as his reflections tend to come off a bit too rosy without digging too deeply (e.g., something set me back, but I overcame it!). I do love reading about passion for food. It makes me long to travel more extensively in order to sample new things. ( )
  ryner | Mar 11, 2021 |
Stunning, beautiful, emotional, inspiring. I could gush on for days about Chef Samuelsson's memoir, it's so wonderful. It was written with a deft, skilled hand and really opened my eyes to Marcus' struggles to get to where he is now. Also, he was a really adorable kid! You're gonna love this book. ( )
  sarahlh | Mar 6, 2021 |
I've always had a little celebrity crush on Marcus Samuelsson, ever since I first saw him by chance on a late night episode of Chopped. Having now read his memoir/autobiography, I can honestly say that my crush has evaporated entirely but my respect for the mans' artistry, intellect and ambition has grown a thousandfold.

He comes across as a consummate professional but probably a bit socially myopic and deeply self-centered--a lot of people get left in the trenches in his quest to become a highly starred chef. That journey--and the resulting thoughts on food, identity and race as experienced on three continents and a cruise ship--are a bit unexpected and deeply fascinating. The resulting book is a great read, and even while you're cringing at Samuelsson's personal choices, his honesty is appreciated and his observations on what has been, so far, a truly remarkable life are well worth reading. ( )
  EQReader | Dec 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Samuelsson, Marcusprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chambers, Veronicasecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Turner, SusanDesignersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eklöf, MargaretaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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People/Characters
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Related movies
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Epigraph
Dedication
To my two mothers, Ahnu and Anne Marie
First words
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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"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"--

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