Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson has been everywhere lately promoting his new memoir, Yes, Chef. Samuelsson, born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden by adoptive parents following the death of his mother, is probably one of the most famous internationally adopted persons in the world, and his life story is fascinating to both foodies and folks in the adoption community. Critics and readers alike are loving this book -- I can't wait to read it!
Samuelsson was on NPR's Fresh Air Last week. In an interview with guest host Dave Davies that focused primarily on his rise to culinary superstardom, he said:
Food has always been in my life. Being born in Ethiopia, where there was a lack of food, and then really cooking with my grandmother Helga in Sweden. And my grandmother Helga was a cook's cook.
We were jarring, pickling, there was always a bowl of chicken soup ready to be served, there was always sausage ready to be made. She was incessant all year round with cooking. ... It was really in those rituals that my love for food was built.
If you missed the show, you can listen to it online here.
Over at Huffington Post, in a piece titled Is That Your Baby? Growing Up a Child of White Parents, Samulesson shares more about his experience as an adopted person:
I like to say that my Mom and Dad were the original Brad and Angelina (if Brangelina lived in a small fishing town and made cabbage rolls), but in fact my mother's parents were the ones who first made blended families the norm. I had a Jewish auntie -- Anne-Marie's parents had taken in a girl from Czechoslovakia during World War II and raised her as their own. My grandparents were far from rich, but it was not strange for them to stretch their means to provide for others. And that's how it was for my parents; we didn't have money but we always ate well.
In my book Yes, Chef you can see old photos of them: my Mom with her beautiful, long hair and my dark blonde Dad, sporting a stylishly scruffy beard. They were so cool, so ahead of their time, without even trying. So many of our neighbors and my friends couldn't understand what my parents had done in adopting us, especially children from Ethiopia, but the impact on our extended family was immediate. I had Canadian relatives and cousins from Korea. If we got into fights at school, it wasn't because we were adopted. If we didn't understand what a word meant, it wasn't because we were adopted. My mother made sure that fact never creeped into conversation and she didn't let it define us.
Samuelsson will be making lots of public appearances this summer to promote Yes, Chef; he's got a calendar of events up on his website if you want to try and catch him at a venue near you. I'm planning to take my kids to meet him at an upcoming book signing!