To get a break from politics, I decided to write a review of Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson, which I recently read. Samuelsson is a famous chef himself and someone with a most interesting background and heritage. Published in 2012 (Random House), Chef Samuelsson’s memoir, written with journalist Veronica Chambers, describes his early years in Ethiopia. Named Kassahun Tsegie at birth, his mother died of tuberculosis (during an epidemic) at the age of 28, leaving Marcus and his sister Linda orphaned. Or so they thought. Years later, Marcus found his father, along with step-sisters and step-brothers, living in Ethiopia.
Marcus and Linda were adopted by a white Swedish couple, Lennart and Anne Marie Samuelsson, who lived in Goteborg. The couple had been searching for a son in Asian and African countries, where children were often orphaned. The Swedish couple had already established what many considered a “blended” family, which included a foster child, Anna, whose parents were Jamaican and Swedish.
Although Marcus loved soccer and wanted to be a pro, he also was drawn to cooking, which he began to learn with the help of his grandmother Helga. He eventually found that cooking was his “thing.” Marcus’s book chronicles his many ups and downs (failures & successes), and his experiences at the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, Sweden; apprenticeships in Switzerland, France, United States; and becoming Executive Chef of Aquavit in New York City at the age of 23.
Marcus has opened a variety of restaurants, including Red Rooster in Harlem. He also has written numerous cookbooks and has toured frequently.
In 2009, he married Gate Maya Haile, an Ethiopian-born model. Their marriage took place in Ethiopia with families and friends from the U.S. and Europe in attendance. That same year, 2009, Marcus cooked the first State Dinner for President Barack Obama and the Prime Minister of India.
Yes, Chef should be in most public libraries. I downloaded my copy from my local library’s virtual site and read it on my laptop. I enjoyed. Bet you will too. And you’ll find out why restaurant workers always say “Yes, Chef” when ordered to do something.