Samuelsson, Marcus. Yes, Chef. Random House, 2012. ISBN 978-0385342605 336 pp. $
World-renowned master chef Marcus Samuelsson shares his story in an engaging and straightforward manner, opening with what he doesn’t know about the birth mother he barely remembers, and coming full circle to conclude with a visit back to Ethiopia, the country he fled with his family in his youth.
His African heritage coupled with being raised by his adopted parents in Sweden are the pivotal circumstances that ultimately lead to him becoming a chef who wonders, why not? when it comes to pairing flavors from several cultures. Samuelsson relates stories of cooking with his grandmother, cooking for his father on fishing trips, and working in restaurants before pursuing a formal education in cooking school that resulted in an appointment at the award-winning Swedish restaurant Aquavit in NYC, and his own venture, the Red Rooster, in Harlem. It all clarifies his food point of view beautifully.
Samuelsson has a strong personality, and the televised food competitions he has partaken in have not always shown him in the most flattering light. It’s fascinating to read about his upbringing, and come to understand what made him the man he is today. He is a good storyteller, and comes across as honest, even when it’s not flattering, and he doesn’t make excuses or pull punches.
The book is sure to appeal to foodies (and Food Network TV fans), or those looking for another insightful piece on the restaurant industry akin to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.