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Marcus Samuelsson Pops Up at POT on October 29

Marcus Samuelsson Pops Up at POT on October 29


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Marcus Samuelsson pops up at POT for a party celebrating his latest cookbook, ‘Marcus Off Duty’

Marcus Samuelsson will cook at POT in Los Angeles on October 29.

To celebrate his latest cookbook, Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home, Marcus Samuelsson will host a pop-up at Roy Choi’s POT at The Line Hotel on Wednesday, October 29 from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m.

“Marcus Samuelsson’s bringing his new book and some food, POT’s bringing the party,” promises a flyer from POT.

Guest will enjoy both POT’s regular menu items and a selection of chef Samuelsson’s favorite “off-duty dishes,” and have the opportunity to meet the chef in person and purchase a copy of Marcus Off Duty.

Marcus Off Duty was released on October 21 and features 150 “relaxed, multicultural dishes” that blend flavors from all of the chef’s world travels. The chef kicked off his Marcus Off Duty book tour on Wednesday, October 23 in New Orleans.

The Marcus Off Duty pop-up party will be first come, first served, and reservations will not be accepted.

Roy Choi’s POT at The Line Hotel is located at 3515 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, Calif.


Chef Marcus Samuelsson On “Black Cooks And the Soul Of American Food”

“Black food is not just one thing. It’s not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy. A force. An engine.” So writes famed chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.”

“The Rise” is a project Samuelsson has been working on since the 2016 election — a documentation of the authorship of Black cooking, with James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn.

“The Rise,” Klancy Miller writes for Vogue, “is more than a cookbook it is a conversation, a collaboration, and, above all, a declaration that Black Food Matters.”

Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in the U.S., joins us to discuss Black food culture and the more than 150 recipes featured in “The Rise.”

Produced by Julie Depenbrock

Guests

  • Marcus Samuelsson Chef and Restaurateur Author, "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food" @MarcusCooks

Transcript

12:32:02

KOJO NNAMDI Welcome back. Black food is not just one thing. It's not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy, a force, an engine. So writes chef Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book called "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food." And it is, indeed, much more than a cookbook. It's a celebration of a movement. And with more than 150 recipes, from our own Michael Twitty -- who's been a guest on this show regularly -- from his grilled short ribs to Nyesha Arrington's crab curry, "The Rise" is a firm declaration that black food matters.

12:32:44

KOJO NNAMDI Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. He's a chef, restaurateur and author of many books. Currently he hosts the PBS series "No Passport Required." During the pandemic, Samuelsson converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens that served over 150,000 meals to those in need. Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. Welcome.

12:33:05

MARCUS SAMUELSSON Thank you for having me back. And, I mean, Kojo, you're killing it with the music. I mean, playing that Éthiopiques? You had me at jump, man. How are you? How have you been?

12:33:14

NNAMDI I am doing well, my friend. And thanks for the music is our Ben Privot, our engineer who selects the music. But he knows how to put it together. You began this book during the 2016 election. What was motivating you to write about black excellence in the culinary world at that time, in particular?

12:33:36

SAMUELSSON Well, you know, I've always been fascinated by the incredible contribution, the rich contribution that black chefs and cooks have done for hundreds and hundreds of years in this country, yet it's very hard to find. Right? So, I started this conversation about how can we celebrate black excellence in food the way we know it in music? Right? If you and I are going to explain for anybody about American music, we know about the James Brown era, we know about Miles, we know about Prince, we know about hip-hop, you know. And it's very clearly defined.

12:34:10

SAMUELSSON In food, you know, the food democracy and food injustices has a different history. It's much more muddy. But I'm here to tell you that the black experience in American food, the contribution's been incredible. And I wanted to write about it and share, also, what's happening today with some of the most exciting chefs in the world are African Americans, and they cook right here in America.

12:34:36

NNAMDI Marcus, you dedicated "The Rise" to your birth mother. What can you tell us about her?

