So, who wants to go to Harlem with me and eat Swedish meatballs?
Y’all, this book. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson was my latest audiobook memoir of an inspiring person, and I think I liked it better than any of the others I’ve listened to (except maybe Open). That probably has a lot to do with the descriptions of food.
Here are the basics: an Ethiopian orphan adopted by Swedish parents follows his dream of “chasing flavors” to become a James Beard award-winning celebrity chef. I had heard of Marcus Samuelsson’s Harlem restaurant, Red Rooster, but that was all I knew about him before picking up this book (the lack of food shows is the worst part about not having cable). You may have seen Samuelsson on Top Chef Masters or Iron Chef, and if you’re like Y and constantly have NPR on in your car, you may have heard his Fresh Air interview.
1. I’m kind of dying to go to Addis Ababa now. Samuelsson visits Ethiopia many times throughout his adult life — one of those times with a team from Travel and Leisure — and his descriptions of the smells, the sounds, and the Starbucks spelled with 2 “K”s won me over.
2. This book was as satisfying as if I was eating it. Seriously. I was walking Ike while listening and just as Samuelsson bit into an empanada, I accidentally knocked my headphones out of my ear. I almost fell over trying to grab the headphones. It was torture. I needed to know what that empanada tasted like.
3. In all the memoirs/biographies I’ve read, these incredibly successful people knew their calling from childhood. Which basically means it’s too late for me. Can anyone recommend a book about a lazy 30 year old that suddenly becomes really amazing at something and leaves a huge mark on the world?
4. This audiobook was read by the author, which can be hit or miss. In this case, it was a hit.
5. Samuelsson’s first restaurant, Aquavit, had a location in Minneapolis in the late 90s that closed after 9/11. I Googled the restaurant to see where in Minneapolis it was located, and came across a 1998 article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune with the headline New fancy Swedish restaurant comes to downtown Minneapolis, which made me laugh. Oh, how far the Minneapolis food scene has come. Today, in this city that’s super proud of its food scene, no one would ever dare describe a restaurant as “fancy”.