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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (3,970 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Marcus Samuelsson Narrator: Marcus Samuelsson Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2012 ISBN: 9780449008621
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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 Göteborg, Sweden. It was there that Marcus’ 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 outsized 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The 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

  • “I’ve read a lot of chefs’ books, but never anything like this one. Marcus Samuelsson has had such an interesting life, and he talks about it with touching modesty and remarkable candor. I couldn’t put this book down.”

    Ruth Reichl, bestselling author of Tender at the Bone

  • “Marcus Samuelsson has an incomparable story, a quiet bravery, and a lyrical and discreetly glittering style…I liked this book so very, very much.”

    Gabrielle Hamilton, bestselling author of Blood, Bones, & Butter

  • “The pleasures of this memoir are numerous. Marcus Samuelsson’s life, like his cooking, reflects splendidly multicultural influences and educations, and he writes about it all with an abundance of flavor and verve. A delicious read.”

    Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

  • Selected for the July 2012 Indie Next List
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A 2013 Audie Award Finalist for Best Narration by the Author
  • Winner of the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jewell Anderson | 2/14/2014

    " So first I caught this guy on Fresh Air and despite that horrid Terry Gross he was a very engaging guest, my interest was piqued but I didn't have any concrete details to cement this as a Must Read. Then, we were off to NYC for a wedding, and staying with friends in Harlem. My sis heard this and DEMANDED we eat at Samuelsson's restaurant Red Rooster. She is a fan as apparently he won Top Chef something. Oh it was just wonderful. If I could figure out how, I would attach all the pictures we took of the food... So now, finally, here I am reading this. Yay! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kate | 2/10/2014

    " I would have given this book 4.5 stars. However, I listened to the audio version, which is read by the author. That pushed it over the edge for me and up to 5 stars. Something about heating such a personal story in the authors own voice moved me in a way that reading alone could or would not have. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robyn | 2/8/2014

    " Marcus Samuelsson first intrigued me when I saw him as a judge on the Food Network's show Chopped. He didn't look like someone who would be an expert at Scadinavian cooking. But I should never judge a book by it's cover. So I had to read his back story. It was very interesting. He has a very genuine voice throughout his story. He gives an illuminating look into the world of a culinary professional. I didn't realize what a hard road it is to reach the top in the cooking/chef world. His work encouraging youth and minorities to enter the cooking profession is heart-warming. I look forward to trying out his restaurant, The Red Rooster, in New York if I ever get to visit. My only disappointment was that he did not include much on what his life is like now that he's made it to the top and his media experience being a "celebrity chef." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katrina | 2/2/2014

    " Good Reads Win: As an inspiring chef. I was so excited to recieve this book. It gives you a look into the life of working in a 3 or 4 star restaurant. It shows and looks into the divide of many things for example racial divide that happens in the kitchen. I loved how he explained cooking certain things. It has me trying these different things out. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Adrianne | 1/31/2014

    " I'd actually give it three.5 stars. Very interesting. This is not just about the restaurant industry, although he does enough behind the scenes revealing to make me glad I'm not in the profession. Samuelsson is driven and not willing to back away from hard work. He shares his personal journey from his boyhood roasting chicken with his grandmother through his culinary experiences and life adventures that have made him the man - and restaurateur - that he his today. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Martin | 1/28/2014

    " If the adage that 10% of the people are doers, and the rest are talkers is true, then Marcus Samuelsson must be the top 1% of the doers. While reading this book, which is like holding on Samuelsson's coat-tails as he trots across the globe and its thousand tastes, you (if you are one of the 90% like me) begin to realize this serves as an inspiration story, seeing how hard work will take you places. But Mr. Samuelsson is not one of those blind Republicans believing that mere work will get you ahead - he, too, realizes he has been blessed with opportunity and luck. Born in Ethiopia in an era of disease, his mother died after a 70-mile trek to a hospital and Mr. Samuelsson eventually were adopted by a Swedish family. From there, he worked his ass off, climbing the ladder up to owning a restaurant in Harlem. Yes, it is quite a journey, but the most delicious nuggets are the details he imparts about his work ethic and the claustrophobic and stressful kitchen environment as he maneuvers through the foibles of his own and others'. More than anything, it will inspire you to look at your work differently, and even give it a little more respect. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sonja | 1/14/2014

