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Yes, Chef: A Memoir
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Yes, Chef: A Memoir

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  8,129 ratings  ·  1,447 reviews
JAMES BEARD AWARD NOMINEE • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BYVOGUE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“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...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published June 26th 2012 by Random House
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Robyn
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...more
Kristin
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
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 it's really just a cog in the massive Marcus Samuelsson self-promotion machine. It's a small workhorse that gives just a little more publicity to the guy who has four restaurants, catered for the Obamas at the White House, and got himself...more
Karen
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...more
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.
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...more
Elizabeth
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
NyiNya
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
Cindy
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...more
SheilaRaeO
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
Marieke
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...more
Stephanie
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...more
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...more
Lobstergirl

I know Marcus Samuelsson, the Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised, now American chef, from a few of his Food Network appearances and he's always seemed like an intelligent, thoughtful, kind man. (That he's talented goes without question.) This memoir fills in the blanks. It's not a great piece of writing, and it's kind of boring. But I'm impressed with how hardworking and humble Samuelsson is. I read a couple consumer reviews of his Harlem restaurant Red Rooster shortly after it opened where people s...more
Laura
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
Wendy
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...more
Mo Shah
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...more
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
Heather
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
Caroline
Born of Ethiopian parents and orphaned at age 3, Kassahun Tsegie and his 5 year old sister, Fantaye Tsegie, survivors of tuberculosis, are adopted by a Swedish couple and renamed Marcus and Linda Samuelsson.

Growing up in Sweden, he builds a love affair with food helping his grandmother in her kitchen, learning from her the traditional techniques of layering flavors, tenderizing meat and not taking short cuts. From his mother, he learns about unwavering love and support, from his father, the sto...more
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
Slickery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sera
Apr 11, 2013 Sera rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sera by: Bookpage Magazine
Samuelsson has written an engaging biography that takes him from his orphaned childhood to his adoptive home in Sweden to his ascent up the culinary ladder. I ordinarily don't support an author reading his or her own work on audio, but Samuelsson is an exception. His story can only be told by him. Moreover, his passion toward food and the life that he has led comes through strongly in his book. I couldn't help but root for him throughout.

Samuelsson is no saint and has made some bad decisions alo...more
sisraelt
Marcus' journey to becoming a renowned chef is a fascinating read. I like the honest, simple and straightforward writing. At the core, his story is like any success story... love what you do and work hard at it no matter what. Considering some of the things he gave up (raising Zoe, his adopted father and grandmother's funeral) I can't help but admire his dedication to success, while judging him somewhat. Overall a riveting read and much success to him!

Points of contention...
The book could have...more
Andee
I loved the stories he told of his culinary adventures, it was amazing. However, I was very bothered by his seeming lack of deep love for his child, lack of involvement in her life, he didn't even acknowledge her in his dedications, and also by what I view as the chip he has on his shoulder about race. Even though he was raised by whites he only identifies with blacks and complains bitterly about how few blacks are in the top of the culinary field, etc. It also strikes me as very strange, the re...more
Dawn Betts-Green
I'll be honest. I'm not a foodie. I don't like fancy food. As Phoebe said on Friends, "I think to enjoy fancy things, you have to be fancy on the inside, and I just don't think we are." However, that being said, I am positively obsessed with Food Network and shows like Top Chef. I love to watch the fancy food, but I really have no interest in eating it. Anyway, I've loved Marcus Samuelsson from the first time I saw him on TV; he just frankly seems like a nice guy, and he's very talented to boot....more
Kristie Helms
Fantastic summer read. He didn't particularly do a lot of deep diving into a vat of self-awareness, but I don't think that would have fit with his personality and the story itself was engaging enough without it. I have to say, the ending was a little too tied-up-into a bow, but it's hard to write a memoir without wanting to add a "happily ever after" so I understand the motivation.

The two, giant glaring holes in the story for me were the lack of insight into his difficult relationship with his d...more
stacy
i really enjoyed this memoir. my first introduction to marcus samuelsson was chopped. i loved him then and i love him now. it was interesting to learn about his life (the good and the bad and the choices he made) and his experiences with food and restaurants and chasing flavors around the world. go read this book, not for the writing, but for the story he tells.

the more i read chef memoirs, the more i think i could never make it in a kitchen. they work way too hard. marcus had to work hard and...more
Victoria Allman
It is an absolute pleasure to read a chef's memoir about something other than how many drugs they have done of how drunk they can get on the line and still put out food.

Marcus Samuelsson's passion for food and drive to excel leap from the page and swirl through the readers mind like the aromatics from the pots and pans on his stove. This is a story of high-quality food and cooking and how to obtain it. Through hard work, passion, and determination, Marcus has become a chef we should all look up...more
Nina
Apr 19, 2014 Nina rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nina by: Judy
Shelves: africa, food, memoir
Disappointingly, just another celebrity memoir. I discovered Marcus Samuelsson over half a decade ago, and was captivated by his identity as an Ethiopian adoptee, raised in blue collar Sweden, classically trained in Central Europe, who was reinventing Swedish food in the highly creative, elite Manhattan restaurant world. I hoped that his memoir would wrestle with what it's like to belong and yet not belong to Africa; how being a fully immersed black child in Europe is different from being black...more
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Marcus 'Joar' Samuelsson is an Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef and owner of Red Rooster Harlem in New York City and three other restaurants.

In addition to his recognition as a world-class chef, Samuelsson is an award-winning cookbook author with titles in both English and Swedish. His 2006 African-inspired cookbook The Soul of a New Cuisine received the prize "Best International Cookbook" by t...more
More about Marcus Samuelsson...
The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa New American Table Aquavit: And the New Scandinavian Cuisine Discovery Of A Continent: Foods, Flavors, And Inspirations From Africa Cooking with a Master

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“Hard work IS its own reward. Integrity IS priceless. Art DOES feed the soul.” 10 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.” 9 likes
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