July 28, 2017

Yes, Chef – Culinary master Marcus Samuelsson’s autobiography

I was dimly aware of the name Marcus Samuelsson long before Top Chef and the current celebrity chef rage. Back in 1994, he was notable for being the 24-year-old executive chef at the famed New York Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit and for having been raised in Sweden but looking  definitely African in photos. I was curious about his story, but knew nothing more about him.

Zoom ahead 20 some years later and his autobiography answers many of my questions. His African father is an Ethiopian Orthodox Church priest with an Ethiopian mother that died of tuberculosis when Marcus was only three years old. He and his sister, Linda, were adopted by Anne Marie and Lennart Samuelsson and raised in Goteberg, Sweden. The memoir traces his journey as an apprentice chef in Europe and his successes and failures in the U. S. market.  Highlights of his career include winning Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV and being invited to guest-chef for Barack Obama’s first presidential state dinner in the White House.

The book illuminates not only this man’s path to becoming a well-known chef, but shows his examination of being black in a predominantly white profession. Samuelsson, now a U. S. citizen, is  ultimately shown to be a citizen-chef of the world as he traces his Ethiopian, Swedish, Austrian, French, American and global influences.

I listened to this autobiography in an audiobook format with the author reading the text, allowing me another layer of understanding this fascinating individual with the multi-cultural background and palate.

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