Yes, Chef : A Memoir
by Marcus Samuelsson

Overview -

"One of the great culinary stories of our time."--Dwight Garner, "The New York Times"
" "
It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother's house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner.  Read more...

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More About Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

"One of the great culinary stories of our time."--Dwight Garner, "The New York Times"
" "
It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother's house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations.
Marcus Samuelsson was only three years old when he, his mother, and his sister--all battling tuberculosis--walked seventy-five miles to a hospital in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Adaba. Tragically, his mother succumbed to the disease shortly after she arrived, but Marcus and his sister recovered, and one year later they were welcomed into a loving middle-class white family in Goteborg, Sweden. It was there that Marcus's new grandmother, Helga, sparked in him a lifelong passion for food and cooking with her pan-fried herring, her freshly baked bread, and her signature roast chicken. From a very early age, there was little question what Marcus was going to be when he grew up.
"Yes, Chef "chronicles Marcus Samuelsson's remarkable journey from Helga's humble kitchen to some of the most demanding and cutthroat restaurants in Switzerland and France, from his grueling stints on cruise ships to his arrival in New York City, where his outsize talent and ambition finally come together at Aquavit, earning him a coveted "New York Times "three-star rating at the age of twenty-four. But Samuelsson's career of "chasing flavors," as he calls it, had only just begun--in the intervening years, there have been White House state dinners, career crises, reality show triumphs and, most important, the opening of the beloved Red Rooster in Harlem. At Red Rooster, Samuelsson has fufilled his dream of creating a truly diverse, multiracial dining room--a place where presidents and prime ministers rub elbows with jazz musicians, aspiring artists, bus drivers, and nurses. It is a place where an orphan from Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, living in America, can feel at home.
With disarming honesty and intimacy, Samuelsson also opens up about his failures--the price of ambition, in human terms--and recounts his emotional journey, as a grown man, to meet the father he never knew. "Yes, Chef "is a tale of personal discovery, unshakable determination, and the passionate, playful pursuit of flavors--one man's struggle to find a place for himself in the kitchen, and in the world.
Praise for "Yes, Chef"
" "
"Such an interesting life, told with touching modesty and remarkable candor."--Ruth Reichl
"Marcus Samuelsson has an incomparable story, a quiet bravery, and a lyrical and discreetly glittering style--in the kitchen and on the page. I liked this book so very, very much."--Gabrielle Hamilton
"Plenty of celebrity chefs have a compelling story to tell, but none of them can top this] one.""--The Wall Street Journal"
"Red Rooster's arrival in Harlem brought with it a chef who has reinvigorated and reimagined what it means to be American. In his famed dishes, and now in this memoir, Marcus Samuelsson tells a story that reaches past racial and national divides to the foundations of family, hope, and downright good food."--President Bill Clinton

  • ISBN-13: 9780385342605
  • ISBN-10: 0385342608
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Publish Date: June 2012
  • Page Count: 319

Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Culinary
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-04-02
  • Reviewer: Staff

Samuelsson, the chef and owner of Harlem’s famed Red Rooster restaurant, masterfully serves us a delicious banquet full of the ingredients that compose his own enchanting yet poignant story. When he was two, Samuelsson, his older sister, and his mother contracted tuberculosis in rural Ethiopia; after several days journey to the capital Addis Ababa, the three were admitted to a hospital. Samuelsson and his sister survived their mother, and they were soon adopted by a couple in Sweden. With the consummate skill of a master chef, Samuelsson cooks up a steaming stew of his life from his earliest cooking lessons at the hands of his grandmother to his various apprenticeships in Switzerland, France, and New York. From his grandmother’s food he learns rustic cooking and the ways that she knew intuitively how to create various textures in foods. When he’s 12 and on a fishing trip with his father, Samuelsson cooks his first meal and learns an important lesson about the beauty of food in context and how important it is to let the dishes be reflective of your surroundings. Samuelsson carries readers through his many failures and successes as a cook in restaurants like New York’s Aquavit and France’s Georges Blanc and in his relationships. Much like life, he delightfully points out, a great restaurant is more than just a series of services; it is a collection of meals and memories. (June)

BookPage Reviews

Travel by the book in 2013

Robert Reid is the U.S. Travel Editor for Lonely Planet. In a column written exclusively for BookPage, he highlights terrific travel books, both old and new. This month, he selects some of the best books for choosing your 2013 destinations.


Every year Lonely Planet’s world-traipsing authors and editors produce travel recommendations for the year to come, and this year is no exception with Best in Travel 2013. The picks for top destinations—the 10 cities, regions and countries that are the must-visits for travel enthusiasts—are always fiercely debated. Some are on the brink of discovery, others capture the zeitgeist, and some are already well known but worth a fresh look. For book lovers, here are three new books that transport the reader to some of Lonely Planet’s must-visit destinations for the new year.

Yes, Chef: A Memoir, from celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, hits two top under-the-radar destinations: the rapidly changing Addis Ababa in Samuelsson’s native Ethiopia, as well as Gothenburg, the Swedish city where he was raised after being adopted by a Swedish couple. Gothenburg is a Lonely Planet pick for one of the best value destinations for 2013—not cheap by some standards, but the most Scandinavia you can get for your krona. Samuelsson’s memoir is about more than just food; it’s a personal and thought-provoking trip through multiple cultures, weaving in discussions of family and race as well as cultural and culinary identity.

What’s closer to New York: San Francisco or Reykjavík, Iceland? (Hint: it starts with an R.) The success of Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo series cast a spotlight on the dark world of Nordic crime fiction and brought about a rush of new translations for English readers. Iceland, one of the top travel destinations for 2013, is also riding the wave, notably with the much-lauded Arnaldur Indridason, who added Outrage to his Inspector Erlendur series this year. The books are chock-full of Icelandic cultural detail.

With big changes coming to San Francisco’s storied waterfront in anticipation of the 2013 America’s Cup, the city was a shoo-in for a must-see slot. But one great reason to visit the Bay Area isn’t even in SF itself: It’s the vibrant food and arts scene flourishing across the bay in Oakland and Berkeley. For an intro to the area, read Michael Chabon’s novel ­Telegraph Avenue, which takes place between the two adjacent East Bay cities in a neighborhood he calls “Brokeland.” Locals will revel in the hyper-detailed depiction of the area, and unfamiliar readers will walk away feeling like they know the innermost secrets of an evolving cityscape.

Robert Reid is the U.S. Travel Editor for Lonely Planet and is still upset that other editors vetoed his Oklahoma pick as a top destination for 2013.

BAM Customer Reviews