Yes, Chef is the memoir of the winner of the 2010 Top Chef Masters competition, Marcus Samuelsson. Written with Veronica Chambers, the book follows Samuelsson’s culinary trajectory to the ranks of Executive Chef, restaurateur, and James Beard Award winner.
Readers may recall Samuelsson from the television program “Chopped” where he is often a judge on the cooking competition program. Samuelsson’s demeanor—calm and measured—comes across in his memoir. The reader doesn’t get the sense that he is exaggerating or overstating the facts or manipulating his readers’ emotions with maudlin stories of his growing up years.
Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia and believed to be orphaned along with his sister when their mother died. They were adopted by a Swedish couple and raised there, which imbued him with a rich sense of culinary experience. Although his early exposure was to Swedish food, as he began training as a chef, his exposure to new food cultures and flavors extended throughout Europe and eventually to the United States. As Samuelsson explores his birth heritage, he discovers the flavors of his native Ethiopia, along with an extended family he didn’t know existed.
Samuelsson is forthright in sharing his experience as a chef of African descent in the kitchens of Europe and North America, allowing the reader to draw her or his own conclusions and experience their own emotional reaction to his treatment. His focus is on food and cooking, so that unfair treatment, slurs, and outright bigotry are like annoying gnats to him, not nearly powerful enough to deter him from his ultimate goals.
Yes, Chef is an enjoyable read. Samuelsson is likable and intelligent, and readers can’t help but root for him as he reaches each milestone along his culinary journey.
Yes, Chef was published in 2012 by Random House.