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Yes, Chef: A Memoir
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on July 28, 2017
Perhaps this memoir should have been titled I'm a Black Chef. Even though this was a well written memoir Samuelsson did focus a great deal of the book to being a black man struggling to become a chef in a white dominated field. I felt he complained about this a bit too much.

I have read several memoirs by chefs and believe me this profession is not for the weak at heart. These people eat, breath and live their calling. Ramsey, Puck, White, Reichel and Samuelsson did not become great Chefs by being mediocre. they about killed themselves working and striving to be not just good but by becoming the best!

Samuelsson wrote about his background being adopted by a loving Swedish couple. He had a wonderful upbringing and credits his Swedish grandmother giving him his love of food. Later in the book he goes into his Ethiopian birth country. He locates his birth father and several half siblings.

I've enjoyed watching Samuelsson on the Food Network. I saw when he won Chef Masters and watched him on Chopped as a judge. now I've read his memoir. I admire his dedication and came away again realizing being a Chef is damn hard work!!
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VINE VOICEon September 28, 2017
The pacing was done like how a seasoned Executive Chef presents a meal, none too ironic for a chef skilled at MIXIN’ Flava’, staking his worth in creating ‘that’ signature dish, who has led kitchens cooking for the Obamas not once, but at least twice. Guess I must now try that ‘foie gras ganache. I’m saying, this memoir is packed with flavor.

Overall, delivering a memoir that pulls on all the senses, from the choices Marcus made selecting friends, his lessons learned acknowledging mistakes, his passion for cooking, which includes a broad professional culinary education, along with sacrifices he’s taken on... like the many people he’s mentored...near and far, none more so than his half sisters, makes Yes, Chef a phenomenal treat to experience! Absolutely redeemable. Highly recommended. Simply a Must!
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on December 5, 2013
Success is life is part talent and part opportunity. Chef Marcus shares, in a wonderfully readable format, how he rose from an orphaned child in Ethiopia to one of the top chefs in the USA. His journey takes him from Africa to Sweden, around Europe and finally to North America. It was rarely easy personally or professionally but Marcus shows great tenacity through these struggles and takes every opportunity afforded him to develop his skills. Often at the detriment of his personal life. Marcus pulls back the curtain on the inner workings of the kitchens of some of the great restaurants and behind the scenes we see what it takes to put perfection on the plate - an impeccable palate, yes; but also crazy days and weeks of hard work mixed in with a toxic and egotistical environment. If I ever truly aspired to be a real chef this book convinced me that the cost is too great.
We discover that Marcus is both an inspired and driven man. He was inspired at the apron strings of his Swedish grandmother Helga through whom he discovered the joy of chopping and mixing and creating good food. His drive comes from an internal struggle to please the parents that took him out of a life of poverty and gave him every opportunity he desired. They instilled a strong moral compass and sense of propriety that required Marcus to stand out amongst other chefs in the kitchen. Marcus has an innate ability to compartmentalize his life. When his personal life collides with his professional drive we see this magnified. But, we are afforded a peek into the life he begins to create on his own terms as he moves up the ranks and becomes the chef he desired to be. In this climb he steps back to his roots, re-connects with his Ethiopian father and family as well as with a daughter he put in a box marked "later". As tragedies continue to strike Marcus shares how each experience helped shape the man he is today. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book - it is definitely a must read for a real foodie but even one whose fine dining repertoire includes McDonalds will enjoy the story.
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on December 3, 2016
I enjoyed this book a lot. I was hooked from the first page. His life story is unreal being adopted from Ethiopia by a loving Swedish couple. He enjoyed helping his Swedish grandmother in the kitchen. His original choice of a career would have been as a soccer player and he was good but he was not tall. He then turned to food. I enjoyed learning how hard one has to work to become a good chef. His Swedish parents did a good job raising him. He had the self confidence to travel to different countries to train. I liked his descriptions of spices and different restaurants that he either worked at or visited. If I ever get to New York, I'd love to visit The Red Rooster. Best wishes for continuing success Marcus!
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on November 22, 2016
Ordered this as a Kindle daily deal, and had to put everything on hold for 2 days while I finished it. A fascinating story of one man's journey from being a 2-year-old tubercular Ethiopian orphan to a "celebrity chef." Fascinating peak behind the scenes at top restaurants and what it takes to be a "star" chef. In some ways a brutally honest book. Samuelsson doesn't always come out the hero. He is ambitious, driven, and single-minded,sometimes to his detriment. But he also shows great insight about the journey that has brought him to where he is now, a gift that may be as rare as the kind of talent he has. I noticed that some of the more negative reviews focus on the fact that the reader likes Samuelsson less after reading the book. Fair enough, but I would argue that discovering that someone you admire has some flaws, while disappointing, doesn't mean the book is bad. The writing is good. The story-telling engaging. Those qualities make it worth the read.
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on December 5, 2014
Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

