Chef Marcus Samuelsson was adopted from Ethiopia to Sweden when he was two years old, along with his older sister. His mother had died of tuberculosis, and her children were incorrectly believed to be orphans. (I'm using the passive voice because Samuelsson never found out exactly how this came about, or if any of his living relatives would have been willing or able to take him in had they known what was going on or, for that matter, if any of them did know.)

Growing up, he wanted to be a professional soccer player but was too small (later, he discovered that he was a year younger than everyone thought), so he turned to cooking, eventually becoming a successful chef in New York. Due to his sister's detective work, as an adult he discovered that their father, whom he had thought was dead, was alive, and that he had something like a hundred relatives he'd never known about. His visits to Ethiopia inspired him to start cooking Ethiopian food. He won Top Chef Masters with an Ethiopian meal.

Great story. Samuelsson is an excellent writer, and his story is atmospheric, thoughtful, and honest. He's definitely of the "warts and all" school of memoir writing, which I appreciate. He's particularly good on his cross-cultural experiences, the complexity of his unusual racial and cultural status, and the connections between food, family, and culture.

Yes, Chef: A Memoir


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