Synopses & Reviews
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 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 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 fulfilled 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.
"Samuelsson, the chef and owner of Harlem's famed Red Rooster restaurant, masterfully serves us a delicious banquet full of the ingredients that compose his own enchanting yet poignant story. When he was two, Samuelsson, his older sister, and his mother contracted tuberculosis in rural Ethiopia; after several days journey to the capital Addis Ababa, the three were admitted to a hospital. Samuelsson and his sister survived their mother, and they were soon adopted by a couple in Sweden. With the consummate skill of a master chef, Samuelsson cooks up a steaming stew of his life from his earliest cooking lessons at the hands of his grandmother to his various apprenticeships in Switzerland, France, and New York. From his grandmother's food he learns rustic cooking and the ways that she knew intuitively how to create various textures in foods. When he's 12 and on a fishing trip with his father, Samuelsson cooks his first meal and learns an important lesson about the beauty of food in context and how important it is to let the dishes be reflective of your surroundings. Samuelsson carries readers through his many failures and successes as a cook in restaurants like New York's Aquavit and France's Georges Blanc and in his relationships. Much like life, he delightfully points out, a great restaurant is more than just a series of services; it is a collection of meals and memories. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"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, bestselling 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, bestselling author of Blood, Bones, and Butter
"The pleasures of this memoir are numerous. Marcus Samuelsson's life, like his cooking, reflects splendidly multicultural influences and educations, and he writes about it all with an abundance of flavor and verve. A delicious read." Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
"Plenty of celebrity chefs have a compelling story to tell, but none of them can top [this] one." The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
A James Beard Award–winning chef and author of several cookbooks, Marcus Samuelsson has appeared on Today, Charlie Rose, Iron Chef, and Top Chef Masters, where he took first place. In 1995, for his work at Aquavit, Samuelsson became the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star review from The New York Times. His newest restaurant, Red Rooster, recently opened in Harlem, where he lives with his wife.