12:34:43

SAMUELSSON You know, I don't have any memories and, you know, when your mother is the person -- I started my book, I say, I've never seen the eyes of my mother. So, every time I go back to the continent and I see a young woman carrying two children in Ethiopia, I always envision that could be my mother. That vision of a petite, but strong woman guiding a five-year-old and a two-year-old. That was us. She didn't survive tuberculosis, but I did. My sister did.

12:35:19

SAMUELSSON And, you know, there's also an act of kindness, right. She gave everything to us. But also, the nurse in the hospital, that had three kids of her own, that took us in and adopted us, made sure we got adopted. So sweet. And so, in times like this when exactly, you know, what the world needs, it's also act of kindness and being able to see each other and cook for one another.

12:35:44

NNAMDI You also thank many other black women, who have remained mostly unsung, but were often the most impactful engineers of the kitchen, and true leaders in the culinary arts. Tell us about some of those women.

12:35:58

SAMUELSSON You know, we know about incredible black women in American food, like Miss Leah Chase and Sylvia Woods. But there's also, in the origin, like think about Thomas Jefferson's executive chefs, Fanny and Edith. They were 15 and 18 years old when they worked for Thomas Jefferson. And I'll tell you, some of the more recent times, Georgette Gilmore. You know, she was a mother of six, and she started a club from nowhere. And she woke up at 3:00 in the morning to bake and she raised a hundred dollars a week and sent it away to the movement for Martin Luther King.

12:36:31

SAMUELSSON Think about someone like Zephyr Wright, that was Lyndon B. Johnson's chef. And he listened to her more than he listened to other politicians, right, and he really trusted her. And she has a big reason why he changed the vote to allow black people to vote, for example. So, food can be activism. Food is very often anonymous heroes, especially when it comes to black cooking. And this is the time as we have the conversation about culture, identity, race, class. So, in "The Rise," you find, really, the journey from anonymous cooking to visible cooking.

12:37:11

NNAMDI Here now is Cole in Annapolis, Maryland. Cole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:37:16

COLE Thank you, Kojo. I just wanted to thank Marcus for all you're doing to push the food culture forward in this country for African American chefs. Out of culinary school, I read “Yes, Chef.” I had a chance to make a pilgrimage up to Red Rooster in Harlem. And, again, just wanted to thank you for all you're doing.

12:37:37

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much. That's very, very kind. And keep pushing and keep cooking.

12:37:41

NNAMDI Thank you very much for your call, Cole. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. Have you read any of Marcus Samuelsson's books or been to his restaurants, like Cole? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Marcus, you say that once you began to live and cook in New York, you were shocked at how little the story of black cooking was being told. How have black food contributions been erased from the narrative, so to speak?

12:38:09

SAMUELSSON Well, it's a very layered question, right. Even the food from the continent, all the food that was ours -- coffee, wine -- it was taken out of us and really got the ownership of Europe. We think about Belgian chocolate. You think about coffee from the French roast coffee of Italy and France, but they're really from Ethiopia and Kenya. So, it starts with -- we didn't have the authorship, nor the ownership of our own food. So, the worth and value of why you would go into food was always in doubt. Could you own food, you know, as a black person, right? Could you be part of it, or were you just the laborer?

12:38:51

SAMUELSSON So, that is a very challenged starting point, right. But then the contribution of you think about through the slave trade, the rise that came here and, you know, the Gullah culture, for example. So, so much of the food that we consider today, low country cuisine, or what we consider southern cooking, or we think about something like Creole cooking, all stems from the continent. And then, obviously, it got another revival when it came to America and became these very defined cuisines that we have today.

12:39:22

NNAMDI For those of you who may not be aware, but whenever Marcus refers to the continent, he's speaking about the continent of Africa. (laugh)

12:39:29

SAMUELSSON (laugh) Yes. Thank you for that.

12:39:33

NNAMDI You write: “I was born in a hut in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in Harlem.” How does all of that influence who you are today and where you choose to call home?

