Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuellson

Yes-Chef-Marcus-Samuelsson-Random-House-Audio-booksYes, Chef
By Marcus Samuellson
read by Marcus Samuellson

Now, Marcus Samuellson is a successful celebrity chef. Way back when, he was a toddler in Ethiopia dying of tuberculosis, and then a kid in Sweden determined to become a professional soccer player, and then a young man in Europe and America trying to get a job and work his way up the career path. This is the story of how he got from there to here, and it’s an excellent story.

One thing that really impresses me with this book is how he manages to not only tell about his actions and experiences in the past, but also to portray his perspective and thought process in the past. When he was writing about his childhood, he wrote as an adult recounting his childhood, but as he was writing about his experiences as a young adult growing into a mature adult, his writing also changed to reflect the change from being driven young man with an overriding ambition to being a much more socially aware adult who didn’t take family for granted.

I was really glad that I experienced this as an audiobook, not because it would have been at all bad as a standard book, but because the audio version is read by Samuellson himself. He doesn’t have the perfect elocution of a professional audiobook reader, but he does have real emotional connection to the story he’s telling. As an autobiography, it gains even more power by being told, literally, in his own voice.

Also, his descriptions of food make me wish that I was more of a foodie. I like food, but I also like simple flavors. Samuellson’s descriptions of the rich and complex flavors that he loves are tantalizing.

The one problem I had with the book is that some of the transitions are pretty abrupt, and a couple of times abrupt enough to be confusing, where I wasn’t quite sure what happened. Also, I got the distinct impression that he was living by the same parental advice I got, that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Not that all of his experiences were good by any means, or even that all the people were nice (not at all!) but no one and nothing is presented as unmitigated badness, and that is something I appreciate. Sometimes that might mean skipping over a period of his life, maybe, but for the most part Samuellson seems to genuinely like and respect people. Even the most difficult people (and there are apparently a lot of difficult people in the cooking community, good grief – I’m extremely glad that I don’t have to put up with that) have something good about them and Samuellson sees that.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book a great deal and I definitely recommend it so that you can enjoy it, too.

2 comments on “Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuellson

  1. Anna says:

    Marcus Samuellson is awesome! I loved him on Top Chef Masters; he really just seems like the nicest guy ever, which is super rare in the chef world. I loved how you told me that his “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” particularly applied to Gordon Ramsey, who got a single, factual sentence in the book. I’d always sort of given Ramsey the benefit of the doubt and figured he might be playing up a persona for the cameras but it sounds like he doesn’t have to play it up very much.

    • Rebecca says:

      Hah! Yeah. Most of the chefs mentioned seem to be major asses (my opinion based on their recounted actions), but Samuellson always mentions their good features along with the bad. Ramsey, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to have the good parts to match his bad, so only gets the briefest mention about, ironically, cursing Samuellson out for not mentioning Ramsey in an interview.

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