Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson: Books Worth Your Time

June 29, 2012

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

By Getachew Teklu

This is a lovely autobiography of one of America’s super chefs, who went from being an Ethiopian orphan, to a Swedish adoptee, to one of the most famous chefs in the US. It traces his life growing up in Sweden, the impact of being black in a predominately white world, and his path to becoming a chef, from cooking school in Sweden through the grueling internships at various restaurants and around the world. He shares his personal joys and struggles, his rise and the life choices he made and regrets, his period as the executive chef of Aquavit-in Minneapolis, and the founding of his new restaurant in Harlem in New York City.

Marcus Samuelsson’s story is inspiring, thought-provoking, and truth seeking. It is an intense but rewarding read, one that examines racial identity, belonging, acceptance, and pursuit of excellence. Portions of the book suffer from dense culinary descriptions that may be inaccessible to readers not so inclined; yet, it is integral to the book’s basis, which begins and ends in the kitchen. A masterpiece! From a child adopted out of Africa-Ethiopia, and growing up in Sweden to one of America’s top chefs, this is the story of the surprising journey Marcus Samuelsson has taken. Chef Marcus Samuelsson has the flavors of many countries in his mind.  There is the Ethiopian spice flavor, used by the birth mother he no longer remembers. There are the herring, pickles, and jams of Sweden, where he grew up with his adopted family, and the roast chicken that was the specialty of his grandmother, who inspired his love of cooking and gave him his first lessons.

The book covers both the good and admirable in his life as well as the parts many of us would prefer to keep under wraps, so it ranges from the strong family that raised him and his strong work ethic. I knew nothing about his life beyond that point and found this memoir to be a fascinating story. He is such a diverse, focused and talented individual. His story of being a famous chef is a true testament to the dedication and extreme hard work that it takes to become an award winning chef. The book was an insightful look into the upscale restaurant world and was written with a no holds barred eloquence. A true story worth your time to read.

I’ve been a Marcus Samuelson fan since his Top Chef Masters appearance, and am always pleased to find him on shows like Chopped, Chopped Champions, and more. I was excited to find he’d written a memoir, and I can honestly say, not one page of this book disappointed me or changed my opinion of him. I’m definitely a fan, and proud of him.

Finally, A James Beard  Award-Winning chef and author of several cookbooks,  Marcus Samuelsson has appeared on Today, Charlie rose, Iron chef, and Top chef masters, where he took first place. In 1995, for his work at Aquavit, Samuelsson becomes the youngest chef ever to receive a three star review from the New York Times. His newest restaurant, Red Rooster, recently opened in Harlem, where he lives with his wife.  He also won the James Beard award, appear on “Top Chef Masters,” and create the Obama’s’ first official state dinner.

Helping Hands for International adoption

November 28, 2010

 Business or pleasure? That’s the first question people generally ask about an upcoming trip. Your answer gives them a reasonable range of responses, for they understand the parameters associated with both business trips and pleasurable vacations. On the other hand, an answer of adoption travel carries no definite impressions, for it intricately combines business and pleasure along with international bureaucracy and domestic devotion.

Adoption travel – traveling internationally to adopt a child – is a growing route for travelers. According to the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services, the availability of newborns in the United States is diminishing, prompting more than 20,000 Americans to adopt internationally in 2002. Of those adoptions, more than 75 percent of the children came from China, Russia, Guatemala, South Korea and the Ukraine – five countries that represent a broad range of conditions, for both travel and adoption.

Traveling to a foreign land while worrying about the adoption procedures provides a double-whammy of stress on potential parents. To alleviate the anxiety from the travel side of the equation, turn to a member of the American Society of Travel Agents. Some of the most travel-wise people in the world, ASTA members know how to prepare practically and mentally for such a life-altering journey.

The Travel Side of Adoption Travel
Adoption travel is an umbrella term for three separate journeys: the pre-adoption trip, where parents travel to another country to learn about the culture of the child they are to receive; the actual adoption trip, where parents meet and take home a child they’ve grown to love through pictures; and heritage trips, where the family re-visits the child’s homeland, allowing the child to understand his or her cultural roots.

Pre-Adoption Trip: To give an adopted child a sense of their cultural identity as they grow up, it’s essential for parents to form a relationship with their child’s birth country. Reading travel books is a good start, but experiencing the country firsthand through a pre-adoption visit creates a superior connection.

Understanding a foreign culture imparts invaluable insight to parents as they raise their child, for a day will come when a child asks about his or her homeland. To completely appreciate a country’s uniqueness, pre-adoption trips should be taken when a parent can focus on the culture and the people without being preoccupied with the actual adoption.

Adoption Trip: Some parents who adopt internationally are provided the choice of having their child escorted to the United States or traveling to the country to bring the child home. Travel agents agree: traveling to the country is best, especially if the parent was unable to previously explore the country through a pre-adoption tour.

When making plans for the adoption trip, parents often get swamped in all the details of coordinating an international visit while simultaneously filling out countless adoption papers. This is where a travel agent can truly help out.

Some countries require parents to stay for long periods of time to complete an adoption. Some travel agents who specialize in adoption travel know of hotels or furnished apartments in safe areas that offer discounts to adoptive families. Travel agents who specialize in countries like China and Russia will know much about the country from personal experiences, and they’ll help you prepare for the cultural differences you’ll encounter while setting up your hotel and plane reservations.

Once the weight of travel planning is off your shoulders, you’ll be able to focus more acutely on the adoption itself.

Homeland Heritage Trips: With most cases of international adoption, there comes a time when the adopted child’s interest in his or her home country can only be satiated by a visit. Children are innately curious, and learning about the food, people and customs of their birth culture is a vital identity-building experience.

Travel agents stress the importance of creating a wide-ranging itinerary for a homeland heritage visit, for a child should reach beyond general tourist attractions to understand the true essence of his or her culture. Include in your itinerary a trip to a zoo, where the indigenous animals will delight the child, or have your travel agent set up insightful tours away from the main tourist hubs.

Adopting a Positive Attitude
In the end, travel agents insist that parents take one thing along their journeys throughout the adoption process: a sense of wonder. Having a sense of wonder will help a parent adjust to new situations and become actively interested in the culture of their new child, all while keeping their composure in the face of adversity.

Business or pleasure?  Make it both by including a travel agent in your adoption travel plans to create an enjoyable travel experience that will help your new family start out on the right foot.

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