Marcus Samuelsson: Erasing Black Culinary History Ignores 'the Soul Of American Food'

Posted: Oct 29, 2020

When COVID-19 forced New York City into lockdown in March, Harlem chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson had a choice: stay or go. Born in Ethiopia and raised by adoptive parents in Sweden, Samuelsson says leaving the city during the pandemic "would be the easier way out."

But he decided to stay.

"My father was a tribe leader in Ethiopia. You don't leave at the toughest time," he says. "You can't come in and take all the benefits and then, when it comes to your turn to chip in, leave."

The James Beard award-winning chef says his flagship restaurant, Red Rooster, became his "haven" during the height of pandemic. Working with José Andrés' World Central Kitchen organization, Samuelsson converted the restaurant to a community kitchen. Over the course of six months, Red Rooster served more than 200,000 meals to first responders and others in need.

"It was a place for me when our world was so ripped apart and no one knew what to do," he says.

Samuelsson says feeding the community during the pandemic also changed the way he thought about his industry. "The word 'restaurant' actually means to restore your community. And in the worst of times, I think that the restaurant, the hospitality industry really stepped up," he says.

By Dave Davies
October 26, 2020

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