A Master Chef’s Take on Food, Culture and Community | Marcus Samuelsson | TED

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A Master Chef’s Take on Food, Culture and Community | Marcus Samuelsson | TED

Marcus Samuelsson's Culinary Journey and Perspective

  • Marcus Samuelsson, a renowned chef, shares his journey and perspective on food, identity, and the significance of Black food.
  • Samuelsson's early experiences in Ethiopia, including a 75-mile walk with his sister during which they consumed simple foods like chickpea flour porridge, shaped his understanding of food's impact on people's lives.
  • His grandmother Helga played a crucial role in shaping his culinary perspective, emphasizing seasonality, foraging, pickling, and preserving techniques, and instilling a deep respect for nature and resourcefulness.
  • Samuelsson reflects on the influence of his Swedish upbringing and the absence of Ethiopian food in his early identity, leading him to explore art and draw inspiration from figures like Prince and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
  • He discusses the concept of Black food as a journey with three chapters: the origin of food on the African continent, the impact of colonization and the European lens on African cuisine, and the recent efforts to reclaim and reshape the identity of Black food.
  • Samuelsson emphasizes the importance of acknowledging the origin and identity of food, particularly in the context of misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding African food, and the need for creatives and chefs to share and tell the true stories of Black food.

Marcus Samuelsson's "Modern Black" Cuisine

  • Marcus Samuelsson, a renowned chef, discusses his journey to becoming a chef and his concept of "modern Black" cuisine.
  • Samuelsson's passion for cooking and soccer led him to pursue a culinary career after not becoming a professional soccer player.
  • Growing up Black in Sweden provided him with clarity and determination to excel, leading to scholarships and experiences in Japan and Switzerland.
  • Despite his success, Samuelsson noticed the absence of Black representation in three-star Michelin restaurants, which motivated him to leave Europe and pursue his dream of owning a restaurant in New York City.
  • In New York, Samuelsson connected with other Black creatives, including artists, musicians, and fellow chefs, who inspired him to explore hybridity and diversity in Black cuisine.
  • Samuelsson's concept of "modern Black" cuisine challenges the limited narratives surrounding Black food and celebrates the richness and variety of Black culinary traditions from Africa, the Caribbean, and the African diaspora.
  • Through his cooking, Samuelsson aims to showcase the complexity and global influences of Black cuisine, breaking away from stereotypes and presenting a multifaceted representation of Black identity.

Celebrating African Culinary Traditions

  • Chef Marcus Samuelsson discusses the importance of recognizing and celebrating African tribal cultures and their influence on modern African cuisine.
  • He emphasizes the need for young Africans to view the culinary field as a valuable and respected profession, challenging the notion of anonymous labor without recognition.
  • Samuelsson highlights the opportunity for Western cultures to learn from African饮食 practices, such as eating based on a spiritual compass, fasting, and celebrating the breaking of fasts.
  • He stresses the significance of paying fair prices to African farmers for their produce, such as chickpeas, which are used in modern plant-based patties like the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger.
  • Samuelsson believes that food can become even better when more people are invited to participate and contribute, breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for diverse voices in the culinary world.

Creating Welcoming Spaces for Black Professionals in the Restaurant Industry

  • Marcus Samuelsson discusses the importance of creating welcoming and celebratory spaces for Black professionals in the restaurant industry.
  • He emphasizes the significance of collaboration with artists and creatives in shaping the identity and design of his restaurants, using the example of Derrick Adams' bespoke Black mermaid artwork at his restaurant Hav & Mar.
  • Samuelsson addresses the balance between culinary innovation and cultural preservation, arguing that restaurants should be seen as places of creative expression rather than museums or libraries.
  • He highlights the concept of "Black modern" cuisine, which respects traditional roots while embracing evolution and incorporating global influences.
  • Samuelsson stresses the importance of mastering basic culinary fundamentals and craftsmanship before experimenting with ingredient combinations.

Marcus Samuelsson's Culinary Philosophy and Advice

  • Marcus Samuelsson believes that the most important tools for a chef are curiosity, a love for the craft, and protecting one's sense of taste.
  • He emphasizes the importance of supporting local Black restaurants and following chefs of color to learn about new ingredients and cuisines.
  • Samuelsson highlights the journey of Chef Maame, who worked at Red Rooster, moved back to Ghana to start a food conference, and is now returning to do a pop-up, as an example of connectivity and inspiration.
  • He encourages young chefs to stay curious, learn the craft, keep cooking, and stay hungry, both literally and figuratively, as the path to success involves embracing failure and learning from it.

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