Chef Marcus Samuelsson is a world-renowned chef that incorporates his cultures in his cooking every single day. I recently received the honor of being able to send Chef Marcus some questions about his life growing up and how he continually produces delicious food that represents him as a person.
In 1971, Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia and then adopted in 1973 and brought to Sweden. In the early years of his life, Marcus grew a love for cooking when his grandmother Helga first taught him. The next 10 years were crucial in his culinary career as he studied at the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, Sweden and apprenticed in Switzerland and in some of the world’s best restaurants in France. In 1994 he debuted his career as an apprentice with Aquavit.
Here is the following interview:
Q:Did you ever experience any culture shock being from Ethiopia but growing up in Sweden?
A:I was only two years old when my parents adopted me and my sister and brought us to Sweden but Ethiopia has always been a part of me and instantly felt like home when I returned there later in life.
Q:What is your favorite comfort food to make?A:There are almost too many to pick one! Well, one classic comfort dish that goes all the way back to Sweden for me is mac & cheese that my good friend Mats Carestam’s mom used to make for us as ravenous, young boys. It was pretty modern of her as a Swedish mom taking on this American classic and I just always loved it. I instantly knew this was soul food. Now, I like to add a little collard greens that I cook in coconut milk and flavor them with soy and mustard to give it added flavor. It always takes me back to see how happy friends are when I serve them this dish.
Q:How do you incorporate your different cultures in your cooking today?
A:It’s very natural and fluid to me to have elements of different culinary cultures sharing the table. At my newest spot, Streetbird Rotisserie in Harlem, you’ll find dishes like the Swediopian, which is a taco but we created a fermented tortilla inspired by injera that you’d find in Ethiopia, and topped it with Doro Wat, fresh cheese, and a boiled egg. Then, for dessert, we have a Sweet Dog, which is a riff on the Swedish classic semla, made with brioche, almond paste, and whipped cream.
Q:Where do you find your inspiration for your recipes?
A:Everywhere and anywhere. I love nothing more than wandering through a new city and ducking into local markets to get inspiration from the local vendors and farmers. You never know what new ingredient or spice or vegetable you might come across that can set you down a new path of flavor.
Q:Are you looking forward to the Food and Wine Festival this summer in Aspen? Will this be your first time in Colorado?
A:Absolutely! I love the Food & Wine Classic at Aspen and look forward to it year after year. Every time I land I feel the thrill of the first time I set eyes on those mountains and the whole weekend feels like a big family reunion, getting to see some of my favorite chefs and friends in the industry.
Q:Your restaurants throughout the world are exceptionally successful and popular, do you get the chance to visit them often?
A:As much as I can, I love to have the chance to spend time in person, visit with the amazing teams at work, and hopefully share my passion for making delicious food.
A special thank you to Chef Marcus Samuelsson for taking the time to answer these questions!