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review 2015-07-01 03:33
Yes, Chef
Yes, Chef: A Memoir - Marcus Samuelsson

Yes Chef


Marcus Samuelsson, 2012


Award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson tells about how he went from being an Ethiopian orphan raised by adoptive parents in Sweden to a opening his own restaurant in New York. 



I enjoy reading books about the food world. As someone who is only a so-so cook herself, I find it fascinating to read about (or watch on Food Network) how the mind of a chef works. I also understand now - after reading this book - that a chef has to really love what they do in order to get to the point where they're running the kitchen at a high-end restaurant. Talent isn't enough. A chef has to be able to do their time in the trenches, put up with militant bosses who could fire them for the tiniest mistake, working long hours for little pay. Not very glamorous at all. 


Samuelsson is not a name that I was particularly familiar with - my knowledge of celebrity chefs is honestly limited to Iron Chef and a few Food Network cooking shows - but it was very interesting to me to learn about him and where he came from. I also found it fascinating that - even today - restaurant kitchens are very much a place for white males. Samuelsson makes this clear by telling his story and by telling the reader the little things that he is doing at his restaurant to try and change this dynamic, but in a way that doesn't seem like he's making his book about race. He happens to be a black chef, which is difficult in today's world, but his book is more about trying to incorporate his heritage into his cooking (both his Swedish and his Ethiopian heritage) than it is about condemning the cooking world for racism. 


What I really enjoyed about this memoir, though, is that Samuelsson really has lived an interesting life, even outside of being a chef. To go from a sick, hungry child in Ethiopia, to being adopted by loving parents in Sweden, to traveling all over the world, to cooking at the White House, his story really is quite remarkable. And I liked how he didn't gloss over his failures - both in the kitchen and in life. He wrote openly about everything, from his failed restaurant, from the daughter he abandoned in Austria after a one-night stand. (He eventually connected with her, when she was fourteen.) 


Overall a very interesting book about life in the restaurant business and a fascinating story about one man who overcame tremendous odds to become successful in that world. Recommended to anyone who likes memoirs or Food Network.

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review 2015-05-26 19:06
Proof: The Science of Booze - Adam Rogers

Proof: The Science of Booze


Adam Rogers, 2014


A history of the production and consumption of alcohol, from a scientific standpoint. Includes chapters on distillation, aging, hangovers, and others.



A book that combines two of my favorite things: science and alcohol.


You probably have to be at least a casual science nerd in order to appreciate this book. It’s not a book about alcohol in general, although the author does give a few good examples of interesting alcohols to try. It’s more a book about the history of alcohol – when and where the first evidence of distillation and fermentation show up in archaeological records, as well as how it has been adapted and perfected over the years. The author writes it very well, though. Full of interesting anecdotes personal experiences as well as facts and science, so that it doesn’t read like a textbook.


I learned a lot about alcohol from reading this book. Oddly enough, I attended a winery tour just after reading the chapter on fermentation, and I was pleased to discover how much more I understood about the process as the girl was taking us on the tour.


A very interesting read, but certainly not for everyone. But if you’re a science nerd at heart, and enjoy a drink now and again, it’s definitely recommended reading.

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review 2015-02-15 19:41
My Drunk Kitchen
My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut - Hannah Hart

My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut


Hannah Hart, 2014


Based on the YouTube series of the same name, Hart writes about adulthood, work, family, and relationships, all in the guise of a recipe book, complete with cocktails.



I can’t really call this a cookbook. It’s more of a humorous guide to growing up and dealing with life, with a few cocktails and easy to make recipes thrown in along with the advice. While there were a few recipes that I thought “Oh, hey, I might actually try that”, most were just funny takes on normal recipes in order to make a point.


I admit that I’ve never seen Hart’s YouTube videos, although this book makes me want to. While she seems like she might be somewhat helpless in the kitchen, there were some parts that really amused me and there were a few actually insightful thoughts on life.


Not recommended as an actual cookbook, but recommended if you’re looking for a funny, quick read. I don’t know how it compares with her YouTube channel, but I’ll update my thoughts after watching a few videos.

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review 2013-03-18 00:00
Nose: One Part Slow Wine Tour, One Part Family Drama Mystery, All Blah
Nose: A Novel - James Conaway

I won a copy through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.




I’m giving this book two stars because despite good elements I didn’t particularly enjoy it, even though those elements are usually what I like. There’s hardly anything particularly wrong or irritating but I find it slow and uncompelling.

My big problem was indifference. Apparently it’s simply not my kind of book. I think this will be different for people who are more into wine, Napa Valley and those who relate more with the characters.

I originally entered to win Nose because the blurb certainly seemed interesting and I wanted to explore an area I hadn’t before. The family saga mystery drama intrigued me. I admittedly went in knowing nothing about wine and unfortunately my only tasting experience was with a cheap port that I didn’t like.

Nose is very informative in all things wine - from the making, the environment, the marketing, and the sensations. It wasn’t hard to follow or understand. It gave me a different perspective and appreciation for wine. The details didn’t bog me down and it was very interesting. This is one of the best parts of the book.


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review 2008-05-01 00:00
Food And Drink In Britain: From the Stone Age to the 19th Century - C. Anne Wilson A completely fabulous, highly readable (though not gossipy in the slightest) treatise on edibles in Britain from cavemen to the Victorians. The book is mostly made of the histories of various dishes and ingredients, and traces the slow evolution of, say, rice pudding. Intermingled are recipes like: "For to make spinee. Take the flowers of the hawthorn, clean gathered, and bray them all to dust, and temper them with almond milk, and allay it with amidon, and with eggs will thick, and boil it. And mess it forth; and flowers and leaves laid above on." WHAT? I love this stuff.
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