Unfortunately, I was wrong.
Yes, Chef is supposed to be an "orphan-done-good" story. Anyone who follows the New York foodie scene, or the celeb chef foodie scene probably knows who Marcus Samuelsson is. Born in Ethiopia, orphaned when his mother died of TB, adopted by a Swedish family....goes on to become an award winning chef. Yes, I skipped a lot in between.
Yes, Chef follows a peculiar cadence that left me feeling a bit disoriented. Marcus traveled alot in his training, and you'll bounce around while reading about those journeys. I found that the nostalgic bits - meeting his 14 year old daughter, meeting his Ethiopian father - were written in merely as an attempt to take the edge off of his ego. I felt particularly lost when the book veered into a history of Harlem while explaining why Marcus chose to open a restaurant there. Uhm, didn't he grow up in Sweden? Pretty sure that's not Harlem.
Oh, did you catch that? Meeting his 14 year old daughter. He was well aware of her birth, and chose to let his mother be his "representative" in facilitating child support. I get that he was young. I get that the pregnancy was unplanned (and clearly not prevented), but his decision to simply carry on as if his daughter didn't exist triggered every abandonment issue that I have (and trust me, I've got a LOT). He talks of finally meeting her & wanting to apologize & blah, blah, blah...then conveniently leaves her (& her mother) out of the acknowlegments. A small detail? Maybe, but it really bugged me. Oh, and her birth (or their meeting) doesn't even rate a mention on his life timeline on his blog. He lost major respect points for those omissions.
I found the tone of the book to be rather insincere. To be fair, the book is ghost-written - so who knows what the tone would have been if Marcus did the writing (we know he can cook, but who knows if he can write). There's quite a bit of name dropping in the middle of the book, so if you're like me & don't know all the celeb chefs by heart, you'll be a little dazed (and possibly bored). Marcus (& his writer) tell the tale of rising through the ranks, breaking down racial barriers, and bringing culture into the kitchen. Bravo, but...let's not ignore the fact that Marcus was raised by a Swedish family who provided the support for him to travel & train across Europe. This is NOT a projects-to-prosperity story, as much as Marcus tries to paint it that way.
Clearly, Marcus Samuelsson is a talented chef. I'd suggest that he continue to focus on the kitchen. Yes, Chef left me saying no, thanks. (sorry, couldn't resist)
A digital copy of this book was provided through NetGalley. I haven't been compensated for this review. Opinions expressed are my own.