Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson: A Book Review

Samuelsson_Yes-Chef_coverWell, since you all have heard me rant about a book that I loathed hated disliked was not my favorite, I thought it only fair to tell you all about a book that I loved reading this year. I have to say, Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson is in my top two reads for 2013 and I’m slightly surprised because generally I keep to novels. And this book isn’t a novel, but I suppose it IS a close cousin: a memoir.

Here’s what I knew when I picked up the book:

– He was orphaned at a young age in Ethiopia, along with an older sister

– He and his sister were adopted by a couple in Sweden

– He is my favorite judge on the show “Chopped”

Upon learning these snippets, immediately I was intrigued. How did someone go from Ethiopia to Sweden to America and end up a well-known chef?

So you see, I was expecting to be drawn in by Marcus Samuelsson’s story, but the quality of the writing took me off guard in a wonderful way. The man knows how to turn a phrase (or at least Veronica Chambers does…)!

I also appreciated Marcus’ clarity throughout the book. I learned that he’s a determined and level-headed person that committed to a passion for cooking early on and took the necessary, humbling steps toward reaching his goal. As an added bonus, Marcus’ journey gives a fascinating peek into the backend of the restaurant world. I thought I knew what the food industry was like (hey, I watch Iron Chef!), but it turned out that I had NO CLUE. The discipline seems to rival the military. There is a strict order to be followed in earning one’s stripes as a chef. One must impress many harsh critics, both within the kitchen and without in the dining room and accomplish tasks with precision even at the mundane level in order to move up the ranks.

marcussamuelssonMarcus’ path through life was one paved by skill, yes, but also by attitude. Seeing the inner workings of this thought process every step of the way was extraordinarily enlightening. He has a way of diagnosing each and every experience–in the moment–and responding appropriately according to what would propel him forward most efficiently. I wish I had that quality. It’s too easy to respond in the instance rather than weigh that moment with regard to the future…too easy to give into emotion rather than stick to logic.

The book keeps to the main path of his professional life but I kept wishing that it would delve more into the relationships, too. I suppose you can only ask so much of one book. 🙂

Now, every time I see Marcus on the Food Network, I feel as though we are BFFs. I’m sure my friendship bracelet is in the mail, right Marcus?!



Full disclosure for sensitive readers: Some of the language is a bit salty.


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