From Cuisine to Apps, Marcus Samuelsson Is Dedicated to Diversity
By JOHN L. DORMAN
It’s understandable if it seems as though Marcus Samuelsson never sleeps. The affable New York-based chef and restaurateur, who recharged the Harlem dining scene with his restaurant Red Rooster in 2010, recently opened its first outpost, Red Rooster Shoreditch, along with the taqueria Tienda Roosteria, in London. He now operates a total of 15 restaurant brands, from Streetbird Rotisserie, also in Harlem, to Norda Bar & Grill in Göteborg, Sweden, where he grew up. Two restaurants are planned for downtown Newark and Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Last October, Mr. Samuelsson released a cookbook, “The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem,” an ode to the neighborhood’s cultural diversity, and he now narrates a tour of Harlem on the app Detour. “I’m committed to telling a layered journey of the African-American experience, which you have to really dig to find,” he said. “I think people have a strong thirst for this history, and a big part of it is here in Harlem.”
Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Samuelsson at Red Rooster.
What influenced you to narrate an app tour of Harlem?
When people come to Harlem, they see the Apollo Theater, stop by one of the famous restaurants, take a picture and get back on a bus. I want them to engage with us the way they would in other communities of culture. I’d like for them to go to Marjorie [Eliot’s] Parlor for jazz and see how a bakery looks in our eyes at Make My Cake. In Little Senegal, you can see what a market in Senegal would look like, but in an American city.
Red Rooster, along with Ginny’s Supper Club, its music-driven sister, were game-changers for the uptown experience. What were your biggest learning experiences with these two venues?
You can’t force anything. I didn’t fully understand Harlem and wanted to make sure that I studied it, and not just Lenox [Avenue] and Frederick Douglass [Boulevard], but also [Holcombe] Rucker Park and Charles Gabriel [of Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken]. Once I fully understood the community, it was easier to create Red Rooster. Music is something that’s important, so I developed a larger stage for artists, which became Ginny’s.
What led you to open the Red Rooster Shoreditch and Tienda Roosteria in London?
Growing up in Sweden, London is always your New York City, especially when it comes to black culture. Red Rooster has a specific song and dance to it. I felt like the space could’ve been in Notting Hill or Brixton, but they’ve changed so much that I didn’t feel like it would reflect our voice. I started to stay in East London and the diversity in Shoreditch was different, with Jewish, Bangladeshi, African and Caribbean influences.
You and your wife, the model and philanthropist Maya Haile, are native Ethiopians, and were married in Ethiopia. What was it like to have the ceremony there?
My wife has brought me so much love. Being in Ethiopia helped me understand the culture and understand myself. I will always remember it for that because it was so different, and exactly what we needed.
What are some of your favorite Ethiopian foods?
I love kitfo, raw beef, which came from the Gurage region where my wife is from. It is something that you eat on special occasions. I also love the dulet [a combination of beef, liver, and lamb tripe], which has an incredible level of flavor.
SOURCE : NEW YORK TIMES