California Soul: An American Epic of Cooking and Survival

Books on Tape. Aug. 2022. 8:48 hrs. ISBN 9780593633076. $76. MEMOIR
South Central L.A.–raised Corbin narrates his remarkable memoir about culinary success with brutal honesty and a flair for storytelling. Corbin grew up in Watts, where his grandmother cooked for the neighborhood in a kitchen full of soul-food staples; this upbringing spawned a lifelong love of food. From a young age, Corbin was surrounded by gang culture and drugs, beginning to cook crack as a teenager, and eventually ending up in prison. While incarcerated, Corbin worked in the kitchen, honing his craft and later landing a job at Locol, the innovative restaurant founded by Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, meant to offer good food at low prices in food deserts. Corbin’s husky and emotive narration of the audiobook showcases his vulnerability, especially when discussing his struggles with addiction. Corbin’s tone and delivery are self-aware. He’s careful not to lean on a conventional redemption arc but instead fesses up to moments of self-sabotage with a healthy serving of curse words. Peppered with rebukes of mass incarceration and institutionalized racism, the memoir’s genuine emotion resonates.
VERDICT Corbin’s gritty and forthright book is perfect for fans of chef memoirs like Notes from a Young Black Chef and Kitchen Confidential.
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