Marcus Samuelsson: Building on Tradition

Marcus Samuelsson: Building on Tradition

Chef, restaurateur, and author Marcus Samuelsson’s dazzlingly creative approach to food and to hospitality is rooted in a deep appreciation of food and the place of food in culture. That appreciation can be traced to his background—born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, trained as a chef in Switzerland and France, and now living in Harlem. Take his gravlax, for example—a popular Swedish dish that’s salt-cured salmon. Samuelsson adds both beet and bourbon to the marinade and sprinkles Ethiopian Injera sourdough bread on top. The result is a delicate dish that blends the flavors into a familiar but unique taste. He brings this same creative sensibility to his restaurants, most particularly to the Red Rooster located in Harlem. His aim was to build a modern neighborhood restaurant with an international reputation—one that would reference the traditional foods of Harlem but not replicate them and honor the history of Harlem without becoming a monument to it. It’s an ambitious vision, and Samuelsson worked hard to fulfill it. What follows are his thoughts about the creative processes that made the Red Rooster into one New York’s warmest and liveliest restaurants.

All images are from The Red Rooster Cookbook:The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem, by Marcus Samuelsson. Publisher: Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Used courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson.

Music Credits:
“History of an Apology” and “Some Are More Equal” written and performed by Paul Rucker and Hans Teuber from the cd, Oil. Music is available for download at paulrucker.com.
“Renewal” witten and composed by Doug and Judy Smith.
“Appetite” by Proviant Audio from the album Mushrooms. Licensed through Creative Commons. “Plain Old Country Blues” composed and performed by Drink Small on the album, Drink Small Does It All and used courtesy of Bishopville Records and by permission of Drinktron Music (BMI).
“Path of No Return” and “Lovely Echoes” written and performed by Lobo Loco. Used courtesy of the Free Music Archive