12:39:50

SAMUELSSON Well, I would say, this is really what gratitude and privilege means, right. The gratitude of everything that the generation before me did, without the civil rights movement, I wouldn't live in America, right. And privilege. I come from a country like Sweden that had access to great education. I had an opportunity to travel. And I think, in times like this, with COVID, but also the even bigger pandemic of racism, as we're dealing with this now right in front of us, it's important to acknowledge the privilege and show gratitude.

12:40:30

SAMUELSSON So, this book really was done this spring, but I had to stop it and rewrite a big part of the book, because I couldn't have launched "The Rise" without acknowledging how horrific and how challenged this spring was for us in the hospitality industry. And it's really changed us forever.

12:40:50

NNAMDI 800-433-8850. We'd love to have you join the conversation. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Vincent in Fort Washington, Maryland. Vincent, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:41:05

VINCENT Marcus, hi. This is Vincent. I worked with you a long time ago in Aquavit, in New York. And your book at that time was called "Aquavit." And you said, Vincent, cook with passion. And ever since, I have, so just thank you so much for the inspiration.

12:41:20

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much, Vincent, and keep cooking that Swedish food. You know, cold times are coming, so you need some of that Swedish herring and meatballs. You know that, Vincent.

12:41:29

VINCENT I know that. I know that. But you've just taken it to an entirely different level and, you know, it's about the passion. And even here in Oxon Hill, I hear people who say, you know, we know Marcus. We know Marcus. He came in, you know, to see us. So, just keep doing it, man. All right?

12:41:45

SAMUELSSON Thank you. Thank you very much.

12:41:46

NNAMDI Thank you for your call, Vincent. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. I'd like you to build on a theme that you already touched on, Marcus. You write that COVID-19 is not the only disease infecting America. The pandemic will eventually be overcome, though its effects will stay in the black community for longer than elsewhere. The bigger disease we must fight is the virus of systemic racism. How did this dual pandemics inform "The Rise"?

12:42:17

SAMUELSSON Well, I'm very worried what's going to happen to our black and brown communities, such as Washington, D.C., Detroit, Harlem, Overtown in Miami and etcetera. Because the pandemic stays in our community longer. We have less access to healthcare and generational wealth. So, when retails go, think how many people that owns mom and pops or works in mom and pops. But when the retails are gone in our community, it will be -- so goes the soul of our community.

12:42:50

SAMUELSSON And I'm very, very worried about this winter, because our hospitality industry will completely change after this. Habits have already changed. So, if you can hold on through this winter, the chance that you can rebuild your business and rehire, you're going to be fine. But it's just about truly holding on through this very, very difficult time in front of us.

12:43:16

SAMUELSSON You know, America's relationship with race and class and caste is something that we've been dealing with for 400 years. And it's not just America, right. You think about today when we're speaking, Kojo, SARS is in Nigeria. And it shows the complexity of oppression. And it's not as simple as just race. It also has to do with class. And food is in the center of that, right.

12:43:47

SAMUELSSON When I look at American food, it's more -- people talk about food deserts. We don't have food deserts. We have food apartheid. This has been designed. Why fresh food was not in our communities, why we don't have access, as the richest country in the world, to have clean and fresh food in our communities, those are choices that we made that are more linked to Jim Crow than there are to anything else. So, I hope, post-COVID, that we really start a rethink, how we start to take care of one another, and look at food as a healing part of the process, cooking together, and make sure we get better nutrition into the poorest families in this country.

12:44:29

NNAMDI When the pandemic began, Marcus, you converted your restaurants into community kitchens, serving over 150,000 meals to those in need. What went into that big pivot? It's my understanding that you made a call to some guy named Jose Andres.


Chef Marcus Samuelsson On “Black Cooks And the Soul Of American Food”

“Black food is not just one thing. It’s not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy. A force. An engine.” So writes famed chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.”

“The Rise” is a project Samuelsson has been working on since the 2016 election — a documentation of the authorship of Black cooking, with James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn.

“The Rise,” Klancy Miller writes for Vogue, “is more than a cookbook it is a conversation, a collaboration, and, above all, a declaration that Black Food Matters.”

Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in the U.S., joins us to discuss Black food culture and the more than 150 recipes featured in “The Rise.”

