Throughout the summer Oakland Public Library is hosting food related programs and events for adults as part of our Reading is So Delicious Summer Reading Program. In keeping with this theme, I've highlighted memoirs written by chefs and food writers. The chef memoirs explore the writer's relationship to food, their journey to the kitchen, and what food represents to them. Other writers, such as Michael Pollan, write about food awareness and the history of food. I hope you enjoy exploring some of these titles and have a few of your own to recommend.
Yes, chef : a memoir / Marcus Samuelsson
Marcus Samuelsson was a young child when his mother fled her Ethiopian village for Addis Abba with her two children in tow to seek a cure for tuberculosis. His mother died and Samuelsson was adopted by a Swedish family. He developed a love of cooking from his Swedish grandmother who he helped in the kitchen on Saturday mornings. Samuelsson's memoir explores the chef's journey from his grandmother's kitchen in Sweden to his adventures in New York at Aquavit and eventually to the opening of his restaurant, Red Rooster, in Harlem. Committed to creating a diverse kitchen and dining room, Samuelsson works with young people from various backgrounds to help them develop a place in the kitchen and welcomes jazz musicians, presidents and ordinary people into his restaurant.
Four kitchens : my life behind the burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris : a memoir / Lauren Shockey
At the French Culinary Institute, Lauren Shockey learned to salt food properly,
cook fearlessly over high heat, and knock back beers like a pro. But she also
discovered that her real culinary education wouldn't begin until she actually
worked in a restaurant. After a somewhat disappointing apprenticeship in the
French provinces, Shockey hatched a plan for her dream year: to apprentice in
four high-end restaurants around the world. She started in her hometown of New York City under the famed chef Wylie Dufresne at the molecular gastronomy hotspot wd-50, then traveled to Vietnam, Israel, and back to France. Shockey shows us what really happens behind the scenes in haute cuisine, and includes original recipes integrating the techniques and flavors she learned along the way. -From Publisher's Description
Nine lives : a chef's journey from chaos to control / Brandon Baltzley
At twenty-six years old, Brandon Baltzley was poised for his star turn as the
opening chef at Chicago’s hotspot Tribute. People called him a prodigy—the
Salvador Dali of cooking—and foodie blogs followed his every move. Instead,
Brandon walked away from it all and entered rehab to deal with the alcohol and cocaine addiction that had enslaved him most of his adult life. Nine Lives serves up a raw and riveting memoir about food, rock-and-roll, and redemption. -From Publisher's Description
Life, on the line : a chef's story of chasing greatness, facing death, and redefining the way we eat / Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas
Achatz, "one of America's great chefs" ("Vogue"), shares how his drive to cook immaculate food won him international renown--and fueled his miraculous triumph over tongue cancer. "Life, on the Line" is also a book about survival, about nurturing creativity, and about profound friendship. -From OPL Catalog Summary
Heat : an amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta maker, and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany / Bill Buford
Expanding on his James Beard Award-winning New Yorker article, Bill Buford gives us a richly evocative chronicle of his experience as “slave” to Mario Batali in the kitchen of Batali’s three-star New York restaurant, Babbo. In a fast-paced, candid narrative, Buford describes three frenetic years of trials an errors, disappointments and triumphs, as he worked his way up the Babbo ladder from “kitchen bitch” to line cook . . . his relationship with the larger-than-life Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters . . . and his immersion in the arts of butchery in Northern Italy, of preparing game in London, and making handmade pasta at an Italian hillside trattoria. -From Publisher's Description
Spoon fed : how eight cooks saved my life / Kim Severson
Somewhere between the lessons her mother taught her as a child and the ones she is now trying to teach her own daughter, Kim Severson stumbled. She lost sight of what mattered, of who she was and who she wanted to be, and of how she wanted to live her life. It took a series of women cooks to reteach her the life lessons she forgot-and some she had never learned in the first place. Some as small as a spoonful, and others so big they saved her life, the best lessons she found were delivered in the kitchen. -From Publisher's Description
Steal the menu : a memoir of forty years in food / Raymond Sokolov
When Raymond Sokolov became food editor of The New York Times in 1971, he began a long, memorable career as restaurant critic, food historian, and author. Here he traces the food scene he reported on in America and abroad, from his pathbreaking dispatches on nouvelle cuisine chefs like Paul Bocuse and Michel Guérard in France to the rise of contemporary American food stars like Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz, and the fruitful collision of science and cooking in the kitchens of El Bulli in Spain, the Fat Duck outside London, and Copenhagen’s gnarly Noma. -From Publisher's Description
In his newest title, Pollan makes a case for reclaiming cooking rather than relying on corporations to provide us with overly processed foods. Pollan uses each of the four elements -- fire, water, earth, and air -- to master a recipe, a task that he accomplishes with a barbecue pit master, a baker, a group of brewers, and a Chez Panisse trained chef.