Cooking for Obama: Red Rooster Harlem Staffer Dishes on Serving the President

You may not be the POTUS, but you can dine like him at Red Rooster Harlem.

If you were anywhere near New York and its food scene Tuesday evening, you were well aware that the most powerful man in the world (No, not Matthew Weiner!) was attending a political fundraiser at Red Rooster Harlem, Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s new-ish restaurant uptown. Friend of OpenTable and would-be Top Cheftestant (and former culinary school classmate of yours truly) Ed Hardy was behind the line that night, and he shared his thoughts on what it’s like to cook for the President of the United States (again…see last response).

Hi again, Ed! So, first up, how long have you been working at Red Rooster Harlem? Tell us a bit about the restaurant and Chef Samuelsson’s cuisine?

Red Rooster opened in mid-December, and I’ve been working there since mid-January. I’ve worked for Chef Samuelsson before at Aquavit, so I was familiar with his cuisine. The restaurant impressed me from the moment I walked in, with its bold challenge to menu conventions and conventional Manhattan wisdom about location. As a former Aquavit chef and a native Southerner, it was easy for me to wrap my head around the Swedish and comfort food dishes on Chef Samuelsson’s menu. It’s also exciting for me to be able to experience and use some of the African spices that he brings to the table.

You worked the fundraiser for President Obama at Red Rooster on Tuesday night. For a chef, I imagine this is akin to getting to shake the President’s hand when you’re a youngster. How proud are you to have participated?

Very proud, indeed. It’s one thing to cook for a president at the White House or an event; it’s another honor entirely when the President and his advisors make a special trip to the restaurant I’m at every day.

Did everyone at Red Rooster want to be there? How did you get picked?

Not everyone at Red Rooster was there, but I’m pretty sure everyone wanted to be there. We have quite a large staff because we’re open for fairly long hours, and most of those hours the restaurant is packed full of diners. If we had the entire staff on for this event, the back-of-the-house would have been so packed with people in chef jackets that we wouldn’t have been able to move, much less put food on a plate!

Continue Reading