Produced by Julie Depenbrock

Guests

  • Marcus Samuelsson Chef and Restaurateur Author, "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food" @MarcusCooks

Transcript

12:32:02

KOJO NNAMDI Welcome back. Black food is not just one thing. It's not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy, a force, an engine. So writes chef Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book called "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food." And it is, indeed, much more than a cookbook. It's a celebration of a movement. And with more than 150 recipes, from our own Michael Twitty -- who's been a guest on this show regularly -- from his grilled short ribs to Nyesha Arrington's crab curry, "The Rise" is a firm declaration that black food matters.

12:32:44

KOJO NNAMDI Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. He's a chef, restaurateur and author of many books. Currently he hosts the PBS series "No Passport Required." During the pandemic, Samuelsson converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens that served over 150,000 meals to those in need. Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. Welcome.

12:33:05

MARCUS SAMUELSSON Thank you for having me back. And, I mean, Kojo, you're killing it with the music. I mean, playing that Éthiopiques? You had me at jump, man. How are you? How have you been?

12:33:14

NNAMDI I am doing well, my friend. And thanks for the music is our Ben Privot, our engineer who selects the music. But he knows how to put it together. You began this book during the 2016 election. What was motivating you to write about black excellence in the culinary world at that time, in particular?

12:33:36

SAMUELSSON Well, you know, I've always been fascinated by the incredible contribution, the rich contribution that black chefs and cooks have done for hundreds and hundreds of years in this country, yet it's very hard to find. Right? So, I started this conversation about how can we celebrate black excellence in food the way we know it in music? Right? If you and I are going to explain for anybody about American music, we know about the James Brown era, we know about Miles, we know about Prince, we know about hip-hop, you know. And it's very clearly defined.

12:34:10

SAMUELSSON In food, you know, the food democracy and food injustices has a different history. It's much more muddy. But I'm here to tell you that the black experience in American food, the contribution's been incredible. And I wanted to write about it and share, also, what's happening today with some of the most exciting chefs in the world are African Americans, and they cook right here in America.

12:34:36

NNAMDI Marcus, you dedicated "The Rise" to your birth mother. What can you tell us about her?

12:34:43

SAMUELSSON You know, I don't have any memories and, you know, when your mother is the person -- I started my book, I say, I've never seen the eyes of my mother. So, every time I go back to the continent and I see a young woman carrying two children in Ethiopia, I always envision that could be my mother. That vision of a petite, but strong woman guiding a five-year-old and a two-year-old. That was us. She didn't survive tuberculosis, but I did. My sister did.

12:35:19

SAMUELSSON And, you know, there's also an act of kindness, right. She gave everything to us. But also, the nurse in the hospital, that had three kids of her own, that took us in and adopted us, made sure we got adopted. So sweet. And so, in times like this when exactly, you know, what the world needs, it's also act of kindness and being able to see each other and cook for one another.

12:35:44

NNAMDI You also thank many other black women, who have remained mostly unsung, but were often the most impactful engineers of the kitchen, and true leaders in the culinary arts. Tell us about some of those women.

12:35:58

SAMUELSSON You know, we know about incredible black women in American food, like Miss Leah Chase and Sylvia Woods. But there's also, in the origin, like think about Thomas Jefferson's executive chefs, Fanny and Edith. They were 15 and 18 years old when they worked for Thomas Jefferson. And I'll tell you, some of the more recent times, Georgette Gilmore. You know, she was a mother of six, and she started a club from nowhere. And she woke up at 3:00 in the morning to bake and she raised a hundred dollars a week and sent it away to the movement for Martin Luther King.

12:36:31

SAMUELSSON Think about someone like Zephyr Wright, that was Lyndon B. Johnson's chef. And he listened to her more than he listened to other politicians, right, and he really trusted her. And she has a big reason why he changed the vote to allow black people to vote, for example. So, food can be activism. Food is very often anonymous heroes, especially when it comes to black cooking. And this is the time as we have the conversation about culture, identity, race, class. So, in "The Rise," you find, really, the journey from anonymous cooking to visible cooking.

