Chef Marcus Samuelsson has led an interesting life, to say the least. Ethiopian-born and Swedish-raised, he apprenticed in kitchens in Switzerland and France before finally moving to NYC to work at Aquavit.
At the age of 23—and as the Executive Chef of Aquavit—he became the youngest chef to ever receive a three-star restaurant review from The New York Times. His Harlem restaurant Red Rooster is renowned for showcasing American comfort food, while paying tribute to his Swedish and African background.
Marcus is starring in Gilt's latest campaign #GiltLife, which features a magnificent pop-up townhouse in NYC.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Marcus during the launch event.
Weichen: Coming from Spoon, my first question to you is what dishes would you recommend for college students to make?
Marcus Samuelsson: An upscale version of ramen is always great, and fried rice. It's an opportunity to get creative. Go to Union Square markets, get fresh produce. Adding fish and seafood is also fantastic.
Why are you here with Gilt tonight?
MS: It's a fun partnership. I've curated some stuff. I love style. My restaurant is all about style, food and fun. It's all about having a good time.
What's the best product or experience you've bought on Gilt?
MS: Well, the suit I'm wearing, I love it. And these shoes.
Coming from Australia, I have to ask who is your favorite Australian chef?
MS: Tetsuya Wakuda. I've been to his restaurant in Sydney many times. He's an amazing guy. And also David Thompson is number two to me.
Back to NYC—for someone who is visiting your Red Rooster Harlem restaurant for the first time, what is the must-order dish?
MS: Well I'd say get the book (Marcus' The Red Rooster Cookbook is coming out in October and is available for pre-order now), we explain it through the book. I'd recommend the Fried Bird Royale. It's a big plate, big fun. It's a whole bird that we fry. It's a lot of fun.
I looked up the Fried Bird Royale later, and it really is a whole fried chicken, served with mac & greens, mace gravy, liver butter, waffles and Jou Jou biscuits—getting in an Uber now because Harlem is calling.