Rick's Reviews > Yes, Chef

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
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's review
Jul 05, 2012

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bookshelves: giveaway-reads

Won this Advanced Readers Edition of Yes, Chef through GR Giveaways, and thought it was an interesting memoir of a hard-charging and extremely competitive chef. The story begins in Ethiopia where Kassahun Tsegie was born, contracted TB, was orphaned and adopted all before he turned three. From there he was raised as Marcus Samuelsson by his wonderful adoptive parents in Sweden, and went on to battle his way through kitchens across Europe and the United States until he rose to the top of the pile, earning a number of awards and high ratings at Aquavit in New York when he was but 24 years old.

The first part of the narrative is the most interesting, taking the reader through his personal journey. The last part, maybe the last third of the book, was less so. In the last third the storyline has progressed to his leaving the 3-star restaurant and founding his own house – the Red Rooster in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York. The pace and tone and timing of this part of the narrative made the book feel like it had been put together as a PR piece for rolling out the Red Rooster. Too much boasting in this part of his narrative - I think it is called a humble brag. And besides that, age 42 is a bit young to be writing one’s memoir.

All this aside, this chef has really accomplished something. His battle to reach the top — overcoming illness, location, and race — is motivating for younger chefs with visions of success. The chef does not lack for confidence, which is understandable when you consider where he came from and how far he reached; success stories such as his are generally not from shy, retiring types. The chef himself is not a paragon of virtue, and he candidly discusses as much in the memoir. He is also pretty much unrepentant … he did it his way, the only way he knew how. While the book itself has the feel of a ghostwritten narrative, it is still a life story that deserves our admiration and respect. Here is a man who came from nothing and made something of himself.

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