July 17, 2012

Book Review: Marcus Samuelsson's 'Yes, Chef'

Marcus Samuelsson's life story seems unbelievable: orphaned in a tuberculosis epidemic that swept Ethiopia when he was two, he was adopted by a family in Sweden and grew up there, learning to love gravlax and lingonberries.

Samuelsson often cooked with his adoptive grandmother, and when his hopes of being a professional soccer player were dashed, he turned to the restaurant industry. He cooked in Sweden, Switzerland, France, Austria and on cruise ships--working long, hard hours for little pay in his determination to become a top chef. His passion for cuisine eventually brought him to New York City, where he unexpectedly became the executive chef at Aquavit, snagging three stars from the New York Times  when he was just 24. And his meteoric rise to chef super-stardom hasn't ended there.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson (photo found here).
 Yes, Chef is the story of Samuelsson's fascinating career and life. As an American citizen who is ethnically Ethiopian and culturally Swedish, he defies categorization. As one of a very few top-tier black chefs, he frankly discusses his attempts to help other young black people follow the trail he has blazed. The reader is drawn into both the fast-paced world of the professional kitchen and Samuelsson's complicated African-European-American life. Yes, Chef will make your mouth water with vivid descriptions of food and enthrall you with images of Sweden, Ethiopia and New York City. Samuelsson not only knows how to craft decadent, exotic meals; he also knows how to write a very compelling story.

This is another book that ought to come with a warning: do not read if you're hungry! I enjoyed reading a book with a real person from Sweden. I've read so many Swedish mysteries that I felt like I knew the world that Samuelsson was describing. And, I googled him while was reading the book, and realized that I've actually seen him on shows on Food Network and such. That made reading it even more fun.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Honestly, I can't remember if there was a lot of 'bad stuff' or not. I read it a couple of months ago, and the details are fuzzy.
I read this book for Shelf Awareness and my review (which I was compensated for) originally appeared there. Also, the book image is an Amazon affiliate link.

Are you a fan of chef memoirs? 
Any Food Network addicts out there?