Rarely do chef memoirs become New York Times bestsellers. But when Marcus Samuelsson asked Veronica Chambers to help him write “Yes, Chef: A Memoir,” he added the secret sauce to the telling of his story that is sending book sales soaring and making “the black Swede” a media darling.
Samuelsson credits Veronica in the acknowledgments — “The fine touch on the words is all hers” — which the New York Times says explains the unexpected “sparkle and grace” of the writing. It’s a rave review of a story told “simply and movingly.”
I first met Veronica 20 years ago when she was enjoying similar adulation for her own memoir “Mama’s Girl,” which the New Yorker called “a troubling testament to grit and mother love … one of the finest and most evenhanded in the genre in recent years.” She was a young star at Premiere magazine, where she was an editor and a writer while still in her early 20s. I was a columnist at the magazine writing about the business of Hollywood.
Veronica’s insights into what makes celebrities tick, as well as talk, gave her an edge as a profile writer. With an infectious love of life, everyone wanted to be near her. She is the person in the office who made hard days easier and the best days better.
We both left Premiere to join the staff of the features section of Newsweek, she in New York and me in Los Angeles. And she continued to write books. Veronica’s most recent nonfiction book is “Kickboxing Geishas: How Japanese Women are Changing Their Nation.” Her other nonfiction books include “The Joy of Doing Things Badly: A Girl’s Guide to Love, Life and Foolish Bravery.”
But, of course, Veronica has never done anything badly. After Newsweek, she spent two seasons as an executive story editor for CW’s hit series “Girlfriends” and earned a BET Comedy Award for her script work on that series. She has been a top editor at Conde Nast’s Glamour and Hearst’s Good Housekeeping magazine.
Books that open doors
Born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn, Chambers’ work often reflects her Afro-Latina heritage. This is particularly true for her dozen-plus children’s books, most recently “Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa” and her teen series, “Amigas,” a collaboration between Chambers, producer Jane Startz and Jennifer Lopez.
A graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts, Veronica and her husband have endowed three scholarships at the college in the fields of music and literature. She has been the recipient of several awards, including the Hodder fellowship for emerging novelists at Princeton and a National Endowment for the Arts fiction award.
I have long been honored to call Veronica my friend, and now I am honored to have her as a member of the Zester Daily Advisory Board.
Top photo: Marcus Samuelsson, who enlisted the writing expertise of Veronica Chambers, right, for his memoir “Yes, Chef.” Credit: Jason Clampet