A compelling memoir from an acclaimed chef.
Born in Ethiopia, the author was placed in an orphanage after his mother died from tuberculosis, and the Samuelsson family adopted him and his sister. After becoming a famous chef, the author sought out his roots in multiple visits to his birth country. During one of those visits, he reconnected with his father, and he has kept in touch with his birth family since then. In rich detail, the author tracks his rise as a chef, from the cooking classes at his vocational high school and his first internship, to his appearance on Bravo’s Top Chef, which coincided with his cooking of the White House State Dinner after President Obama’s inauguration. The author chronicles the long and grueling hours in the kitchen and looks at the stiff hierarchy that exists not only among the kitchen staff, but also among head chefs. It took Samuelsson several years of working at Aquavit (where he “became the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star rating from the New York Times”) to be accepted as an equal chef by veterans, like Bobby Flay, already in the inner circle. In 2010, Samuelsson won Top Chef Masters, and he currently owns and runs Red Rooster Harlem in New York City. In addition to plenty of behind-the-scenes details, the author ably captures the feeling of being a young, single (he is now married), ambitious person in New York City.
Samuelsson strikes a skillful balance between the personal and the professional—recommended for those interested in pursuing a career as a chef or those curious about the secrets behind high-end dining.