California Soul: An American Epic of Cooking and Survival (Hardcover)
“As compelling or more so than Boyz N the Hood and Menace II Society . . . When Corbin writes about his life, it burns with the intensity of the best pulp fiction, but it isn’t fiction—it’s the life he lived.”—Los Angeles Times
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.
“So much of Corbin’s writing . . . is what crime writers aspire to do, but the language and conventions of crime writing sometime seem stilted or manufactured. Reading California Soul is a different experience. . . . Corbin’s story comes through without self-consciousness and in his own language, a language that isn’t the vernacular of the generic streets but the patois of those of us who grew up in Black Los Angeles.” —Los Angeles Times
“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
“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. . . . Readers shouldn’t miss this.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The Inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival was a huge success!
Collected Works was very proud to have been on-site all weekend as the official bookstore of the Santa Fe Festival. Bestselling, prizewinning authors and literary legends like Margaret Atwood, Joy Harjo, Colson Whitehead, Sandra Cisneros, Jon Krakauer, amongst others, spent time in our mini-bookstore in the lobby of the Convention Center and signed hundreds of books, which we now have in stock. So if you missed the festival but are looking for a signed copy of one of their books, please call us or come in to browse.
Purchase your books by festival authors directly from CW below:
Margaret Atwood; Freddie Bitsoie; Sandra Cisneros; Lynn Cline; William deBuys; Ashley Ford; John Grisham; Roshi Joan Halifax; Joy Harjo; Anne Hillerman; Cheryl Alters Jamison; Craig Johnson; Asma Khan; Phil Klay; Jon Krakauer; Valeria Luiselli; Deborah Madison; Emily St. John Mandel; George R. R. Martin; James McGrath Morris; Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co.; Carmella Padilla Douglas Preston; Kirstin Valdez Quade; Bob Shacochis; Henry Shukman; Hampton Sides; Bryant Terry; Darryl Lorenzo Wellington; Colson Whitehead; Don Winslow; Lawrence Wright