Welcome to Summer Reading, wherein Eater singles out the most gossipy, outrageous, or absurd parts of memoirs written by New York City chefs. Today, an excerpt from Marcus Samuelsson's forthcoming memoir, Yes, Chef.
In Marcus Samuelsson's new memoir Yes, Chef, the chef recounts a nasty interaction that he had with Gordon Ramsay. Before starting a stint in the kitchen of Lanesborough in London, a reporter asked Marcus to name some of his favorite British chefs. There was one notable omission:
On my second day, I was cooking when a phone call came into the kitchen. The executive chef answered and, with a puzzled look, handed me the receiver. Trouble at Aquavit, I figured. I put the phone up to my ear, expecting to hear Hakan's familiar, "Hej, Marcus."
Instead, there was screaming.
"How the fuck can you come to my fucking city and think you are going to be able to cook without even fucking referring to me?"
This went on for what seemed like five minutes; I was too stunned to hang up.
"I'm going to make sure you have a fucking miserable time here. This is my city, you hear? Good luck, you fucking black bastard."
And then he hung up.
I had cooked with Gordon Ramsay once, a couple of years earlier, when we did a promotion with Charlie Trotter in Chicago. There were a handful of chefs there, including Daniel Boulud and Ferran Adria, and Gordon was rude and obnoxious to all of them. As a group we were interviewed by the Chicago newspaper; Gordon interrupted everyone who tried to answer a question, craving the limelight. I was almost embarrassed for him. So when I was giving interviews in the lead-up to the Lansborough event, and was asked who inspired me, I thought the best way to handle it was to saying nothing about him at all. Nothing good, nothing bad. I guess he was offended at being left out.Yes, Chef hits bookstands on June 26.
To be honest, though, only one phrase in his juvenile tirade unsettled me: when he called me a black bastard. Actually, I didn't give a fuck about the bastard part. But the black part pissed me off.
Restaurant kitchens will always have an element of playground justice to them. Big guys will pick on little guys, and new kids will be teased for whatever makes them stick out from the rest. If there's a weak spot, somebody will find it. Up to a point, that kind of bullying is built into the hierarchy of the kitchen; as an underling, you deal with it or find a different job. But what I finally realized in London was that I wasn't an underling anymore. I didn't have to take that kind of bullshit. There was no action I needed to take; I didn't need to talk things through with Gordon Ramsay and come to a kumbaya moment. In the years since, I haven't felt a need to make myself available when a mutual friend brought Gordon into my restaurant, or go out of my way to be his friend. I have better things to do.