Today’s episode is with the award-winning chef and restaurateur, Marcus Samuelsson.
Hailing from a tiny Ethiopian village where tuberculosis had spread amongst the population, a two-year-old Marcus and his sister found themselves orphaned after his birth mother succumbed to the disease… but not after she’d walked 75 miles to the nearest hospital with young Marcus and his sister in tow. Taken in by a compassionate hospital nurse, he and his sister were later adopted by a family in Gothenburg Sweden, where Marcus’ love of cooking began.
Although he is best known as the owner of the Harlem-based restaurant Red Rooster, Marcus Samuelsson cut his culinary teeth at New York’s Aquavit, a Scandinavian-infused restaurant where he served as executive chef… at the age of 24. While at Aquavit, he was named The Best Chef in New York by the James Beard Foundation while also receiving a 3-star rating in the New York Times… the youngest chef to do so.
Marcus has also been featured on numerous cooking shows including PBS ‘No Passport Required,’ Top Chef Masters, Chopped All-Stars, and Iron Chef America. In addition to being a restaurateur, philanthropist, and activist, Marcus is also a best-selling author. In his latest book, The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food, Samuelsson describes how “black cooks and creators have led American culture forward.” Featuring recipes inspired by the chefs and activists that inspire him, the book rewrites the Black chef into the narrative of American cuisine, and becomes a gustational call and response with the community that welcomed him with open arms.
In this episode we discuss why it was important for him to begin his latest book by focusing on the future, the impact the coronavirus has had on him and how he views himself, the relationship between food and spirituality,, and why it’s important for African immigrants living in America to recognize their privilege. Recorded during lockdown, it’s a joy to welcome my brother, Marcus Samuelsson to the IBI podcast.
On the structure of his new book: “The future is our hope especially in difficult and challenging times like now.”
On how he sees the impact of the virus outbreak: “I think the pandemic as horrible as it is, is going to allow us as creatives to rethink and repackage ourselves and reconnect“
On his origin story: “I was born into a hut, yes that is about the size of two restaurant tables, and we were hit by tuberculosis. Got to the hospital through the strength of our mother and she passed away. We survived.”
On what America looked like to him from Sweden: “We lived through America through its stars! Through black excellence.”
Marcus's Instagram: @marcuscooks
His latest book "The Rise" can be found here.
Editorial content provided by Kalimah Small.
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