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Yes, Chef

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  12,762 Ratings  ·  1,878 Reviews

“One of the great culinary stories of our time.”—Dwight Garner,The New York Times

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 Swe
ebook, 336 pages
Published June 26th 2012 by Random House
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Update May 2013: this book has been awarded the James Beard Foundation's Book Award in the Writing and Literature category

This was a seriously good book. Before I received it I didn't know a lot about Marcus Samuelsson. I haven't watched any of the seasons of Top Chef Masters, and I missed season 7 of the regular Top Chef (which is when he appeared as a judge), so my awareness of him as a chef has been name recognition only. I'm very glad that has changed with reading this memoir.

Immediately up
La Petite Américaine
Is it bad that I'm waiting with baited breath for Marcus Samuelsson to fly just a little too close to the sun? You can bet I'll be there to kick him when he comes crashing down.

You see, this is not a memoir. It's the story of one man's unwavering ambition, and the book itself is just a cog in the massive Marcus Samuelsson self-promotion machine, a small workhorse that gives a little more publicity to the guy who has four restaurants, catered for the Obamas at the White House, and got himself gi
Aug 13, 2012 Kristin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I feel a bit conflicted in reviewing this memoir. As an aspiring foodie (in the unpretentious sense of the word, hopefully), it was interesting to read about an Ethiopian-born, Swedish-adopted chef who first learned to cook in his adopted grandmother's Scandinavian kitchen and refined his skills through both short and extended cooking gigs around the world. In New York City (where he chose to settle), his newest restaurant, Red Rooster, is located in Harlem, and he references some of his favorit ...more
Aug 06, 2012 K. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first "met" Samuelsson when he competed on Season Two of Top Chef Masters. I enjoyed his quiet confidence, his collegial attitude, and his global palate. His memoir provides a lot of great detail about his journey from his grandmother's kitchen to his hosting a White House dinner and then running a Pan-African restaurant in Harlem (with some Swedish dishes and soul food dishes on the menu, reflecting the culture of his adopted parents and his restaurant's historic neighborhood).

He shows how h
Aug 20, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: src-2012
This book is pretty interesting, and the author has had an interesting and exciting life, but it's making me think that he is kind of a pompous ass. I especially have a problem with the way he is portraying his relationship with his daughter. I guess he is being honest, but it's still annoying. He says that when his daughter asked him if he didn't want her, he told her that he did want her, but then earlier in the book when he finds out his one-night-stand is pregnant, he definitely states that ...more
Book Riot Community
I received this chef memoir in a food-themed Book Riot box, along with an apron, a dishtowel, a charming bookmark, and other goodies. It hadn’t been on my radar previously, but I ended up really enjoying this account of a chef who worked his butt off through years of feeling like an outsider, and who established an identity for himself as someone who was skilled at creating and melding flavors that transcended cultural boundaries.

–Steph Auteri

from The Best Books We Read In July 2016: http://boo
Feb 28, 2013 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I have a theory about why Marcus's Daughter, Zoe, wasn't thanked in the acknowledgements, when he thanks just about everyone, including the whole of Harlem. (view spoiler)

When I was in college in nineteen *cough*, guys liked to take girls on
Avishek Das
Oct 13, 2016 Avishek Das rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish this was my story; loved the way it blends culture and life via food. The medium is super lucid but not extravagant. the charm of learning to cook from your grandmother is immaculate.
above all, the essence of cooking is to learn to taste..
very very good read...
Jun 21, 2012 NyiNya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marcus Samuelsson is a genius in the kitchen, but his real skill is in maneuvering. "Yes, Chef" is an intriguing little look at ambition, how to climb to the top of your field and make the most of your friends and family. He's a take no prisoners kind of guy, adept at using people and then losing them. When he realizes his girlfriend is more of a hindrance than a help in his goal to reach the pinnacle of chefdon, he dumps her...but continues to sleep with her and accept free vacations from her p ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I only really knew Marcus Samuelsson from shows like Top Chef Masters, and vague references to a chef who was combining Swedish and African flavors in his cooking back when I was thinking about working towards being a chef myself. I didn't know much about him, but was interested in hearing his story.

