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)
The most interesting thing was the few tidbits of his experience with food and scattered throughout the book. The least interesting was the over narrated details about meaningless things.
The author should not have narrated the book himself. His voice is very distracting to the story. He is very monotone.
The whole first half of the book.
The first and worst part of the book is the readers voice. Very distracting, timid and devoid of feeling. It is his life and he reads it like he's reading a text book in school. I might have enjoyed the story if not for the performance.
I would, especially if they were a fan of cooking or Food Network personalities. It tells a wonderful story and has many great lessons to impart to the up and coming chef.
A lot of people said his accent was hard to understand at times. I didn't feel that way, but the reading sometimes made you feel like you were in high school English when there's a break in sentence that shouldn't have been there. But that's more the director's fault than Samuelsson's.
Hearing the author read his own book gave a sense of the real man behind this memior.
I enjoyed hearing Marcus Samuelson describe both his strengths and his short-comings. It is refreshing to hear such a famous person acknowledge that he has made some serious mistakes in both judgement and in action. This created a sense of approachability.
This book inspired me to peresevere. His story is one of a strong work ethic, a family connection and a career he loves.
I've read a lot of memoirs about cooking from Ruth Reichl to Anthony Bourdain but this might be the best one yet. Samualsson's reading makes it so personal to listen to but he remains humble throughout. This isn't the cocky book that usually comes from the celebrity chef world. This is absolutely worth your credit!
Letters to a Young Chef by Daniel Boulud because both are thoughtful and carefully crafted manuals for anyone thinking about becoming a chef, or just those of us who are simply fascinated by the subject of fine cuisine and the men and women who make cooking their profession.
Mr. Samuelsson is a wonderful narrator. His voice is smooth and easy to listen to and it's hard to imagine anyone else reading this. I wish more writers would narrate their novels.
Marcus Samuelsson is a humble man with a remarkable background. His life is a testament to how driving desire and hard work can overcome prejudice and adversity. His story is fascinating and I came away with newfound respect and admiration for this chef. I hope one day to eat in his restaurant in Harlem, Red Rooster.
Stories of rising from poverty to the world stage are often mythic. This is real, authentic, showing the unfolding of awareness and discovery of the world and himself. Not heroic, but the world through the eyes of a person born into war, disease, and poverty, who grew up in very provincial Sweden, and learned to compete on the global stage.
The simple honesty of the continual rediscovery of himself, his capability, and the moral principles needed to be balanced and focused.
Oh, yeah, and the story is about food.
If you liked Anthony Bordain's down and dirty view of the restaurant world, this is a counterbalance. Yes, there are jerks, racists, and blowhards, but as told by Samuelsson, it's one that allows for good souls to emerge, too.
Authentic, personal, a bit struggled
I learned of Samuelsson through the book, Aquavit. An Ethiopian Swede presents a global fusion style that is simple, elegant, inspired. Honoring and extending the cuisines. Not a celebrity book or an instant fad cuisine, but something very honest. The opportunity to hear his story in his own voice was not to be passed up. The story transcends food, surely, but uses cooking as the expression of his discovery of the world and himself.
I'm not a fan of inspirational books as a genre, or of fad food books and stories. This is different, a must-listen if you're a foodie or not.
His reading is not as fluent as a professional voice, and there are passages where there is a bit of a struggle in his reading, but it also lends to the authenticity of his story.
"Yes, Chef" is a wonderful heartfelt book by a man with such spirit and drive. It gave me insight into the restaurant/cooking industry as well as a few hints about roasted chicken. It is a fascinating look at the life of an international man.
Samuelsson reveals his faults as well as his achievements honestly and without excuses.
I initially bought the book because I love cooking, and because I have an adopted Ethiopian grandson which has resulted in a personal interest in all things Ethiopian.
My reaction to this book is that I am looking forward to going to NYC so I might go to the Red Rooster for a meal or two.
BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR ME.
Samuelsson wrote from the heart without too much concern about not sounding masculine.
There is nothing like the love of a grandmother and he did a wonderful job of recalling her love and guidance through cooking.
Chasing Flavors, finding life.
Samuelsson provides a true American story. His love and respect for Harlem sparkles through the facets of his Sweden and Ethiopia.
This is a beautiful memoir by a remarkable man. Yes, Chef addresses the areas that most other "celebrity chef" autobiographies hit - the discovery of flavors, the rigors of the professional kitchen, etc. What distinguishes this book is its heart - it's like a love letter to his family, to his craft, and to his community. And definitely an example of a book where the reading by the author makes the audio experience far richer than reading the text.
A fascinating story. What makes it even more special is that Chef Samuelsson narrates it. I can't wait to eat at Red Rooster the next time I am in NY.
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