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)
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
This seemed a no-brainer bargain buy - classically French trained, Ethiopian chef from Sweden who ended up in Harlem. Sounded fascinating, and so it turned out to be!
I'm neither great cook nor foodie, but I do watch Food Network shows in spare moments, and I've admired Samuelsson's point of view in his various contests and food shows. Turns out he's just as thoughtful and intelligent as he appears on TV.
Nothing is better than a memoir where the author actually has something to say - with honesty and humility. Sometimes our "American Dream" stories get glossed over, without revealing the price that almost always has to be paid for success in business. Samuelsson tells his own interesting life-so-far story without a lot of psychological self-analysis, but with awareness of his flaws - and with refreshing condor and lack of self pity. The people in his life ring true, and the reader/listener finds him/herself taking an interest in each one of them.
Must say I look forward to hearing what he has to say later on in his life. This is a memoir with a difference and well worth the time.
Armchair traveler and Audible Editor w/ penchant for literary, lyrical & 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.
Say something about yourself!
An interesting journey but far too long would have been greatly improved with fewer cooking details. His personal journey was far more intetesting than the ingredients of too many recipes.
I wanted hard to really like this book but in the end was disappointed - I ended up not really liking Marcus (especially after I watched him on MasterChef) and I felt that the book could have been 25% shorter. That said I thought the book was fine, but nothing special.
To be fair his tale is quite cool starting with his adoption, his incredible Swedish parents and his drive to succeed especially having to battle against stereotyping. I guess all chefs that are successful have to be a little bit crazy and egotistical to make it up through the ranks of that profession. If the book is to be believed (which I think it can) then good old Gordon Ramsay is ever so slightly racist and should perhaps swap his current Kitchen whites for Klan whites. Shame on him, I grew up in Scotland and know what it was like - but Gordon like many, should know better now.
I was hoping that the rags to riches/underdog tale would have left me feeling better about Marcus's rise to fame, though I do have to admire and respect him for his focus, determination and culinary skills.
This audibook is in my all-time top 10. Another reader's review led me to it (thank you!) and I was blown away by the content and the wonderful narration. Mr. Samuelsson is thoughtful and perceptive, telling his story with clarity and a desire to tell the truth about the industry and, more importantly, about himself.
What's not to like! The story of a Swedish couple creating a family, adopting two siblings (just recovered from tuberculosis) from Ethopia who would join their other foster child. The way they created a home for their children, from teaching Markus how to fish and how to cook, was beautiful. Throughout the book, Markus writes of his grandmother and parents' unconditional, but practical, love. Markus writes about his search for "flavours". He writes about the traditional European training for chefs. And, he writes about New York City. I loved this inside view of restaurants I have read about in the pages of Gourmet and Bon Appetit. Fabulous! Along the way, Mr. Samuelsson writes about the paucity of black chefs in top-ranked kitchens around the world and about his journey to bring "flavours" of the world to unique experiences of gourmet cuisine.
There are so many but two stand out in my mind. The first is Mr. Samuelsson's encounter with Gordon Ramsay - you'll have to listen to the book to understand how this encounter incorporates so many elements of Markus's journey as a man and as a top chef.
The other scene is Markus and Maya's wedding in Ethopia - again, these scenes contain so many of the elements of his personal journey. I loved the sense of colour, texture, flavours, and joy he is able to convey through his writing.
I loved this book! It made me cry and it made me laugh. It inspired me and it made me think.
Often, when an author narrates his/her own book, the result can be lacklustre. This is definitely NOT the case here. Mr. Samuelsson is the very best person for the task - he brings his desire for excellence to it, along with his lovely voice.
In all, this book has everything: a fascinating story about the world of top chefs as well as the search for excellence and identity. Along the way, something truly alchemical happens - the result is far more than the sum of its parts.
Avid reader of classics and fiction, history and well-written genre novels. Music lover and huge audiobook fan.
I love watching cooking shows on TV with my daughter and my husband and we try to guess who will be eliminated and why. This book is by one of the chefs who is often a judge on 'Chopped'. He is not warm and fuzzy, but he seems very sharp and very focused. Listening to this book explains a lot of that attitude. His is the story of an Ethiopian orphan adopted by a Swedish family who grew up to love cooking and to aim for very great success very young. His story is well told and interesting, although he is not a professional reader and the performance would have been better with a professional reader. However, his own voice does bring something to the story....just not better comprehension. He gives a wonderful picture of what European kitchens are like and how he came to prefer life in New York. He also reveals a lot about his personal life. But for the most part it is a very fascinating book with just a little preachiness at the end. But I enjoyed it enough to read it very quickly.
I felt that the writing was ok but the narration was quite painful. However, that was not what caused me to find this book less than stellar.
My impression of the author was that he is a bit self centered and I found that to be a real detraction of this story. I certainly did not find any great inspiration from it. For the most part, he seemed to be concerned about his wants and did not concern himself with what others in his life needed. He fathered a child which he ignored until she was 14 years old. Although he financially supported her (only because his mother insisted that he do so), he initially expected the mother of his child to abort the pregnancy.
This is a book I almost didn't make it through because I expected an uplifting story and feel what I got is the story of one who lacks a strong moral compass
I really liked his story. I think it took a lot for him to talk about some not-so-shining moments. He has certainly suffered for his craft!
What didn't work for me was through half of the narrative, it sounded like Marcus was reading from the page, almost as if he was doing so for the first time. The book starts out conversationally, and his accent is appealing, but then becomes stilted and distracting.
Still, I recommend this for anyone who thinks they want to work in an award winning kitchen. The hard work and sacrifice are considerable, and culinary school just isn't enough.
I'd very much like to eat in his restaurant. It is nice to know a bit more about this chef I've seen on TV so much.
I enjoyed having the book narrated by the author. I think it added to the story
I was surprised by how many reviewers took away that Marcus was overly arrogant. I felt the complete opposite especially in terms of celebrity chefs. I thought the way he detailed his journey was very humble and his laser sharp focus was impressible yet at times difficult to relate to. Although you did not always agree with his decisions you understood them and at the end I could appreciate that he was coming to terms with some of those decisions and trying to do better.
I have followed his career a bit over the last 10 or so years and have been to the Red Rooster a couple of times and enjoyed hearing about how his vision came to life.
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