|With Chef, Author and Restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson|
|Marcus Samuelsson getting ready to start his demo|
By the time I sat down with Marcus to talk, I was excited. I had so many questions I wanted to ask him before the cooking demo began, and judging from his laid back persona, I knew it was going to be fun. We comfortably sat opposite from each other on the couches and just chatted.
The Foodaholic: I know your passion for cooking began with your grandmother in Sweden and developed even further with your father in Ethiopia. How do you combine these two very different uses of ingredients and spices to make your own flavors and style?
Marcus Samuelsson: We ate natural foods in Sweden, and preserved them for upcoming seasons. I experienced fresh blueberries and apples in the Fall, and my grandmother would prepare mackerel, cod and salmon often. They were real flavors I identified with. Then, I began incorporating the spices I tasted in Ethiopia through my father, and it added a layer of heat to my dishes. I listened to and observed my audience in the restaurants and what they liked, and this is how I developed my style.
T.F.: With such an interesting combination of flavors, what does a typical dinner at home look like for your family?
M.S.: If I was making dinner at home, I'd probably cook Ethiopian food. To me, elevated comfort food is a staple. There would definitely be roasted fried chicken and greens, and perhaps some cured salmon.
T.F.: You come from two very different worlds. How would you say that has shaped you into who you are today - both in life as well as in the kitchen?
M.S.: I identify very closely with three places: Harlem, Ethiopia and Sweden. They are like the north star for me. My African roots give me a love for spicy food. My Swedish upbringing has given me an appreciation for seafood and pickling. Harlem brings a lively element to my life. The three together create warmth and passion, which is what cooking is all about. It is about aa mixture of ingredients and traditions.
T.F.: You've written three cookbooks, you have an app, and you're now promoting your memoir, "Yes, Chef". What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
M.S.: Because of the things I have experienced in my life, I have always been approached about complex issues such as adoption, interracial relationships, and growing up as a black child with a white family. Although I wanted to share my story, I felt I wasn't ready to when I was 25 or 26 years old. However, now was the time. "Yes Chef" is a celebration of life and overcoming obstacles, through my passion for cooking.
T.F.: Your journey so far includes cooking for President Barrack Obama's first state dinner, and winning numerous recognitions, including multiple James Beard awards. What is the single most important piece of advice you would give someone just starting out as a chef in their culinary career?
M.S.: I would tell them that they must always remain passionate and curious. Cooking is about evolving. You get the opportunity to be invited into the community, to people's hearts, through your food, and that is a big deal. If you stop growing and changing, then your time is up.
T.F.: You currently own restaurants in New York City, Sweden, Costa Mesa and Chicago. They all have their distinct personalities. Which one would you say personifies you and your life the most?
M.S.: While all of them personify me in some way, I would have to say the Red Rooster in Harlem resembles my life the most. There is a certain magic in that neighborhood that makes it unique from anywhere else. I feel proud of representing Harlem in my restaurant.
T.F.: What are your upcoming plans? Anything new on the horizon you'd like to share with my readers?
M.S.: I have a new cookbook coming out soon entitled "Off Duty", where I share over 150 of the recipes I cook at home. I also have a new show I will be cohosting starting in July, called The Feed. It will feature an adventurous look into the food culture in America. Of course, we have a new season of The Taste coming up, and I look forward to continuing to be a part of it.
I've been to several of Macy's cooking demos, and always enjoy them. As usual, everyone got a taste of Marcus' delicious recipes to sample, but some guests got to try them straight from his skillet. He was extremely engaging with the audience, with an honest wit and entertaining personality.
His natural affinity with kids lit up the room. Marcus called up the daughter of a fellow blogger to the kitchen and had her help him with the first dish. Everyone was laughing and enjoying the demonstration, and the time honestly just flew by.
He prepared three of his favorite comfort foods for us. The first was the Roof - Garden Tacos with Salmon. It was delicious, topped with a mildly spicy salsa verde that elevated the dish to new heights. As he cooked, he explained how comfort food changes with the decades, always meaning something different for everyone. He also gave the crowd some tips on transforming leftovers into something special by adding new ingredients and talked about the importance this has on the environment.
|Roof - Garden Tacos with Salmon|
Next up, we sampled his Peanut Noodles, mixed with fresh vegetables and drizzled with a tangy Peanut Vinaigrette. It was a light, refreshing dish, perfect for summer. Marcus stressed how the key is to slightly undercook the vegetables so that they retain a crunchy texture. This is a great meal when on the go since vegetables give us a boost of energy.
The last dish we tried was the Coconut - Lime Curry Chicken with Coconut Rice. The seasoning on the chicken was fantastic, and the hint of coconut did not overwhelm the dish but rather complemented it. I can't wait to try it at home.
|Coconut - Lime Curry Chicken with Coconut Rice|
I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation for this post about Macy's Culinary Council and Marcus Samuelsson. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.