In part two of my conversation with Marcus Samuelsson, we chat a little about the profound Russian influence on Swedish cuisine: “We always thought the Russians were going to invade us. Every Swede that could afford it had a summer house and in the basement still to this day people have a lot of preserved food.”
We also talk about Marcus serving as guest chef for President Barack Obama’s first state dinner in 2009, and about other dinners he has prepared for the Obamas, including how it felt for him to host the president at his Harlem restaurant, The Red Rooster: “I always say it was like the Yankees and the Knicks winning at the same time and celebrating in Harlem.”
Marcus also opens up about the kind of vibe he was going for when he opened The Red Rooster: “I wanted to create a joyful experience in and of Harlem.” He further explains that he wanted it to feel like “Sunday after church, all that hustling and bustling, just put into a restaurant.”
And he explains the difficulties he encountered as he developed a fried chicken recipe for the restaurant, which at one point left him with chicken that “tasted like fear.” How did he reconcile his impulse to approach the recipe as a technical endeavor with the fact that fried chicken is “an emotional endeavor”? Well, a very famous singer helped him out by saying, “Marcus, just cook the f&$king bird!”
Who was that singer? You’re just going to have to listen to find out. It’s definitely worth it, and as a bonus you’ll also find out which legendary Motown star (now deceased) Marcus would have loved to lunch with.
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