When Marcus Samuelsson isn’t whipping up something delicious inside a Harlem kitchen, you can likely find him traveling the world – or eating pizza in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Beyond New York, he recently took an international food-influenced excursion with another famous chef (hint: “BAM!”). The 45-year-old is all about using local ingredients – wherever he may be.
Samuelsson recently helped Pure Leaf Tea House Collection’s Traveling Tea House launch in the city, and held a food demo, offering cooking tips and tricks. The campaign is focused on highlighting and uniting local craftsmen.
“We’re starting here in New York… going to other cities that love craftsmanship, like Portland, Chicago, San Francisco. You want to be able to give consumers experiences of being able to do different things. My world is all about food, tasting and travel,” says Samuelsson. “I’ve been exposed to a lot of food, and I want to share that. With Pure Leaf, they’re curious. As a chef, you have to be curious about what’s out there, what’s next. As a company, they say, ‘We know our customers are really curious and they want to go with us’ – otherwise you don’t land on Fuji apple or ginger or sage.”
When we attended the event, and caught up with the chef, we picked his brain about travels, restaurants and being forever curious.
Galavante: What food trends are you loving?
Marcus Samuelsson: I think there will be a continuation on what’s local. We’re finding out more about how the food gets to us. There have always been buzzwords. Every year, there are new buzzwords. How do you localize the world local, even? Our generation is really a generation that can decide if our grandkids are going to be able to have chocolate – based on the choices we make right now. For me, that’s not a trend. As a chef, I choose this every day, and I want to be local.
Galavante How do you shop local?
Marcus Samuelsson: It boils down to supporting the farmer’s market in Harlem – and not just Harlem, areas that are traditionally not exposed to that many fresh ingredients. It’s a lifestyle.
Galavante: It’s an evolution?
Marcus Samuelsson: Yes, an evolution of American food and urbanization.
Galavante: What restaurants in New York do you love right now, besides your own?
Marcus Samuelsson: I love what Alex Stupak is doing. I think he always shows curiosity, and he loves his Mexican food. He’s taking it, interpreting it with his wife’s ideas.
Galavante: What’s another great New York City spot?
Marcus Samuelsson: I love a restaurant where you can see a neighborhood. The way I built Red Rooster and Streetbird, they sort of define Harlem through my eyes. When I go to Bushwick, I see Roberta’s. I like not just to go to a place, but to learn about the place I’m in. At Roberta’s, I still learn about Bushwick. I think that’s fun. It’s a place where you can sit and spend a whole afternoon and see creative Brooklyn in so many ways.
Galavante: What’s your Roberta’s order?
Marcus Samuelsson: I’ve had the pizzas so many times!
Galavante: Tell us about your latest travels.
Marcus Samuelsson: My big trip – I just came back from it. I took Emeril Lagasse to my hometown in Sweeden, and I took him crayfishing. We had the best time. He ate everything. I took him to the markets in Gothenburg and Stockholm. To do that with someone like Emeril, who has traveled all over the world, is pretty amazing. We went to every market and we tried everything.
Galavante: How many days were you there?
Marcus Samuelsson: Five days with Emeril. Talk about being curious! He’s done it so many times, but he’s like, “I want more.” I just love that level of curiosity that he brought.
Galavante: What’s your next trip, coming up?
Marcus Samuelsson: Africa. I’m going to Nigeria. I’ve been so many times to East Africa and South Africa. As a person from the continent, I feel like I need to explore Africa and bring it back and serve it to you. It always inspires me.
Galavante: How long are you going for?
Marcus Samuelsson: It’s open. There’s always a country next door to go to!