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 heard about Marcus Samuelsson very early in his career at Aqua Vit. To hear him tell his own story, with that wonderful voice of his, is terrificly entertaining. I often listen to audio books on long drives, and this book is a great traveling 'companion', for sure.
His detailed memories of cooking with his Grandmother.
No. I've been listening in it, in "spurts", as I drive. I like the book so much, I don't want it to end!
In the top 10.
I have been a fan of Chef Marcus for a while anyway. I found his story extremely interesting and so heartfelt and honest.
Personally I loved his reading it himself. It made it very personal and I intimate, I doubt anyone else could have read it better.
I was simply immersed in his story and very interested to learn about both of his families and all the help and attention he brings to his original people. I also loved his relationship with his adopted family and their strength and warmth.
Loved his attention to food, and food fusion. I made the spice mixture myself and have become interested in Ethiopian food.
I enjoyed listening to Marcus Samuelsson's recount his journey to becoming a top chef and his joys and heartbreaks along the way. I found his enormous drive and ambition and courage inspiring, despite unfortunate setbacks, heartbreaking events, and blatant discrimination he encountered.
I did think his behavior was absolutely despicable at times, especially in his early treatment of Zoe. However, one could chalk this up to youth and immaturity, since when he was somewhat older and wiser he tried to make things right. It also helped that he had an outstanding mother to instill good character. He seemed very passionate in his dedication, work ethic and humility on the job as he learned the ropes and put in his dues. On the other hand, I couldn't help but notice a constant and persistent undertone of self-importance and ego. Perhaps this is a necessary trait to be a successful chef and leader, though.
Samuelsson's thick Swedish accent was a bit distracting at times, as well as his creative pronunciation of many English words. At key points in the story, I thought it was a big plus having him as the reader, since he really displayed the genuine feelings of heartbreak, anger, confusion or joy he had experienced.
Overall this book was really enjoyable, and absolutely delicious!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Though the story is about a chef, the story line and information presented covered numerous other topics - culture, cooking, theories, and life lessons.
The 'underdog' perspective presented. So much can come from difficulty - and Samuelsson absolutely shows that.
First, I'll agree with other comments I've seen - it took some getting used to listening to Samuelsson due to his accent and cadence. But, after getting in the right head space, I enjoyed having Samuelsson share his own story. You could hear his passion, sadness, and joy.
There were times when I wanted to smack Marcus in the head and tell him to get it together.........but it is his story.
Nope........think I'm done. It was OK while it lasted.
I do like the fact that he took the risk to tell his own story.........just wouldn't change anything. It is him.
I wouldn't go see it. The story is not that intriguing to me. I do love his parents and grandma
The narrator! Honestly, I have listened to a million audiobooks and I have to say that only 1 in 10 author narrated books has been a good idea. In this case, his choppy english was very very distracting as his sentence pauses were really unnatural and made this book hard to listen to. It wasn't the worst I've heard in terms of self-narrated books, but definitely would have been better with a professional narrator.
No, definitely not. Some of the best books I've read have been memoirs, and this book won't discourage me.
As stated above, his choppy english was a real distraction from the content.
I would have preferred some real honesty. I've read enough memoirs to know when I'm getting the real deal, and this book felt disingenous. Sure he revealed some less flattering aspects of his past, but overall it was pretty self-congratulatory: "look how hard it has been for me as a black chef in a white dominated industry! but I sure showed them! look at my supermodel wife and all my riches! ..and, oh yeah, the daughter I didn't want to acknowledge for years and years and years..but she's ok with it now." ugh.
I read many glowing reviews that stated that this book should be on the must-read lists for high-school students. I couldn't disagree more. I would rather recommend "The Heart and The Fist" for students. It's message is much deeper. Rather than "work hard and you can be rich and famous and marry a supermodel too", it teaches "work hard, then work harder, then work even harder and you will discover what is truly meaningful in life." And it's not money and fame.
I really enjoyed Marcus Samuelsson's life story and particularly liked hearing about the path he followed to prepare to be a top chef. From his youth in Sweden through his career so far and his rediscovery of his family in Ethiopia, Samuelsson tells the story in an honest straightforward style and though he stumbles in the narration occasionally, it's an enjoyable listen.
CPA, CFP, and serial audiophile.
As a Food Network fan, Marcus Samuelsson had always intrigued me. A black chef from Sweden? A gentle, soft-spoken chef on Chopped? Something didn't add up! This book explains that, and more, and Marcus' reading was the icing on the Princesstårta, so to speak.
My DH and I had actually eaten at his restaurant (sent by our hotel concierge) in NYC many years ago and still talk about the wonderful experience we had. If only we had known who he was then! And until I read the book, I was still ignorant about his connection with Aquavit (embarrassing, but true)!
Marcus' story is sweet, intriguing, and brutally honest. Without his two mothers, he wouldn't be where he is today (literally and figuratively). And the fact that he doesn't hide his warts or make excuses for them, lets us be disappointed at times (encourages us to, in fact) is endearing. This is so much more than a book about a cook, and yet all the pieces add up to why he is such a popular, beloved, down-to-earth man who happens to be a world-reknowned chef. Even if you aren't interested in cooking, you will be fascinated by the very human Marcus Samuelsson.
Marcus Samuelsson's memoir is a fascinating look into the behind-the-scenes strategies, politics and practices of kitchens in fine dining restaurants, as well as an honest, endearing (without being sentimental), and revealing memoir about the career and life of this famous multicultural chef.
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
I loved everything about this book--Marcus' amazing story of going from Ethiopian orphan to Swedish adoptee to a world-renowned chef. I also really appreciated the fact that he narrated his own story--it makes a memoir so much more enjoyable. So a few words were mispronounced--who cares, really? It happens with the most professional of narrators.
I was so impressed with his drive for success and his true love of food--especially his continuing quest for the most wonderful mix of flavors. In listening to his story, you just know that Marcus HAD to succeed, there couldn't be any other outcome.
I wish him all the best and wish New York wasn't so far away from California, as I would love to hang out at The Red Rooster!
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