Becoming a world famous chef brings fame, celebrity opportunities, and media recognition to someone who is usually behind the scenes. Each of the chefs below have struggled to make a name for themselves. The hard knocks range from their family’s financial status to their own personal demons. Each of the chef’s memoirs below tells a story of perseverance and commitment to one’s craft.
Yes, Chef: A Memoir
by Marcus Samuelsson and Veronica Chambers
It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother’s house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted. However, he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations. Yes, Chef chronicles Samuelsson’s journey, from his grandmother’s kitchen to his arrival in New York City. That is where his talent and ambition finally come together at Aquavit, earning him a New York Times three-star rating at the age of twenty-four.
32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line
by Eric Ripert and Veronica Chambers
In an industry where celebrity chefs are known as much for their salty talk and quick tempers as their food, Eric Ripert stands out. This chef is a winner of four James Beard Awards and recipient of countless Michelin stars. He is also co-owner and chef of a world-renowned restaurant. Ripert embodies elegance and culinary perfection. But before the accolades, before he even knew how to make a proper hollandaise sauce, Eric Ripert was a lonely young boy in the south of France whose life was falling apart.
This memoir starts by taking us through Eric Ripert’s childhood in the south of France. Then you will head to the mountains of Andorra into the demanding kitchens of legendary Parisian chefs. That is until, at the age of twenty-four, Ripert made his way to the United States. This is definitely a book that you do not want to miss!
Nobu: A Memoir
By Nobu Matsuhisa
Nobu Matsuhisa’s memoir, released 30 years after his first restaurant opened in Los Angeles, explains a lot about the man who created an empire on five continents. In seven chapters, with descriptive subheadings, the Japanese chef recounts a lifetime with lows that left him near suicide and highs that found him in his own movie star trailer acting alongside Robert DeNiro.
Matsuhisa unveils the pain of losing his father as a young boy, the perseverance it took to become a sushi chef, and the deep respect he has for his culture and relationships. Glitzy stories name drop celebrities, and sharp business deals with restaurant partners keep the reader engaged and energized when dramatic moments of struggle are no more.
by Anthony Bourdain
Almost fourteen years after its initial publication, Anthony Bourdain’s memoir of cooking in New York’s underbelly retains its cult following among food-industry personnel for its raw storytelling and sharp words. Somewhat perversely, the mixed shadiness and dubious glory related therein still compels people to seek out line-cooking jobs.
“Nobody has done a better job — and will never — of writing both the freaking National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance of line cooks everywhere in the universe, than Tony Bourdain,” says chef and author Gabrielle Hamilton. “I’ve read Kitchen Confidential half a dozen times and still stand up and place my hand over my heart every time.”
by Jacques Pépin
Pépin’s 2004 memoir (written in conjunction with Barry Estabrook), tracks the legendary chef’s childhood in France. You will also read about his role as Charles de Gaulle’s personal chef and his time in America helping, often alongside Julia Child, to more or less redefine the way this country cooked. Few chefs have had as much influence on the way we eat. Pépin certainly ranks toward the top of this list and that alone makes this book worth a close read.
My Life in France
by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme
This collection — put together before her death and published posthumously in 2006 — serves as the definitive look at the life of America’s most beloved food personality. The big hearts on the cover are apt since, as the Times says, Child’s book “is really a love story: she loved Paul Child, 10 years her senior; she loved France; she loved French cooking; and she loved life.”
“In France Julia experienced “a flowering of the soul” and discovered her raison d’etre in cooking,” Alex Prud’Homme.
So, tell us, which of these chef’s memoirs will you pick up first? If you are inspired by these chefs and their adventures, then you may also enjoy reading about Anthony Bourdain’s Favorite Restaurants.