As we gear up for Taste Talks LA this weekend, we're exceedingly sorry to have just missed Marcus Samuelsson, who joined Nyesha Arrington (the chef-owner of Leona, and both a Taste Talks panelist and cereal throwdown competitor) in California, for a collaborative "East Meets West Coast" dinner just last week! Thankfully, we were still able to chat with Samuelsson in transit, about his highly distinct culinary point of view (what happens, exactly, when Sweden, Ethiopia and Harlem collide on a plate?) as well as the highly anticipated debut of his newly released "The Red Rooster Cookbook."
How and when did you and Nyesha meet?
We met a few years ago on the cooking show "The Taste." I thought she was amazing and wanted to work with her more.
How did the idea for your joint dinner come about?
When I found out I would be in LA for the Red Rooster cookbook tour, I had to partner with Nyesha. She's a great chef and doing good things at Leona in Venice Beach so I'm looking forward to having this event at the restaurant with her and her team.
How did you go about interweaving your various influences — California cuisine, Ethiopian cuisine and Harlem?
I thoroughly think about my background; the places I'm from and consider home—including Harlem, Sweden, Africa, and the various places I've traveled to. Another layer is seasonality and what I can work with that's local.
How would you say Harlem has shaped your food, restaurants and culinary point of view?
For me, the Harlem food scene is so much fun to work with and in, because you have so many different ethnicities. You have a large African American community, Jewish, Italian, Latin, Caribbean, and others-- it's a hugely diverse community with a lot of history. I'm constantly inspired by the neighborhood and cuisines.
Have you considered any other major, cross-coast ventures, besides your one-night only California stop?
Well, we have restaurants across the pond in Scandinavia on the coast, so there's that!
Congrats on your new cookbook! After all these years (and 6 previous cookbooks under your belt), what made you decide to tell the story of Red Rooster now?
Thank you! I felt it was time, with 5-6 years after the restaurant was first opened, and really longer — it existed for about 10 years in my head, since I took years to study the neighborhood and culture before opening. I felt there was enough distance and memories between myself, staff, and our regulars to tell this story. It's a love letter to Harlem from all of us.
What recipes do you think uniquely represent what the restaurant is about?
Bird Funk! It covers the name and spirit of the place.
To purchase Marcus' book, visit here: https://www.amazon.com/Red-Rooster-Cookbook-Hustle...
To purchase tickets to Taste Talks LA, visit here: http://losangeles.tastetalks.com