12:37:11

NNAMDI Here now is Cole in Annapolis, Maryland. Cole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:37:16

COLE Thank you, Kojo. I just wanted to thank Marcus for all you're doing to push the food culture forward in this country for African American chefs. Out of culinary school, I read “Yes, Chef.” I had a chance to make a pilgrimage up to Red Rooster in Harlem. And, again, just wanted to thank you for all you're doing.

12:37:37

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much. That's very, very kind. And keep pushing and keep cooking.

12:37:41

NNAMDI Thank you very much for your call, Cole. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. Have you read any of Marcus Samuelsson's books or been to his restaurants, like Cole? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Marcus, you say that once you began to live and cook in New York, you were shocked at how little the story of black cooking was being told. How have black food contributions been erased from the narrative, so to speak?

12:38:09

SAMUELSSON Well, it's a very layered question, right. Even the food from the continent, all the food that was ours -- coffee, wine -- it was taken out of us and really got the ownership of Europe. We think about Belgian chocolate. You think about coffee from the French roast coffee of Italy and France, but they're really from Ethiopia and Kenya. So, it starts with -- we didn't have the authorship, nor the ownership of our own food. So, the worth and value of why you would go into food was always in doubt. Could you own food, you know, as a black person, right? Could you be part of it, or were you just the laborer?

12:38:51

SAMUELSSON So, that is a very challenged starting point, right. But then the contribution of you think about through the slave trade, the rise that came here and, you know, the Gullah culture, for example. So, so much of the food that we consider today, low country cuisine, or what we consider southern cooking, or we think about something like Creole cooking, all stems from the continent. And then, obviously, it got another revival when it came to America and became these very defined cuisines that we have today.

12:39:22

NNAMDI For those of you who may not be aware, but whenever Marcus refers to the continent, he's speaking about the continent of Africa. (laugh)

12:39:29

SAMUELSSON (laugh) Yes. Thank you for that.

12:39:33

NNAMDI You write: “I was born in a hut in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in Harlem.” How does all of that influence who you are today and where you choose to call home?

12:39:50

SAMUELSSON Well, I would say, this is really what gratitude and privilege means, right. The gratitude of everything that the generation before me did, without the civil rights movement, I wouldn't live in America, right. And privilege. I come from a country like Sweden that had access to great education. I had an opportunity to travel. And I think, in times like this, with COVID, but also the even bigger pandemic of racism, as we're dealing with this now right in front of us, it's important to acknowledge the privilege and show gratitude.

12:40:30

SAMUELSSON So, this book really was done this spring, but I had to stop it and rewrite a big part of the book, because I couldn't have launched "The Rise" without acknowledging how horrific and how challenged this spring was for us in the hospitality industry. And it's really changed us forever.

12:40:50

NNAMDI 800-433-8850. We'd love to have you join the conversation. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Vincent in Fort Washington, Maryland. Vincent, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:41:05

VINCENT Marcus, hi. This is Vincent. I worked with you a long time ago in Aquavit, in New York. And your book at that time was called "Aquavit." And you said, Vincent, cook with passion. And ever since, I have, so just thank you so much for the inspiration.

12:41:20

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much, Vincent, and keep cooking that Swedish food. You know, cold times are coming, so you need some of that Swedish herring and meatballs. You know that, Vincent.

12:41:29

VINCENT I know that. I know that. But you've just taken it to an entirely different level and, you know, it's about the passion. And even here in Oxon Hill, I hear people who say, you know, we know Marcus. We know Marcus. He came in, you know, to see us. So, just keep doing it, man. All right?

12:41:45

SAMUELSSON Thank you. Thank you very much.

12:41:46

NNAMDI Thank you for your call, Vincent. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. I'd like you to build on a theme that you already touched on, Marcus. You write that COVID-19 is not the only disease infecting America. The pandemic will eventually be overcome, though its effects will stay in the black community for longer than elsewhere. The bigger disease we must fight is the virus of systemic racism. How did this dual pandemics inform "The Rise"?