A remarkable story about a man who came from Ethiopia, adopted by Swedish parents, grew to love and had a passion for cooking. Who today is considered a Celebrity Chef in his own right, Marcus Samuelsson.

It's All About the Taste, the Taste... Learning the basics of Swedish, German , and French cooking wasn't enough for this chef's palate. He wanted to explore the various cities of all the exciting flavors that each had to offer. As he made his journey he would often write in his journal what flavors would be compatible with certain dishes. Marcus wanted to create food so that the customer could enjoy his dish in that moment and not worry about the everyday world,

Reading this novel made me hungry. Chef Samuelsson had a way in describing his many prepared dishes that I could actually visualize what it looked liked to it's Aromas. People of all cultures can take comfort in food. Food is our communicator that brings people together. No words are expressed just the facial expressions of those enjoying their cuisine says it all.
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on January 5, 2015
This book reminded me of Alberto Salazar's memoir on running. I know that sounds odd but it is just another good story on the drive and determination that some immigrants have. Makes me feel a bit lazy at times as a native born American. Marcus has faced a lot of adversity and there are some real high moments for him in his life as well as low. I have read a lot of chef bio's and this one ranks pretty high as a decent read. I love his description of food as he travels and works at many different places around the world. It has inspired me to buy some berbere spice to try on food at home. He talks A LOT about race. Being Caucasian, I knew that a person of different ethnicity might have to think about whether the treatment they receive in life is a result of their color just as easily as it is a result of their personality. But to be honest, I never realized someone could think about it this often. He touches on it probably in every single chapter of the book. Not to say whether this is good or bad, just something I noticed. I would recommend this book to any foodie who might enjoy having a little background knowledge on the people they see on TV.
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on November 23, 2013
Let me start by saying that I actually bought TWO copies of YES, CHEF ! By Marcus Samuelsson. The first copy was on my Kindle but there were so many "gems" and tidbits I wanted to underline (I still prefer a pencil for underlining) that I also bought a hardcover copy. Marcus Samuelsson has had a very unlikely rise to Chef Stardom. He was born in Ethiopia but he and his sister were adopted by loving Swedish parents at the tender age of 1. The first chapter which describes how that came to be, is probably my favorite chapter of the entire book. It is a truly sad and moving tale. He almost didn't become a Chef as in his own words, his adopted Mother wasn't a cook. In fact, she hated cooking. It was seen as a chore. However, his grandmother loved cooking and Marcus' favorite memories as a Child are the Saturdays he would spend cooking side by side with his grandmother. This was after Soccer practice - it turns out Soccer is his first and true love. His dream was to be a professional Soccer player but was too slight/short. In many ways, it is his failure as a Soccer player that fueled his extremely hard work ethic in the Kitchen.

Besides winning Top Chef Masters in 2010, he is probably best known as the 3-star Chef of Aquavit in NYC in the mid 90's. The bulk of the book eloquently describes the windy, grueling path he took to become a World famous Chef. It was a lot less glamourous than a lot of people would think e.g. his first job involved getting up every morning at 6 AM and scrubbing the walk-in (refrigerator) from top to bottom. I actually had the pleasure of working in the Pastry Kitchen at Mesa Grill in 1994-1995 and he is right - there is really nothing glamourous about working in a kitchen unless you are the Head Chef (who has had to work many years to get to the top). Even though the bulk of the book talks about his various restaurant experiences, it is a very personal memoir. The biggest shocker was that he fathered a daughter when he was 19 years old. And although he was financially responsible for her well-being (at his Mother's insistence) he wasn't there for her emotionally or physically at all. I have to say that learning this fact made me really dislike him. He finally decides to meet her when she is a teenager and hopefully, they have a good relationship now. The main reason he gives for not being a "Father" to her is that he didn't want to be the stereotypical African American male who fosters a child at 19. In fact, he hides it from all of his employers and most of his friends. The book touches a lot on the delicate topic of race. As an Ethiopian who is raised in Sweden then working in NYC, in a field dominated by White males, I don't think he can escape that complex topic. When he is snubbed by a fancy restaurant (apparently on appearance alone) he writes "I made it a point not to dwell on the matter of race. I believed in my knife skills, and my sense of taste, and my capability to listen and get things done. I was never afraid of hard work."

