Saturday, June 23, 2012

First Book on the Left: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

First Book on the Left is a new feature in this blog. Reading piles can get ridiculously huge so you don't get to read and review on time all the books you get. This feature is for the books on my pile that I wasn't able to read in time, but which I'm still excited about.


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 Göteborg, Sweden. It was there that Marcus's new grandmother, Helga, sparked in him a lifelong passion for food and cooking with herpan-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 NewYork 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 ofcreating 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, livingin 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.
A James Beard Award-winning chef and author of several cookbooks, Marcus Samuelsson has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, Today, Iron Chef, and Top Chef Masters, where he took first place. His newest restaurant, Red Rooster, recently opened in Harlem ,where he lives with his wife.


I'm a huge fan of Top Chef, Iron Chef, etc., so I recognized Marcus Samuelsson's name right away. During his season of Top Chef Masters, I was actually rooting for Susur Lee. Marcus had some really interesting dishes, though.

Sometimes, he would say something about his upbringing and it seems like he had a really interesting life. This book goes into more detail about his childhood and his career. As such, this book will appeal to his fans. However, you don't have to be a fan to enjoy this, I think. If you like food and biographies, you'll probably like this too.



Note: This post contains Amazon and Book Depository affiliate links.

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