12:42:17

SAMUELSSON Well, I'm very worried what's going to happen to our black and brown communities, such as Washington, D.C., Detroit, Harlem, Overtown in Miami and etcetera. Because the pandemic stays in our community longer. We have less access to healthcare and generational wealth. So, when retails go, think how many people that owns mom and pops or works in mom and pops. But when the retails are gone in our community, it will be -- so goes the soul of our community.

12:42:50

SAMUELSSON And I'm very, very worried about this winter, because our hospitality industry will completely change after this. Habits have already changed. So, if you can hold on through this winter, the chance that you can rebuild your business and rehire, you're going to be fine. But it's just about truly holding on through this very, very difficult time in front of us.

12:43:16

SAMUELSSON You know, America's relationship with race and class and caste is something that we've been dealing with for 400 years. And it's not just America, right. You think about today when we're speaking, Kojo, SARS is in Nigeria. And it shows the complexity of oppression. And it's not as simple as just race. It also has to do with class. And food is in the center of that, right.

12:43:47

SAMUELSSON When I look at American food, it's more -- people talk about food deserts. We don't have food deserts. We have food apartheid. This has been designed. Why fresh food was not in our communities, why we don't have access, as the richest country in the world, to have clean and fresh food in our communities, those are choices that we made that are more linked to Jim Crow than there are to anything else. So, I hope, post-COVID, that we really start a rethink, how we start to take care of one another, and look at food as a healing part of the process, cooking together, and make sure we get better nutrition into the poorest families in this country.

12:44:29

NNAMDI When the pandemic began, Marcus, you converted your restaurants into community kitchens, serving over 150,000 meals to those in need. What went into that big pivot? It's my understanding that you made a call to some guy named Jose Andres.


Chef Marcus Samuelsson On “Black Cooks And the Soul Of American Food”

“Black food is not just one thing. It’s not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy. A force. An engine.” So writes famed chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.”

“The Rise” is a project Samuelsson has been working on since the 2016 election — a documentation of the authorship of Black cooking, with James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn.

“The Rise,” Klancy Miller writes for Vogue, “is more than a cookbook it is a conversation, a collaboration, and, above all, a declaration that Black Food Matters.”

Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in the U.S., joins us to discuss Black food culture and the more than 150 recipes featured in “The Rise.”

Produced by Julie Depenbrock

Guests

  • Marcus Samuelsson Chef and Restaurateur Author, "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food" @MarcusCooks

Transcript

12:32:02

KOJO NNAMDI Welcome back. Black food is not just one thing. It's not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy, a force, an engine. So writes chef Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book called "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food." And it is, indeed, much more than a cookbook. It's a celebration of a movement. And with more than 150 recipes, from our own Michael Twitty -- who's been a guest on this show regularly -- from his grilled short ribs to Nyesha Arrington's crab curry, "The Rise" is a firm declaration that black food matters.

12:32:44

KOJO NNAMDI Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. He's a chef, restaurateur and author of many books. Currently he hosts the PBS series "No Passport Required." During the pandemic, Samuelsson converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens that served over 150,000 meals to those in need. Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. Welcome.

12:33:05

MARCUS SAMUELSSON Thank you for having me back. And, I mean, Kojo, you're killing it with the music. I mean, playing that Éthiopiques? You had me at jump, man. How are you? How have you been?

12:33:14

NNAMDI I am doing well, my friend. And thanks for the music is our Ben Privot, our engineer who selects the music. But he knows how to put it together. You began this book during the 2016 election. What was motivating you to write about black excellence in the culinary world at that time, in particular?

12:33:36

SAMUELSSON Well, you know, I've always been fascinated by the incredible contribution, the rich contribution that black chefs and cooks have done for hundreds and hundreds of years in this country, yet it's very hard to find. Right? So, I started this conversation about how can we celebrate black excellence in food the way we know it in music? Right? If you and I are going to explain for anybody about American music, we know about the James Brown era, we know about Miles, we know about Prince, we know about hip-hop, you know. And it's very clearly defined.

