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Marcus Samuelsson

Ethiopia-born, Sweden-raised Marcus Samuelsson has been a culinary star since he first made his mark at New York’s Aquavit in the mid ’90s

Illustration by Graham Smith
Today Samuelsson is chef-owner of 11 restaurants around the world, including Red Rooster, Ginny’s Supper Club and Streetbird Rotisserie in Harlem, where he lives. He recently opened Marcus’ in Bermuda and plans to debut a Red Rooster in London in early 2017.
  • 01 What are you reading? A Swedish translation of Miles: The Autobiography. I always find new things to learn—about culture, about race—in the story of Miles Davis.
  • 02 What do you never travel without? I’ve always needed to write down my experiences, food ideas, thoughts. So it used to be a notebook; now it’s my iPad.
  • 03 Favorite movie? Anything by Terrence Malick.
  • 04 TV show? I like the silliness of The Mindy Project.
  • 05 Beer, wine or spirits? Beer after playing soccer. Wine if I’m hanging with Daniel [Boulud]—I like anything from the Brown family in Napa. Late night, brown liquor like something from Glenmorangie.
  • 06 Your go-to meal? My wife’s Ethiopian cooking.
  • 07 Favorite restaurant, outside of your own? Places that help you understand the DNA of an area, like the Boqueria in Barcelona or the hawker stalls in Singapore.
  • 08 Who’s your biggest culinary influence? It beginswith my grandmother. [Then, Chicago’s] Charlie Trotter was probably the biggest hand I ever got. And [New Orleans creole legend] Leah Chase, who’s been at it for 70 years.
  • 09As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I thought I’d be a soccer pro.
  • 10 Favorite shoes? Old-school sneakers, like Stan Smith white Adidas or Chuck Taylor Converse.
  • 11 What’s your watch of choice? I have a gorgeous Tiffany that was given to me, but I can’t wear it often. It would get destroyed.
  • 12 Favorite designer? Duro Olowu, a Nigerian designer in London, paired with Ralph Lauren—that’s a look you can ride.
  • 13 Best outfit? I’m most comfortable in my chef outfit. But I havea fitted Valentino suit that I can wear anywhere.
  • 14 What do you drive? At home, the Q and 3 trains and a Shinola bike. In Stockholm, my sister’s really nice Volvo.
  • 15 If your house were on fire, what object would you save?As much of my art collection as I could. I would go two-fisted with a Julie Mehretu and a Lorna Simpson.
  • 16 What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome? I luxuriate in being a black man. But there are obstacles. You have to learn to jump above them—and learn how they can be a bridge to something better.
  • 17 What keeps you up at night? My wife [Maya Haile] is about to have a baby, so right now, it’s a 3:30 a.m. snack with her.
  • 18 What causes are closest to your heart? Three Goats, a foundation that my wife and I created to get girls on the border of Ethiopia and Somalia access to clean water, food and an education, and C-CAP, which gives young adults culinary skills.
  • 19 Who is your role model? I was 23 when I lost my dad. He was a fisherman who became a geologist, and watching him move between blue-collar and white-collar worlds taught me a lot.
  • 20 How would you like to be remembered? Please—I’m just starting! Come back in 48 years, and we can talk.
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2016 issue of Worth.

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