Camino in Oakland will be hosting a guest chef dinner on Wednesday, July 11 where Samuelsson will be talking about and signing his new book and the restaurant will be serving up a three-course meal with recipes inspired by the memoir. Then on Thursday, July 12, Samuelsson will be making two appearances in San Francisco. He will be part of a guest chef lunch at Jardinière at 12:30 and a book signing at Passage Book in The Ferry Building at 6:00 p.m.
”Yes, Chef” chronicles Samuelsson’s rise to fame in the culinary world from very humble beginnings. Born in Ethiopia, at a very young age, he, his mother and sister were all stricken with tuberculosis. His mother tried to get them to the hospital from their remote village. She would pass away after traveling the 75 miles, spending much of it carrying Marcus on her back. Samuelsson and his sister survived but were soon without a family. A hospital worker helped find them a family that wanted to adopt and they were taken in by the Samuelssons in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The memoir looks at his life growing up, from his dreams of playing professional soccer (he was deemed too small) to his time in the kitchen with his grandmother Helga, who sparked his love of cooking. He would go on to culinary school, work tirelessly in restaurants in Sweden, Switzerland and France and develop a desire to “chase flavors.” After one of his best friends died in a car crash, he would make his way to New York, which he has called home ever since.
At the young age of 24, he was named executive chef at Aquavit, a low-profile Swedish restaurant that he and his staff would turn into a powerhouse, earning three stars from the New York Times. He was awarded Best Chef New York by the James Beard Foundation and helped to open Aquavit restaurants around the world.
His first attempt to open his own restaurant in New York was a massive failure but eventually, after completely breaking ties with Aquavit, he found success near his residence in Harlem, opening up Red Rooster. A victory on Top Chef Masters and being named to create the menu for the first White House State dinner for President Obama didn’t hurt.
”Yes, Dear” is not only about food. It’s about the people that changed Samuelsson’s life, both good and bad. He has traveled the world and is now looking to take all of his experiences and meld them into that goal of chasing flavors, trying different ingredients, mixing and matching until recipes work and using the flavors of different cultures to explain where he came from. Through the tragedies in his life and tough times he faced as a black chef, Samuelsson has persevered to finally have a restaurant that he can call his own and that represents his life and the community in which he lives in.
It’s a terrific read and his trip out west gives the Bay Area a chance to talk to a wonderfully talented chef with bigger goals of just creating great dishes; he wants to change society for the better.