Tasting and Talking About "Yes, Chef"

We’re closing in on week one of the “Yes, Chef” tour and the reception to the book has exceeded all my wildest expectations. My amazing PR team and I hit the ground running with two segments at the Today Show on Tuesday morning where we demo’d my mother’s cabbage rolls with Ann Curry (good luck and thank you for your kind words), and had some fun with Hoda, Kathie Lee and my “Yes, Chef” cocktail. 

A quick pit stop to Red Rooster for a few phone interviews and I was back downtown at the Union Square Barnes and Noble where I had the honor of being interviewed by the incomparable Ruth Reichl. I’ve known Ruth for many years and she never fails to impress me with her respect for the industry and her continued curiosity. Looking out to the crowd, it was so great to see such a diverse audience, from the little kids who came with their parents to Kate Krader who has always shown me so much support.

Then that’s when the party really began—I got to Ginny’s for our After Dark celebration just in time to see the Aday Ethiopian Dance Group start their performance. It was Maya’s idea to fly in this band from D.C. and their presence made the party. When you think of a band you only think of the instruments, but with this crew it was all about the outfits. Each member came out in traditional garb that was very regional and tribal. They played songs based on their tribe—every beat is significant—and it was fun to show them off to my New York friends and family. Caroline was great as she sang Swedish songs to Ben’s band and it’s always an honor to hear Bonsella bring down the house. It felt like everyone that have been part of my journey were there—chef friends like Chris Consetino and Anne Burrell stopped by and my writer buddies like Ted Lee, Ruth, Kate and so many more stopped to sip Ginger Hibiscus cocktails and nibble on Helga’s meatballs.

I was still high on adrenaline and excitement when I got to the Morning Joe taping at 8am on Wednesday. From midtown we zoomed down to Wall Street for a radio chat with Joan Hamburg where we both reflected on the passing of the great Nora Ephron. A taping for VH1 Morning Buzz after that and then it was back to Red Rooster for meetings and to check in on my staff. I was really looking forward to the Q&A with Isaac Mizrahi at Powerhouse Arena, and the space in Dumbo was the perfect combination of old-school charm and modern cool—just like Isaac himself. A man I’ve admired and trusted for many years, Isaac asked me the kind of questions where you can actually learn about yourself.

The "Yes, Chef" consumer dinner last night and my conversation with superwoman Thelma Golden was a lot of fun. We served a three-course tasting menu with dishes inspired by my journey. It’s funny—the memoir was five years in the making and chronicled my journey thus far, but as I was writing it I was becoming inspired for new dishes (there was brandt rib eye with berbere-dusted onion rings, chilled pea soup with fried tiger shrimp, white chocolate and fennel tart). The way I see it, throwing food and hospitality into a great space and adding music to it makes for the perfect party—this is just another way to show that food is my first language and it’s been terrific to see how people have responded. Michael Symon, Jonathan Waxman, Gavin Kaysen, Daniel Boulud, and Scott Conant are just a few in my large list of people who remind me that I belong to a tribe of amazing hospitality pros. (See pictures of the night below and thanks to Sweet Georgia Brown, Nate Lucas, and Sylvia.)

From our Harlem community day that brought out goods from the farmer’s market, yoga for kids and a terrific gospel choir to now, it really makes me feel and remember that I’m a contributor to this community. Seeing the familiar faces come out to all the events and meeting new ones, I am reminded why I’m do what I do—it’s not about how many people are there but it’s about the kind of people that continue to support me in this journey. It’s been a hectic week but everyone on the team is pushing each other and it’s an exciting time for all that continues this weekend at a guest chef dinner I’m doing at Sole East in Montauk and a demo on July 2 at Macy’s Herald Square.

One last note: Isaac said to me last night, “You’ve gotten good reviews and good reviews.” I want to acknowledge how proud I am for the accolades that have come in but I also want to note how well they have been written. These writers have pulled out great quotes from the book Veronica Chambers helped me craft, and we’ve been texting back and forth all week with our thoughts. I’m proud to know that readers appreciate my honesty and my story and I can’t wait to join the conversation, whether it’s about adoption, race, family, struggle, and of course, food.

Take a peek at my conversations with Joan Hamburg and Isaac Mizrahi below:

Thank you again, Thelma, for such a memorable night:


 Photos: Monika Sziladi