    " Having watched a lot of the Food Network recently, I was intrigued to read the memoir of Marcus Samuelsson, a Swedish-Ethiopian celebrity chef. His story isn't earth-shattering, but it is very interesting, and he has a lot of insight into the inner workings and politics of the world of elite restaurants. I particularly found interesting his relationships with the women in his life (mother, sisters, half-sisters, mother of his child, daughter, and wife). I loved the part where he talked his African father into letting his four half-sisters attend school (and paid for them to do so), yet he wanted nothing to do with his own daughter for 14 years. And while it makes sense that he'd write extensively about race in the cooking world, he only peripherally addresses gender -- never really talks at all about why cooking is traditionally women's work and yet very few women make it to the top echelons of chefdom. I also loved how he addressed people (business partners, investors, other top chefs -- hello, Gordon Ramsey!) who had done him wrong, but writes about it in a dignified way. And of course I loved how food permeates his story -- he does a great job of describing how all the experiences of his life were enhanced by food. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Catherine | 1/2/2014

    " Hadn't even heard of this guy, but got drawn into the story right away. I think all of us can identify with that feeling of "not fitting in", but the author is so driven, with such a strong work ethic. And I love that he is giving back to the community so much as well. Now I need to go eat at the Red Rooster in Harlem! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Emily | 12/28/2013

    " A good read! Honest, interesting, well-written. Gets a little slow at the very end, but definitely worth reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Roxanne / RoMoSquare | 12/22/2013

    " This was an interesting look at the inside world of very high end restaurant chefs. I definitely learned things that I didn't know before, but Samuelsson is not really a great writer. I found that he repeated himself sometimes and spent far too much time patting himself on the back. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meg | 12/20/2013

    " hmm, i liked reading about marcus' story, but the writing wasn't really that great and the flow was a little rough at times. all in all an interesting story and a mostly solid memoir. it was pretty cool to learn about how his life began and follow along his path to the present. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sandie | 11/25/2013

    " I devoured this book......it was a delicious read about determined goal setting and the paths taken to achieve the end....the vicarious trips to kitchens around the world was enough to satisfy any foodie as well. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Colleen | 11/20/2013

    " Interesting to read about his journey to becoming a well known chef but I think I like him a bit less after reading about some of his choices along the way. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lia | 10/7/2013

    " loved the beginning -didn't so much love the end. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda Atkinson | 5/17/2013

    " An interesting life, well told. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shannon | 5/13/2013

    " I love to cook... so, I loved this book. For me, it is very fun to see where a chef comes from and how (s)he comes to love and excel at cooking. His book has inspired me to try some African cooking. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Megan | 1/7/2013

    " More like 3.5. I liked the story, but I skimmed probably the last 20%. The voice of the book was bland and boring, which was my major problem with it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Theresa | 11/4/2012

    " A look into the chef/ restaurant business from both an insider and an outsider( Ethiopian born and Swedish ). And a tale of his incredible journey. Great story told with honesty and warmth. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anna | 10/25/2012

    " An enjoyable one day read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sarah Ewald | 10/6/2012

    " I liked the in-side look at a professional kitchen. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura Simonson | 9/10/2012

    " Enjoyed this book a lot until the last few chapters which felt like a gratuitous self promotion. Has made me much more interested and appreciative of the journey that chefs take to excel in their trade. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelly Baron | 7/2/2012

    " I read a lot of memoirs/biographies. This was one of the better ones! "

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About the Author

A James Beard Award–winning chef and author of several cookbooks, Marcus Samuelsson has appeared on Today, Charlie Rose, Iron Chef, and Top Chef Masters, where he took first place. In 1995, Samuelsson became the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star review from The New York Times for his work at Aquavit. His newest restaurant, Red Rooster, recently opened in Harlem, where he lives with his wife.