Thank you for the amazing 8 years here at A Baked Creation, we can't thank you enough for the memories! But we've decided to move over to a new site - Sincerely, Syl. Please join us there for future posts on all the things you loved here!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yes, Chef

Yes, Chef
A Memoir

Written by Marcus Samuelsson with Veronica Chambers

ISBN 13: 9780385342605
ISBN 10: 0385342608
Publisher: Random House
Hardcover: 336 pages

Chef memoirs. It's difficult to choose which ones to read sometimes. Yes, they can cook, but can they write? I'm on the fence about this one. Marcus is able to communicate his life story and message across, but I felt that something was missing. Was he hardworking and dedicated and passionate? Yes. Did I feel all of this through his writing? Probably not.

Regardless, his story is an interesting one and is easy to read. Having only heard his name here and there, I didn't know much about him. His big break into mainstream media can probably be accredited to Top Chef Masters, where he was crowned the winner of season two. Quite impressive if you saw the other chefs he was going up against. Sadly, we were late into watching the addicting Top Chef and missed his season, (we only started following during season three). However, this part is briefly touched upon in his book. As a new fan of the television series, I was hoping for more insider's experience and knowledge!

Then, I was impressed to learn that he actually made his name from working at the Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit, in Manhattan. He became the youngest chef (23) to receive a three-star rating from The New York Times. He's awarded as the Rising Star Chef in New York City by the James Beard Foundation. And in 2009 he cooked for President Obama’s first state dinner (the menu is displayed at Red Rooster). He was so successful at Aquavit that he had to pay a fortune to buy back the rights to “Marcus Samuelsson” (his own name!) after his relationship with the former business partner and president turned sour.

Marcus didn't have an easy start to life. He was only three years old when his mother, sister, and him contracted tuberculosis in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia. Sadly, his birth mother did not survive, but Marcus and his sister did and were adopted by a family in Göteborg, Sweden. Ann Marie and Lennart Samuelsson, were such caring and generous parents. There, we are first see his spark for cooking in the kitchen with his new grandmother, Helga. It wasn't an obvious path for he originally wanted to be a professional soccer player, but was told he was a little too small to make the teams. Along the way, he faced racism and prejudice, but his talent and hard work did not go unnoticed. He was given chances and his dedication paid off as he quickly rose up the kitchen ranks.

310 Malcolm X Boulevard
Harlem, NY 10027
(212) 792-9001

After reading Yes, Chef, I was still curious enough to try his first successful restaurant in New York. From his success, I thought it would be best to make reservations for lunch. It didn't appear completely packed, but the place had quite the energy and tables could be quickly snapped up, so I would recommend that you call ahead.

There's a lovely patio outside and in the front half of the restaurant is the bar. An airy shelf divides the dining room and kitchen in the back.

On the walls and shelves are little souvenirs and collections from Marcus during his travels. Lots to look at and it's a great visual story that acts as a companion with Yes, Chef.

From our table in the back corner, here's a view of the restaurant from left to right. You'll notice the stairs leading down to Ginny’s Supper Club.

This is actually quite spacious for a restaurant in New York City! While there are shared tables with other guests, it doesn't feel cramped or tight in here.

I'm quite fond of the black and white art on the walls.

Heat lamps and plates.

Didn't spot Marcus in the kitchen that day, he might have been out doing publicity, we saw so many advertisements for his products around the city.

Order up!

Rooster Punch!

We were having trouble deciding between this one and Helga’s Meatballs (with lingonberries, dill potatoes, and braised green cabbage). Both dishes are so significant in Marcus's memoir. On the one hand, these were his grandmother's famous meatballs. On the other, I wanted to try berbere, otherwise I wouldn't have much of a chance to. It came down to asking our waitress and she recommended the Berbere Roasted Chicken.  It was served with rainbow chard, asparagus, and a peanut slaw.

It turned out to be our least favourite dish, the chicken was on the drier side and Howard was not a fan of the vegetables underneath.

On the other hand, the Fried Yard Bird was very moist and tender. It was made from dark meat, and was accompanied with mashed potatoes. I could eat more of that mashed potatoes, it was so smooth and creamy!

They have a very good dessert menu. Most restaurants have maybe one item I would be interested in ordering, but here, deciding on one was a challenge. I finally picked the Sweet Potato Doughnuts with Cinnamon Sugar. Nicely done! It was light and not too sweet, I want to see more desserts using sweet potato!

Seriously, we only had room in our stomach for one: Chocolate Kahlua Truffles; Dulce de Leche Flan with poached apricots and lemon thyme sorbet; Warm Chocolate Hazelnut Custard with whiskey marinated cherries and hazelnut cream; or Buttermilk Panna Cotta with mixed berries, a strawberry sauce, and graham cracker crust. Tough choices, right?

Overall, the lunch experience was pleasant, but would we return? Unlikely. Going in with high expectations, I'm sad to say that we just weren't wowed by the food.

What do you think? Have you read Yes, Chef? Have you eaten at Red Rooster? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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