I have to admit to being impressed. Marcus has always been incredibly driven. As a child, it was to be a soccer player, and when it turned out that he wasn't going to be big enough to cut it, he turn
Diane Yannick
I can't rate this book as I chose not to finish it--unusual for me. After reading the first third of the book, I was so bored that I couldn't continue or justify the $13,99 kindle price. I returned it and am relieved not to continue Marcus' journey from one kitchen and locale to the next. I know it's a tough life in the top kitchens and that it's a struggle to get there. I just could not find the compelling narrative.
Jun 01, 2012 SheilaRaeO rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The professional kitchen world is a brutal environment in which to make a living. Those that survive and thrive in that world are a very special breed - a subculture to themselves with their own set of rules all seem to understand without being talked about. This chef’s memoir is unlike any other I have read. It is more than just a peek behind the swinging kitchen door of a 3 or 4 star restaurant. It’s a look at the racial divide that exists in that world. A divide that exists even at a world-wi ...more
Mo Shah
Mar 28, 2013 Mo Shah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
So the dilemma for me here is twofold.

One, this is an obviously ghostwritten book. The language - especially the sensory details - is so rich and ripe and lucious there is no way that someone who isn't a professional in the field could manage it. So I had to search for it, but in the afterward where he acknowledges folks the first person he thanks the person who helps him tell his story.

The second dilemma is that while I might appreciate Mr. Samuelsson's drive and ambition and talents more afte
Sheila DeChantal
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 i ...more
Disappointing. That is the only way to sum up how I feel about this book. It's a shame since Samuelsson has such an interesting history and story to tell.

I've been following Samuelsson loosely since he left Aquavit. While I didn't watch Top Chef, I followed along interested to see if he would turn out a win. His personal story (African orphan adopted by a Swedish family lands in the US) is very unique in the elite cooking world. I expected to really enjoy hearing his life story and how he came t
Niklas Pivic
This was better than I'd expected, although I didn't know much about Samuelsson apart from him being an adopted Swede who's made it in the USA.

In this book, he takes the piss out of himself a lot, which is great; he rarely - if ever - takes the piss out of his profession, even though he once berates the harshess of the system in restaurants, where the hierarchy decides the pecking order. And the peckings are gruesome. Other times, he accepts it and even seems to like it, as I've found a lot of c
Julia Nelson
I liked it, but yep, the ghost writer was bland as others have pointed out. It lacks personality and character. But there are also problems with Marcus, as he is intolerably self-involved. Through out the book he was incredibly self-promoting, humorless, egotistical and frankly selfish. It was also really difficult to read about his treatment of his daughter, although this type of behavior is not unique to Marcus. One is grateful that he had such a lovely mother. Is it just me, or is Marcus real ...more
Rob Gaston
Jan 27, 2015 Rob Gaston rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was going to be another tome of back of the house stories about how rough kitchen life can be. While there was some of that, it was cast in the light of differences in race, gender, class, and nationality. Not only did the book talk about the world of food and kitchens, but is inspirational in terms of what having a singular vision and purpose in your life can do for you. However, it also speaks to the personal costs that can come from that at the same time. I have a lot of respec ...more
Where do i begin? I guess first--i wanted to read this because i like food and i spend a lot of time reading about Africa. Then i found out that Samuelsson had actually published a cookbook about African food, which i couldn't believe i didn't already know about. And then friends recommended this book very highly. i didn't quite know what i was in for, but this, to me, is a very special memoir.

It's not just about food; it's also about family and race. In this memoir, Samuelsson strikes me as in
Jul 17, 2012 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samuelsson is a great chef, and I was very excited for this book. I knew that he was an Ethiopian-born Swede, with a string of ethnic restaurants in NYC prior to reading. He's led a very interesting life, and I thought that his opinions and experiences regarding race, and finding belonging were very interesting. I also enjoyed the 'behind the scenes' look at how he creates dishes, finding out more about his restaurant successes and failures, the chef hierarchy and how he rose in such a competiti ...more
Sep 17, 2012 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sep-12
This is the memoir of world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. Born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, trained in Europe and now an American.

