field trip friday
I couldn’t wait to read Marcus Samuelsson’s new memoir. And, guess what? He was appearing at Barnes & Noble in New York City on the day of the book’s launch. Perfect! I was attending!
As a fan and a follower of Chef Samuelsson’s career, I couldn’t wait to listen to his casual conversation about his life and career with restaurant critic, Ruth Reichl. Most of my friends know Chef Samuelsson as the winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters in 2010. No small feat, mind you…but, his career thus far has been far more impressive than one huge victory on Top Chef.
He was the youngest chef to receive a three-star rating from The New York Times, and was also named Best Chef in New York City (in 2003) by the James Beard Foundation. His restaurant in Harlem, The Red Rooster (a culmination of food influences from many countries), has received national acclaim. He also can take credit for creating the Obamas’ first official state dinner.
I arrive at Barnes & Noble early and score a front row seat. Appearing much younger than his 42 years, Chef Samuelsson has a very humble and calming demeanor that immediately puts everyone at ease. When Ms. Reichl opens his new book Yes, Chef (written with Veronica Chambers) and reads the first sentence, everyone is intrigued: “I have never seen a picture of my mother”…
Born Kassahum Tsegie in Ethiopia, Chef Samuelsson was adopted by a white, middle-class family in Sweden. Family was responsible for his early culinary aspirations. He credits his Swedish grandmother for his first cooking lessons and says “learning to smoke salmon with my uncle was good times.” Listening to him talk about his love for food, it seems evident Chef Samuelsson was a natural in the kitchen. He confirms my suspicions with comments like: “I think I was born to do this” and “food and flavors have become my first language.”
He talks openly about the life of a struggling chef…not all glamour like food television, but hard work..and he discusses the physical toll it has taken on his body. When he was a young chef, he would vomit from stress before each shift –perfecting it to a timed nine minutes before returning, unflustered, back to work at his cooking station.
When asked for his restaurant recommendations, Samuelsson started to name some, by cuisine, then hesitated and thoughtfully told the crowd that “you are not gonna ‘get it’ as an experience in a restaurant. You need to eat in someone’s home.”
Marcus talks about the circumstances of his life without shock value, but with a global perspective that is both admirable and enlightening. He tells us “the way we do things here (U.S.) is one way, but not the only way.” And, he speaks of the role of the chef in the global society, inspiring change in the global climate. (see his website for more on this: http://www.marcussamuelsson.com/ ).
He has lived a life of multicultural influences that are reflected in his cooking and his global perspective. After hearing him speak, I am so much more interested in his cooking story for the fact that it helps explain the influence it has had on his life perspective.
I can’t wait to start reading…I suspect I will devour his book in one sitting…bon appetit!
A copy of Yes, Chef signed by Marcus Samuelsson is the giveaway book selection for August. To be eligible, simply ‘like’ my facebook, follow my twitter, or leave a comment on a post during the month of August.
Full details: http://www.pleasureinsimplethings.com/book-giveaway/