Yes Chef

I picked up Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir on Friday. Finished it over the weekend. It’s good.

But also I share many things with Marcus, it’s uncanny. And I also have a distinct difference that is now sinking more and more in my soul:

I do not have siblings nor relatives, nor memories of them. I do not have pictures. And never did.

I’ve never had anyone blood-related to me and it looks like it’s going to be forever.

But back to Marcus, the 70s-born, European white family-raised, US-living black man that reminds me of me. He’s a star in New York and I’m grinding in LA. Still, I understand his every moves, the relentlessness that a transracial adoption I think enables: we grow up knowing damn well that we’ve got dealt a good hand. Time to not waste it. Shit is serious. It’s not about cockiness or arrogance. It’s about respect and fixing what doesn’t work. That’s the line we follow.

I see myself in him being serious about cooking while his friends were not at an early age. Paying attention to sound and deciphering how every one of them is created, has been a game of mine. When my friend told me “I’m going on vacation for the next three weeks” instead of producing music with me in early 2000s, I took that hard. The parallel between my domain and his is lovely because food and sound share vocabulary. Texture. Color. Flavor. Layers. Symphony. They share tedious preparation, obsessive dedication and limitless future. Samuel notes that he’s in the “memory business” which I love because sound and music are this too. I remember watching a Minecraft video of someone who had spent thousands of hours in the game and for whom the best memory of that game was the pretty piano playing hide and seek while he was building blocks. Memory business.

The biggest difference in careers, and this is where it super fucking hurts, is that the food business has been around for centuries and there’s an apprenticeship thing going on. There’s a system. I had none. Listen, I started making sound for games before game development schools and diplomas existed. So like Marcus, I focused like a demon and worked very hard to produce, learning a myriad of techniques. Instead of going slowly through the ladder of an international brotherhood like the culinary world is (or seemed through his book), I did not. There is no brotherhood in game development, just a gigantic web of pretty small tribes who don’t like each other much and don’t let outsiders like me in. You can’t see it unless you’re looking for work. I don’t talk too much about it in my memoir but I probably should give a few examples of searing pain when a job interview that goes more than well only leads to being ghosted. I have award-winning designers recommending me for positions and I don’t even get an email back.

It’s fucking me up and has been for years. Still at it. Determination is immense. I’ve left everything to do this.

When a 40-year-old business built from hippie/progressive white folks has less diversity than a centuries-old business built around regional taste and dare I say, patriarchy, you know there’s a problem. You know it means that my business is doing a very bad job at adding flavors. There’s no other way around it.

Marcus’ book highlights another thing: the exponential curve and the start of craziness. He was born at the start of the 70s, he got opportunities. I was born at the end of the 70s, opportunities from then and on are so much more fragile and rare. It’s one of the biggest constant in my life. A mere decade completely changed the job market. Thus people’s lives and expectations. Thus moods and feels.

Anyway. Great book. Inspiring. Tough for me, understanding that I won’t get the kind of closure Marcus experienced. Or will I?

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