Chef Marcus Samuelsson Talks Red Rooster Harlem, His New Cookbook + More

Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, and now makes Harlem his home. He developed a deep love for cooking from his grandmother and gained wide praise as executive chef at New York restaurant Aquavit, winning multiple awards including a James Beard Award, and starring in TV shows including Top Chef and The Feed. He opened the Red Rooster Harlem in 2010, followed by Ginny’s Supper Club, and several other concepts in the U.S. and abroad. A celebrity chef and style icon with plenty of star power, he’s also a New York Times bestselling author. His new book The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem is out now.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson

Congratulations on The Red Rooster Cookbook!                                      

I’m very excited about the book — it took four years to write. It’s a follow-up to Yes, Chef, which ended in Harlem and this book begins there. I really love the stories, the illustrations by Rebekah Maysles and Leon Johnson, and the photographs by Bobby Fisher. It’s a love letter to Harlem, the place where I live with my family. The Red Rooster Cookbook isn’t just a cookbook, it’s about stories; it’s a window into Harlem. It’s a window into the neighborhood.

What’s happening in Harlem these days?

I worked with Macy’s Culinary Council to bring a food festival to the neighborhood, Harlem EatUp! There are more restaurants, more jobs — it’s becoming a vibrant hospitality environment. That’s something I take a lot of pride in.

Which recipes from the book are you most proud of?

Our fried chicken recipe, but also the pig ears, the simple catfish; there’s a wide range of recipes for all kinds of cooks. A great cookbook has some aspirational recipes and some you can make in 10 minutes!

If readers make only one recipe in the book, which should it be?

Either the berbere crusted lamb or the fried chicken.

What recipes do people request from you?

People always ask how to do a great chicken recipe. I think that’s because it’s a protein we can all eat, regardless of our spirituality. Roast chicken is a classic.

Where do you eat when you’re in New York City? Continue Reading

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!

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