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I initially chose this book expecting to read a few good stories about food and anecdotes about people in the industry. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the chef has pulled off the rare feat of infusing this account of his quest for flavors with compelling (but not preachy) lessons about life.
Chef Samuelsson's accent (mostly stress patterns and unorthodox pronunciation of certain words and groupings) takes a little getting used to, but his lovely voice, command of the various foreign languages mentioned in the book, and emotional connection to the story make the adjustment easier, and more importantly, are unlikely to be found in narrators for hire that quite a few long-time Audible listeners complain about.
This is *not* one of those memoirs that practically anyone with some measure of media exposure seems to be hacking out these days and whose content is probably not even worth the paper and ink that went into the production of the physical volume. The writing and the way Chef Samuelsson frame the narrative were excellent and reflected the same incredible focus that has earned him well-deserved accolades and success. I will let my fellow listeners get acquainted with the wonderful details of the story, especially the chef's family, but I must express my admiration for their uncommon decency and work ethic.
32 of 32 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up Yes, Chef in three words, what would they be?
Fascinating, moving, human.
What other book might you compare Yes, Chef to and why?
I don't usually read memoirs, but the only other one I've read is Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. There's no comparison.
What about Marcus Samuelsson’s performance did you like?
It was great to hear him read his own work and know when some of his revelations were working on his emotions.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
No--it wasn't "fast food" but rather a fine meal to be savored over time.
Any additional comments?
I don't usually read memoirs, but a recommendation from another LT reader convinced me to give this one a try--and I'm glad that I did. I knew the bare bones of Marcus Samuelsson's story--that he was adopted from Africa by a Swedish couple and worked his way up to become a top chef in America--and I had seen him on TV. But his memoir proves him to be both a dedicated chef and, as an author, a brutally honest man who examines his own mistakes unflinchingly.
Samuelsson doesn't remember much about Africa; he was less than two years old when his mother, who was suffering from tuberculosis, walked many miles to get treatment for him and his older sister. She died in the hospital, and the children were quickly adopted by a forty-ish Swedish couple. Most of his memories are of a loving home, and of the grandmother who first sparked his interest in food. But as might be expected, there were also times when it wasn't easy being a black boy in a small Swedish town.
Samuelsson's early years as rising as a chef were marked by absolute ambition, and he paid an emotional price. He missed the funerals of both his father and grandmother, and he neglected a daughter born out of wedlock until she was 14 (although his parents paid his child support--and billed him later--and kept in touch with Zoe). But there's no whining here: Samuelsson admits his mistakes and takes the blame for their repercussions. After he had achieved a good measure of success and had time to reflect on what was lost, it was too late to mend some fences. But Samuelsson worked to build a relationship with Zoe and with his newly-rediscovered Ethiopian family.
Samuelsson gives us a fascinating look into the world of elilte chefs, a world that is at one moment cutthroat and at the next takes the term "networking" to new heights. But Yes, Chef is more than a professional memoir; it's the very human story of a man I've come to respect.
19 of 19 people found this review helpful