California Soul: Book summary and reviews of California Soul by Keith Corbin

California Soul

An American Epic of Cooking and Survival

by Keith Corbin

California Soul by Keith Corbin X
California Soul by Keith Corbin
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Book Summary

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

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In this exhilarating saga of drugs, crime, and culinary passion, Corbin traces his remarkable rise from a life behind bars to a successful career as a chef...[He] reveals his path to success as an ex-felon was far from easy, and it's his brutally candid depiction of 'what it's like to grow up Black in America under some of the worst circumstances' that makes this story of perseverance hit hard. Readers shouldn't miss this." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"There are two primary heroes of this story, capably preserved and shaped by James Beard Award-winning journalist Alexander: Corbin himself and his mentor, the restaurateur Daniel Patterson, whose commitment to actually doing something for Corbin—and many others coming out of incarceration and looking for direction—is rare indeed. A personable account of hard-won success, heartening in some ways, sobering in others, and served with tasty sides." - Kirkus Reviews

"Keith Corbin has gone well beyond just writing a remarkable memoir. By refusing to impose a clean redemption narrative on his own experience, Corbin moves beyond the limitations placed on stories of Black lives in America. California Soul is a courageous book." - Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award winner and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller How to Be an Antiracist

"Keith Corbin's California Soul is the kind of real-life story that—unless you come from the bricks—you never really hear. This is not just one man's story. It's a family story, a neighborhood story, an American story. And only through food can it be digested completely. Time to eat." - Roy Choi, New York Times bestselling author, James Beard Award-winning host of Broken Bread and The Chef Show, and co-founding chef of Kogi, Best Friend, and LocoL

"Keith Corbin grabs you in the first chapter with the sheer rawness and authenticity of his description of what it's like to live in Watts and in his shoes, and he doesn't let you go until the last word. Corbin has a way of putting the reader in the moment—mind, body, and soul. This story has heart, and I never wanted it to end." - Carla Hall, bestselling author of Carla Hall's Soul Food and judge on Food Network's Halloween Baking Championship

This information about California Soul was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Keith Corbin

Keith Corbin is the James Beard Award-nominated executive chef and co-owner of Alta Adams in Los Angeles, named one of the best restaurants in the country by Esquire, Thrillist, and the Los Angeles Times. A native of Watts, Corbin was formerly director of operations for the LocoL restaurant group and worked for Daniel Patterson at his Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant Coi in San Francisco.

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