Audie Award Nominee, Narration by the Author or Authors, 2013
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 75 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 24. 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 importantly, 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.
©2012 Marcus Samuelsson (P)2012 Random House Audio
"The Red Rooster's arrival in Harlem brought with it a chef who has reinvigorated and reimagined what it means to be American. In his famed dishes, and now in this memoir, Marcus Samuelsson tells a story that reaches past racial and national divides to the foundations of family, hope, and downright good food." (President Bill Clinton)
"I've read a lot of chefs' books, but never anything like this one. Marcus Samuelsson has had such an interesting life, and he talks about it with touching modesty and remarkable candor. I couldn't put this book down." (Ruth Reichl, best-selling author of Tender at the Bone)
"Marcus Samuelsson has an incomparable story, a quiet bravery, and a lyrical and discreetly glittering style - in the kitchen and on the page. I liked this book so very, very much." (Gabrielle Hamilton, best-selling author of Blood, Bones, & Butter)
I initially chose this book expecting to read a few good stories about food and anecdotes about people in the industry. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the chef has pulled off the rare feat of infusing this account of his quest for flavors with compelling (but not preachy) lessons about life.
Chef Samuelsson's accent (mostly stress patterns and unorthodox pronunciation of certain words and groupings) takes a little getting used to, but his lovely voice, command of the various foreign languages mentioned in the book, and emotional connection to the story make the adjustment easier, and more importantly, are unlikely to be found in narrators for hire that quite a few long-time Audible listeners complain about.
This is *not* one of those memoirs that practically anyone with some measure of media exposure seems to be hacking out these days and whose content is probably not even worth the paper and ink that went into the production of the physical volume. The writing and the way Chef Samuelsson frame the narrative were excellent and reflected the same incredible focus that has earned him well-deserved accolades and success. I will let my fellow listeners get acquainted with the wonderful details of the story, especially the chef's family, but I must express my admiration for their uncommon decency and work ethic.
"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." --Lemony Snicket
While the descriptions of food and all of its pleasures in this memoir are just lovely, I am more impressed by Marcus Samuelsson's storytelling abilities and his brutal honesty. Here is a hard-working chef who traveled all over the world and faced some pretty significant challenges to master his craft, and, in doing so, admittedly neglected some responsibilities in other areas of his life. Samuelsson's background and story are unique, and his passion and determination refreshing. But by far, the best part of this fascinating memoir is the fact that Samuelsson himself narrates it. His voice does take some getting used to - he sometimes emphasizes syllables that a native English speaker wouldn't, and pauses in unexpected places of his narration - but it makes the book truly come alive and it's wonderful to hear him speak in the many different languages he's learned from all the kitchens he's been in.
Fascinating, moving, human.
I don't usually read memoirs, but the only other one I've read is Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. There's no comparison.
It was great to hear him read his own work and know when some of his revelations were working on his emotions.
No--it wasn't "fast food" but rather a fine meal to be savored over time.
I don't usually read memoirs, but a recommendation from another LT reader convinced me to give this one a try--and I'm glad that I did. I knew the bare bones of Marcus Samuelsson's story--that he was adopted from Africa by a Swedish couple and worked his way up to become a top chef in America--and I had seen him on TV. But his memoir proves him to be both a dedicated chef and, as an author, a brutally honest man who examines his own mistakes unflinchingly.
Samuelsson doesn't remember much about Africa; he was less than two years old when his mother, who was suffering from tuberculosis, walked many miles to get treatment for him and his older sister. She died in the hospital, and the children were quickly adopted by a forty-ish Swedish couple. Most of his memories are of a loving home, and of the grandmother who first sparked his interest in food. But as might be expected, there were also times when it wasn't easy being a black boy in a small Swedish town.
Samuelsson's early years as rising as a chef were marked by absolute ambition, and he paid an emotional price. He missed the funerals of both his father and grandmother, and he neglected a daughter born out of wedlock until she was 14 (although his parents paid his child support--and billed him later--and kept in touch with Zoe). But there's no whining here: Samuelsson admits his mistakes and takes the blame for their repercussions. After he had achieved a good measure of success and had time to reflect on what was lost, it was too late to mend some fences. But Samuelsson worked to build a relationship with Zoe and with his newly-rediscovered Ethiopian family.
Samuelsson gives us a fascinating look into the world of elilte chefs, a world that is at one moment cutthroat and at the next takes the term "networking" to new heights. But Yes, Chef is more than a professional memoir; it's the very human story of a man I've come to respect.
Chef Sammuelsson is a role model with appeal across geographic, social and ethnic boundaries. Ethiopian by birth, Swedish by nationality, he brings and shares with the world his diametric background in his cooking and to this autobiography.