His story takes us step by step from as a young child tragically losing his mother to a horrible disease, then he and his sister being adopted by a Swedish couple, his many years of school and training traveling through Europe, and ultimately to New York City where he fulfills his dream by becoming a Chef and opening a restaurant where people from all walks of li
This was just fine, there wasn't really anything wrong with it. It was pleasant and readable and had a few interesting bits. Marcus Samuelsson seems to be a good guy, and it's kind of cool that he has an extremely unusual ethnic/cultural background, and good on him for becoming so successful, but I have to wonder if it's really enough reason to write a memoir.

I didn't love Blood, Bones, and Butter, but at least Gabrielle Hamilton is a pretty fucking great writer even if her life isn't really th
Aug 20, 2015 Marla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. If you like food and culinary shows or restaurants interest you, this is a good book to listen to. I had no idea Chef Marcus had such a hard time getting into the culinary world and getting the experience just because of the color of his skin. I forget that not everyone thinks like me that everyone is equal and everyone deserves a chance to excel in their given career. My daughter is in culinary and I'm sure she will face some blocks just because she is female and she's short s ...more
Jan 10, 2016 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, audiobook
I have known of Marcus Samuelsson as a contestant and a judge on various cooking competition shows, but never has he expressed his feelings about his life and his food as he has in Yes, Chef. Yes, Marcus does come off as pretentious at times, as he has during the television appearances, but I feel I understand him more after hearing about his near death experience as a toddler, his life changing situation in his early 20's, and the way he has come to terms with his humble beginnings. I may not a ...more
Sep 29, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-the-teens
Yes, Chef chronicles the journey of an Ethiopian-American chef who started out in Ethiopia as an orphan. I love that the book is about more than just food, although the culinary descriptions alone would be enough to make this book great. Yes, Chef also explores the cultural differences between America and Ethiopia, the inner turmoil of a young man trying to navigate the gap therein, and about an orphan's search for belonging. This book was an eye-opener into the culinary industry and the de fact ...more
 Barb Bailey
This very successful chef from humble beginnings has a good story to tell. He has written several cookbooks , owns 4 restaurants in NYC, was named top chef in NYC , has done some stints on cooking shows and written his memoirs.He is a self driven successful man who admittedly lacks interpersonal / relationship skills. Book club.... 3 stars.
Petra Eggs
He's led an interesting, if not exemplary, life. Is as Scandanavian as he is African and even more American than either. The book is a fast, light read, there isn't a lot of depth, but the story is so interesting, as are some of the pictures, and Samuelsson has such a big heart, it is definitely worth a read.
May 13, 2013 Katrina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not a huge fan of memoirs, but this was an unexpectedly enjoyable read. It also made me hungry.
Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised American chef Marcus Samuelsson had anything but a conventional upbringing. After his African mother dies of tuberculosis following the 75-mile walk to a hospital that saved the life of he and his sister, 3-year-old Marcus is adopted by a loving white couple from Sweden. Raised with a grandmother who instills a passion for food and fascinated by the tastes and flavors of his dual heritage, Marcus turns his sights on cooking. His ambitions propel him from kitchens i ...more
Mar 11, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marcus Samuelsson has had the most unlikely life journey. He was born in Ethiopia where he was orphaned at age three and he and his sister were adopted by a middle-class Swedish couple who already had a biracial foster child. Marcus found his love for cooking in his grandmother's kitchen in Sweden where he went every Saturday to help her prepare the evening's meal. The work ethic and inspiration of his grandmother certainly has stayed with him throughout his culinary career. The culinary journey ...more
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Marcus Samuelsson is the acclaimed chef behind Red Rooster Harlem, Ginny’s Supper Club, Streetbird Rotisserie, and American Table Cafe and Bar by Marcus Samuelsson; a committed philanthropist; and a New York Times-bestselling author. The youngest person to ever receive a three-star review from The New York Times, Samuelsson has won multiple James Beard Foundation Awards including Best Chef: New Yo ...more
More about Marcus Samuelsson...

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“Hard work IS its own reward. Integrity IS priceless. Art DOES feed the soul.” 12 likes
“But one of the things I have learned during the time I have spent in the United States is an old African American saying: Each one, teach one. I want to believe that I am here to teach one and, more, that there is one here who is meant to teach me. And if we each one teach one, we will make a difference.” 10 likes
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