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Chef Marcus Samuelsson Is Changing Black Food History

February Black History Month

Chef Marcus Samuelsson Photo Source: Wikimedia

Marcus Samuelsson is a black chef and food activist that has changed black food history and culture. He has helped to change the narrative on how African American have contributed to food history in the United States and other countries . He knows about facing adversity and how to overcome it by taking action. His father taught that when things get bad you do not leave but stick around and deal with it.

During the pandemic instead of closing his restaurants down he worked with Chef Jose Andres and turned his restaurants into community kitchens that fed hundreds of people daily. At the Red Rooster in Harlem, they served over 200,000 meals in six months.

Chef Samuelsson during the pandemic recognized that hospitality workers were first responders too, cooking meals, delivering food, waiting on tables, and cleaning. Food he says has always been about social justice and often black chefs and workers contribution to food service has been overlooked and not appreciated.

Many foods in America are from Africa and other black communities. Barbecue techniques, rice, beans, grits, cornbread, collard greens, fish, mac and cheese, and fried chicken all come from this culture. His popular series No Passport talks about the many black chefs that have influenced food history. Coffee beans grow in Ethiopia and cocoa beans in Ghana.

Red Rooster in Harlem Photo Source: Wikimedia

At the Red Rooster 60 percent of the chefs are black and Latino women. Chef Samuelsson saw a void and wanted to give minority men and women a chance to work at his restaurants and level the opportunities available to them. At his restaurant in Harlem workers can see the inside of the kitchen and how they work.

At Red Rooster they serve chicken wings, sweet potato coconut soup, catfish, jerk salmon, buffalo chicken sandwich, burgers, collard greens, shrimp and grits, mac and greens and other traditional entrees. Vegetables are the star of the recipe using meat, poultry and fish in moderation. His restaurant Red Rooster offers a special menu for black history month.

Photo Source: Flicker/Andinarvacz

His restaurant in Ethiopia called Addis Ababa strives to create a modern restaurant with roots in Ethiopian cuisine. The new restaurant creates jobs and a modern version of old world recipes. Some items on the menu are cornbread, perch, fried chicken, fried fish, braised lamb, jerk lamb rigatoni, salads, family style meals, mac and cheese, jollof rice, and hot honey carrots.

Chef Samuelsson has opened many restaurants in the US and other countries. He started The Red Rooster in Harlem, Overton in Miami, and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. He is co-chair of Careers Through Culinary Arts an organization that help minority youth obtain training in cooking. In 2016 he produced an annual festival called Harlem Eat and has authored several cookbooks including Yes Chef and The Red Rooster Cookbook.

Yes Chef Book Signing Photo Source Chickidi Blog


Marcus Samuelsson on Why Black Food Matters, by Marcus Samuelsson, Restaurant World, October 2020

Chef Marcus Samuelsson Is Rewriting The American Food Story, Chris Kimball's Milk Street, October 6, 2023

Marcus Samuelsson: Erasing Black Culinary History Ignores The Soul of America by Dave Davies, NPR, October 2000

Marcus Samuelsson on Marcus Addis and What Black Excellence Tastes like, by Lucia Capretti, Food Republic, February 14, 2023

Chef Marcus Samuelsson Website

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