California Soul An American Epic of Cooking and Survival
A sharply crafted and unflinchingly honest memoir about gangs, drugs, cooking, and living life on the line—both on the streets and in the kitchen—from one of the most exciting stars in the food world today “A remarkable memoir.”—Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award winner and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller How to Be an Antiracist Chef Keith Corbin has been cooking his entire life. Born on the home turf of the notorious Grape Street Crips in 1980s Watts, Los Angeles, he got his start cooking crack at age thirteen, becoming so skilled that he was flown across the country to cook for drug operations in other cities. After his criminal enterprises caught up with him, though, Corbin spent years in California’s most notorious maximum security prisons—witnessing the resourcefulness of other inmates who made kimchi out of leftover vegetables and tamales from ground-up Fritos. He developed his own culinary palate and ingenuity, creating “spreads” out of the unbearable commissary ingredients and experimenting during his shifts in the prison kitchen. After his release, Corbin got a job managing the kitchen at LocoL, an ambitious fast food restaurant spearheaded by celebrity chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, designed to bring inexpensive, quality food and good jobs into underserved neighborhoods. But when Corbin was suddenly thrust into the spotlight, he struggled to live up to or accept the simplified “gangbanger redemption” portrayal of him in the media. As he battles private demons while achieving public success, Corbin traces the origins of his vision for “California soul food” and takes readers inside the worlds of gang hierarchy , drug dealing, prison politics, gentrification, and culinary achievement to tell the story of how he became head chef of Alta Adams, one of America’s best restaurants.