Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Yes, Chef, by Marcus Samuelsson

Yes, Chef
A Memoir
Author: Marcus Samuelsson
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
I expected the memoir of Marcus Samuelsson--possibly the most likable person to ever wear the mantle of "celebrity chef"--to be interesting, but I never expected it to be so poetic. It starts with Samuelsson's description of his birth mother, or rather his inability to describe her properly. He has no photos of her because no photos of her exist. But there is so much he can learn about her by learning about her food, the food of the region where she lived, the flavours of Ethiopia where he spent his very earliest years. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was just two years old, after walking for miles and miles to take him and his sister to a hospital in Ababa Addis. Marcus and his sister survived--thanks to his mother--and were adopted by a family in Sweden. Today, Marcus Samuelsson's food is influenced by his two families, his extensive travels and the place he now calls home: Harlem in New York.

There is not a great deal of celebrity gossip in Yes, Chef, though he does speak frankly about his dislike of Gordon Ramsay and the exhaustion he felt while filming Top Chef Masters at the same time he was preparing for the first state dinner for the Obamas. Mostly the book is about food. About gravlax and berbere spice and smoked salmon and fried chicken. It's about the food memories of a person whose life story is not only unusual but remarkable.

One thing I really wish he had cleared up, though, was why the wedding pictures he included in the book show his wife and him (and some of the guests) looking absolutely miserable, almost furious. Perhaps they were tired? Or just very serious? Or maybe because his wife is a model she only ever poses with very dramatic facial expressions? It was very perplexing. 

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