Listen to This Advice from Chef Marcus Samuelsson, You Amateurs
All I could think about when I met with Chef Marcus Samuelsson last month was that I so badly wanted to walk in his shoes for just a split second. I mean this literally. He was wearing sleek charcoal smoking slippers paired with vibrant patterned socks the color of a $16 frozen margarita one might acquire at a hotel swim-up bar, and in them, he stood firmly behind the vision for the multi sensory dining experience he curated that evening in partnership with Pure Leaf Tea (and his ensemble).
Samuelsson's style is just as unexpected as the plates he places in front of his patrons at Harlem's Red Rooster and Ginny's Supper Club among a handful of eateries across the globe. Both reflect the avant-garde playfulness that exists inside of his mind, which likely resembles a version of Candy Land designed by landscape artists working for Gucci. For Samuelsson, the dish is a stage for the productions he directs, featuring players from near and far that invade and tickle your senses.
My conversation with the restauranter of Top Chef and Iron Chef television fame was less than fifteen minutes long, but it was a robust mouthful, similar to the Sicilian Lemon and Honeysuckle sorbet his guests ate that evening with tiny wooden spoons that had to be dug out of a mountain of ice first. The bulk of what I learned from Samuelsson has already been published here, but below you will find a few additional meaty scraps of his wisdom that discuss his first encounters with fresh ingredients that would foreshadow a lifelong culinary career and how to get started as a chef or a writer in the food space. Samuelsson's tidbits can easily be applied to any field of study if you're not interested in cooking or pursuing a career in food, so sit down, get out a pen, and take some notes on these good words.
samuelsson's advice for beginning food writers and aspiring chefs
"I think that what’s so exciting today is that there are so many ways that you can enter the industry whether you want to be a food writer, you can start as a chef, or if you want to be a master brewer, you can start as a chef. Those were not the options when I started cooking, so I think that you want to get your internship and your experience thoroughly completed, and then if you want to do a link to media, that’s great. You want to get your techniques down because they will be your basement that you’re going to visit constantly.
You go back to this natural instinct, and as a young chef, work on that muscle memory. Then you can write about it fluently or use it in your field. To go straight for media, I think it’s very hard to become an expert."
The unexpected place Where Samuelsson first learned about food quality and freshness
"You know, I didn’t know that when I was going to be working in a garden in Switzerland when I was 18 that that was really my first farm-to-table experience, and still today, I know how those carrots should smell when they come straight out of the earth. I know how to pick Brussels [sprouts] without breaking them. I didn’t know when I started fishing with my uncle and parents as a child that I’d later understand what fresh fish is supposed to smell like and know how clear their eyes are when I look at them."
Marcus Samuelsson is a chef and restaurateur who oversees 11 bars and restaurants worldwide, including Red Rooster (Harlem), Streetbird Rotisserie (Harlem), and Marc Burger (Chicago). You can buy his memoir Yes, Chef on Amazon. Pure Leaf Tea House Collection is now available in grocery, convenience, mass market retailers and select club stores nationwide, or online via retailers at PureLeaf.com.
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