This book, read by the author, is a treasure if you can get over the fact that his reading, in parts, is a little, for lack of a better word, clunky. You have to cut the author some slack, as English is just one of many languages he speaks, his native tongue being Swedish.
This book is full of wonderful descriptions of food, and if one is familiar with the ingredients and has a strong sense memory, one can almost taste the food being served.
Mr. Sameulsson's story is compelling and message-driven. At the beginning, I was a little annoyed at his attempt to turn his story into one about race. (Race issues in the 90s? Really?) But in the end, the totality of his experiences, especially his work in Harlem, did justify the tack he took.
This work provides a wonderful sense of how the author has grown as a chef, a businessman, a father and a son. And the arc of the book does resolve on a high and positive note. It's an improbable story told with heart.
All that aside, this listening experience was worthwhile just to hear the author read the word, "lemongrass."
I loved the book. Marcus Samuelson has loads of guts, grit and talent. His honesty about his life with all of its various twists and turns is both refreshing and inspiring. He has also awakened a flavor journey in me that is becoming something of a quest. Our lives are no where near the same but our desire to chase down the perfect bite and claim it with a signature resonates with me on a host of levels. I'll happily listen to this book again in the future.
I listened to this memoir while my mom has been on hospice for brain cancer and I am starting to consider international adoption. It is honest, humble, and educational.
When he talks about not getting on a soccer team and how years later, as a famous chef, he sometimes still thinks of himself as the guy who didn't get on the soccer team. Then he snaps out of it and keeps on going. Marcus has many setbacks but he also has many lucky breaks and loving people who he recognizes for their actions.
Marcus has a Swedish accent and a lisp. Sometimes the pronunciation of English words is different. Some writers would have somebody else read the book. To me, his own reading added a lot to the story. There was not a dull section in the entire reading. I learned about Ethiopia, Sweden, the world of the professional kitchen, about friendship, and loss, and international adoption, love, and the many ways people can be good people.
Yes - I looked forward to getting back to it when my mom was dozing. I never lost track of the story in between listening sessions.
Thank you Marcus Samuelsson for engrossing me in learning, entertainment, and encouragement during one of the most difficult times of my life. Thank you for writing and reading your own story. I had never heard of you before I browsed and found this book on Audible, but now I will never forget you.
Yes Chef is the first and only audiobook I've listened to and the best!
It definitely compares with Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential.
No. I have watched him on TV. He's a natural, with a great (Swedish?) dress sense (apart from all those other wonderful culinary and kitchen skills he clearly has.
Mr Samuelsson's memories of his birth mother was petty compelling. Death of his friend in Switzerland.
For me it is just magic to hear this author read his story. I drive lots and, listening to this memoir, I was sometimes moved to tears and sometimes chuckling and laughing as each chapter rolled out. It is a very inspiring memoir. I particularly admire Mr Samuelsson's ability to write in English. Astonishing level of literacy in English. Many native speakers never reach this level of rhythm and rhetorical sophistication.
I haven't finished reading/listening to it. I don't want to finish it! I hope it never ends. I'm sure Mr Samuelsson feels the same way too!!! ;-)
Yes to this story and Yes to Marcus Samuelsson, who tells his fascinating story. His journey starts as an Ethiopian orphan adopted by Swedish parents. He learned to cook at his grandmother's side as a little boy, eventually going to cooking school, traveling and cooking around the world and finally ending up in New York where his talent was allowed to shine. There he became the youngest chef to be awarded 3 stars by the The New York Times.
Although this book is another American dream story, it is also the story of Marcus Samuelsson's love affair with food. As with the wonderful bio, "Blood, Bones & Butter," this is an engrossing book that combines all the elements of great story telling, (once again, truth is stranger than fiction) as well as making you hungry along the way. I only wish Audible would have included a set of downloadable photos to go along with the story that are in the paper book. This is a book every food lover should read or listen to.
Armchair - and sometimes actual - traveler and Audible Editor with a penchant for literary, lyrical, and at times lighthearted listens. And alliteration.
I wanted to listen to 'Yes, Chef' to learn a little more about world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson, owner of Harlem's Red Rooster and famous TV personality. I had hoped to be entertained, and to understand what it takes to become such a highly awarded chef like Marcus. What I hadn't expected was to be moved to tears almost immediately and to be captivated all the way through his journey to stardom. Towards the end, I even caught myself listening to it less and less each day so that it would last just a few days longer. I loved this book, and that’s owed to the narration. I’m positive ‘Yes, Chef’ would make for a great read, but there is something about hearing the story in Marcus’ raspy light voice that elevates it, makes it a bit more intimate. He doesn’t just discuss his path of becoming a chef, this is his life-story. He’s passionate, determined, motivated, structured and very serious about his food. All of that emotion and more comes through his reading.
I was completely blown away, and that is why this takes the spot as my #1 listen of 2012.
Highly highly recommended.
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