Book: Yes Chef
Author: Marcus Samuelsson
Review: 'Yes Chef' is a memoir by famous chef Marcus Samuelsson. It chronicles his first years in Ethiopia, his adoption into a Swedish family (along with his older sister) and his trials and tribulations to get where he is today in the culinary world.
I am not a foodie so I read this more to find out about the journey of this famous chef. While I admire Marcus Samuelsson's work ethic and determination, his ability to push everything else to the wayside to further his career, really made him come off as an ass. **spoilers** He cheats on his girlfriend, gets another woman pregnant, and then doesn't even plan to pay child support until his upstanding parents tell him they will cover it until he can afford it. He then goes back to the girlfriend, continues on with her before eventually confessing and they break up. His grandmother, the woman who inspired him to cook and his father, who was a mainstay in his life, die, and he didn't even go to their funerals because he couldn't miss work. I understand he was in the middle of getting a VISA, but I believe the state department allows travel for that. It didn't even seem like he looked into it (work above all else!). There is a another chef in the book who gives him a huge break, tons of responsibility and then dies of a heart attack. Instead of leaving it at that, he tells us the guy had a drug problem. Be it true or not, I felt that was a little tacky. Especially considering Marcus doesn't even track down his own child until she is a teenager. He makes the excuse that he was trying to 'perfect himself' but come on-that is inexcusable. It sounds like the mother of his child is a saint because she never bade him any ill will (it was a one night stand. It is referenced that he was involved a few times over the years for decisions about their daughter and I wonder why he was involved in any decision making since all he provided as a check every month??).
I didn't hate the book, it was just frustrating to listen to the author drone on wondering if his father abandoned him and his sister...meanwhile he essentially abandoned his own child. I enjoyed learning about the food industry as it's totally new to me. I didn't realize how competitive it was and how you need to be willing to move almost anywhere in the world to train if an opportunity presents itself. Samuelsson also tackles the issue of racism within the industry, and while he was discriminated against at times, he was also given many opportunities and was able to cook his way up in various kitchens.
He has won Top Chef Masters, cooked for the White House and is the owner of several successful restaurants. His flagship restaurant, which he spends a portion of the book discussing (including the vision, financial backing inspiration for recipes) is the Red Rooster in Harlem. I've heard great things from people who have been there, but let's be honest. It's not a place for locals to hang out like your local diner Marcus-the food is not cheap!
Overall-this is a story of a man who put his career above all else for most of his life. He is extremely talented, focused, determined and flawed-which is what makes this an interesting story.