I think the best way to describe both the book and the Chef is dubbing him the "Berbere" of Chefs. Berbere is a very complex spice used in Ethiopian cuisine - among its many ingredients are: chile , black pepper, salt, cardamon, ginger, etc. Marcus' diverse experiences has made him a very complex man/Chef. Yes, I really disliked how he treated his own daughter yet I couldn't help warming up to him when he describes how he fought to have his Ethiopian sisters back home get Schooling. And how he would often take a huge gamble on someone that didn't have the resume to work at a 3-start restaurant. Or cook the identical meal he served the President of the United States to the neighborhood children in his Harlem apartment. By the end of the book, I felt very privileged to have had access to such a personal look into that life of a great Chef.
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VINE VOICEon January 30, 2014
Yes, Chef tells the story of Marcus Samuelsson's life from his adoption as a young boy in Ethiopia to his success opening Red Rooster in Harlem. Before picking up this book I wasn't a superfan of Samuelsson's, but I had heard him speak at a food conference so I knew he had a compelling life story and this book didn't disappoint.

There are a few things that made this book wonderful. First, it felt very well written and flowed well as a story, so kudos to Veronica Chambers for that. It definitely held my interest from the first page to the last. It helps that Samuelsson has an interesting and less than typical life, which for me, made the book interesting and different than other chef memoirs I have read. I also appreciated how candid the book was. Samuelsson takes us through some of his biggest triumphs as well as his failures and more humbling moments. I can understand why that doesn't make him a very likable protagonist to some readers but I thought it made the book feel more real and honest and made me feel like I had a better sense of Samuelsson as a person. Sure at times he does come across as confident in his abilities, but I also thought it was well balanced by moments of humility and vulnerability. I also won't disagree with those reviewers who said that he talks about how hard he works a lot, but I took it less as bragging so much as a depiction that being a chef of a high stature doesn't come without hard work and sacrifice. I also can find reading about egomaniacal chefs a turnoff, but Samuelsson didn't strike me as that.

Overall, I really, really loved this book. I found it to be an entertaining read that also made me feel like I understood not only Samuelsson better, but also the world of elite chefs. I think it a book that foodies will really enjoy and could also see it being enlightening to someone who wants to enter the culinary food.
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on August 12, 2012
Yes Chef delivered everything I hoped it would. Marcus tells his story in an honest and humble tone from beginning to end. My copy of this book is covered in little post it arrows where I marked how he prepared truffles (you add them to the sauce at the very end so as not to cook all the flavor out), and his Spanish breakfast (ripe tomatoes peeled and then crushed on toast adding a grind or two of black pepper), and how to make a lobster lasagna. When curing duck breasts Marcus would soak then in a large pan of salted water with a plate weighing them down for 6 hours.

Mouth watering yet?

And in between pages of mixing seasonings and different flavors is Marcus' story. Growing up and moving out... restaurant experiences that are detailed from where he got it right, and from when he should have been fired and by grace he was not. And then into Marcus' life as the one doing the firing and trying to find kitchen held that understood the demands of a kitchen, one employee even telling him,

"You can ask me to be on time, iron my shirt, shave or not to wear sneakers, but you can't ask them all of me... it's too much."
~Page 309 Yes CHEF

Yes Chef was interesting and a fun book to read that I will refer to again and again. Marcus is a true story of battling against the odds, fighting prejudices and coming out on top. His tips on food throughout the book are things I want to try, things I would have never considered, but when I read Yes CHEF, I felt inspired.

Highly recommended to lovers of memoirs, cooking related books and success stories... I loved this book.
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