Yes, Chef is a book written by Marcus Samuelsson that I just finished reading and couldn’t wait to get my review out to you all that I pushed it to today. You may think that from the title this is just a recipe book, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. This book is not just a story about a chef but really about any immigrant to America who works hard and pushes their way to the top of the mountain only to have that mountain crumble. The story could end there as one of the stories of success gone wrong, but Chef Samuelsson didn’t stop. He kept pushing until he got to the top again. During the reading of this book I found myself nodding in agreement with just about everything Chef Samuelsson wrote. The stories were inspiring and motivating. The pictures were emotional and found a place in my heart and my mind.
I purchased this book immediately after reading Chrissie Wellington’s A Life Without Limits and the transition from triathlon to kitchen was seamless. Obviously for me cooking and sport are my passions so it was easy to go from one to the other. What I did not expect was to find the similarities that I found between both books. In Ms Wellington’s book we learned about the hardships she has had to deal with in jumping from one coach to another. In dealing with body images and the pressure to repeat as an undefeated Ironman champion. Mr Samuelsson has had to deal with his own hardships. Being born in Ethiopia with nothing and being adopted by white parents in Sweden. Imagine that! Then growing up and finding his way to America to battle not only the hierarchy of the kitchen, but being black in what is a white man’s sport. There are very few black chefs in the kitchen of the biggest and best restaurants and here was an immigrant coming to America to do just that.
I found that with each turn of the page that I wanted to reach out to Chef Samuelsson and high-five him for not letting his dream fade. For not allowing everything around him to crush his spirit. Yes he went through ups and downs, as we all do, but he kept his eye on his top goal. His goal to get to the top and establish himself as one of the best chefs in the World and not just America. I found it inspiring and telling that a man with nothing could grow to become a man of substance. He is not just a great chef, but an Ambassador. A man willing to teach those around him about the history of Harlem…..remember he was born in Ethiopia and grew up in Sweden. Harlem? Yes, that Harlem. In New York…..the place people only talk about but never visit.
As a New Yorker I took the Metro North through Harlem on a daily basis. I watched as it grew from squalor to opulence, and I use that term lightly as it is still growing. I was last in New York nearly 3 years ago and when I went back I saw Harlem from the train tracks again and smiled because I knew it was on its way. While I did not stop and get off and could not see Chef Samuelsson’s Red Rooster restaurant I knew he was making a difference and this book supported that knowledge.
I have been a big fan of Marcus Samuelsson’s ever since his days on Top Chef Masters and his ever presence on The Food Network just reinforces my opinion of him. He has a keen eye towards flavors and food. His critiques on the show Chopped are never just hammering away at the chef but has them walk away with ideas and tips. Seeing him compete on The Next Iron Chef I rooted for him on every show until his final episode but never lost faith in him or his ability to bring about change in not just the culinary world but also in the world, period.
I suggest that you get your hands on this book sooner rather than later. If you have a dream of becoming something someday then read how one person made a that dream come true for himself. Follow the path that he laid out and that goal of becoming a chef, a triathlete, a better parent, a better employee/employer will come true. You have to have drive and passion. You have to have goals. Chef Samuelsson has that and you can see it come through the pages of Yes, Chef. This is not just a culinary book, but a book about life and growing that life.