12:34:10

SAMUELSSON In food, you know, the food democracy and food injustices has a different history. It's much more muddy. But I'm here to tell you that the black experience in American food, the contribution's been incredible. And I wanted to write about it and share, also, what's happening today with some of the most exciting chefs in the world are African Americans, and they cook right here in America.

12:34:36

NNAMDI Marcus, you dedicated "The Rise" to your birth mother. What can you tell us about her?

12:34:43

SAMUELSSON You know, I don't have any memories and, you know, when your mother is the person -- I started my book, I say, I've never seen the eyes of my mother. So, every time I go back to the continent and I see a young woman carrying two children in Ethiopia, I always envision that could be my mother. That vision of a petite, but strong woman guiding a five-year-old and a two-year-old. That was us. She didn't survive tuberculosis, but I did. My sister did.

12:35:19

SAMUELSSON And, you know, there's also an act of kindness, right. She gave everything to us. But also, the nurse in the hospital, that had three kids of her own, that took us in and adopted us, made sure we got adopted. So sweet. And so, in times like this when exactly, you know, what the world needs, it's also act of kindness and being able to see each other and cook for one another.

12:35:44

NNAMDI You also thank many other black women, who have remained mostly unsung, but were often the most impactful engineers of the kitchen, and true leaders in the culinary arts. Tell us about some of those women.

12:35:58

SAMUELSSON You know, we know about incredible black women in American food, like Miss Leah Chase and Sylvia Woods. But there's also, in the origin, like think about Thomas Jefferson's executive chefs, Fanny and Edith. They were 15 and 18 years old when they worked for Thomas Jefferson. And I'll tell you, some of the more recent times, Georgette Gilmore. You know, she was a mother of six, and she started a club from nowhere. And she woke up at 3:00 in the morning to bake and she raised a hundred dollars a week and sent it away to the movement for Martin Luther King.

12:36:31

SAMUELSSON Think about someone like Zephyr Wright, that was Lyndon B. Johnson's chef. And he listened to her more than he listened to other politicians, right, and he really trusted her. And she has a big reason why he changed the vote to allow black people to vote, for example. So, food can be activism. Food is very often anonymous heroes, especially when it comes to black cooking. And this is the time as we have the conversation about culture, identity, race, class. So, in "The Rise," you find, really, the journey from anonymous cooking to visible cooking.

12:37:11

NNAMDI Here now is Cole in Annapolis, Maryland. Cole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:37:16

COLE Thank you, Kojo. I just wanted to thank Marcus for all you're doing to push the food culture forward in this country for African American chefs. Out of culinary school, I read “Yes, Chef.” I had a chance to make a pilgrimage up to Red Rooster in Harlem. And, again, just wanted to thank you for all you're doing.

12:37:37

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much. That's very, very kind. And keep pushing and keep cooking.

12:37:41

NNAMDI Thank you very much for your call, Cole. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. Have you read any of Marcus Samuelsson's books or been to his restaurants, like Cole? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Marcus, you say that once you began to live and cook in New York, you were shocked at how little the story of black cooking was being told. How have black food contributions been erased from the narrative, so to speak?

12:38:09

SAMUELSSON Well, it's a very layered question, right. Even the food from the continent, all the food that was ours -- coffee, wine -- it was taken out of us and really got the ownership of Europe. We think about Belgian chocolate. You think about coffee from the French roast coffee of Italy and France, but they're really from Ethiopia and Kenya. So, it starts with -- we didn't have the authorship, nor the ownership of our own food. So, the worth and value of why you would go into food was always in doubt. Could you own food, you know, as a black person, right? Could you be part of it, or were you just the laborer?

12:38:51

SAMUELSSON So, that is a very challenged starting point, right. But then the contribution of you think about through the slave trade, the rise that came here and, you know, the Gullah culture, for example. So, so much of the food that we consider today, low country cuisine, or what we consider southern cooking, or we think about something like Creole cooking, all stems from the continent. And then, obviously, it got another revival when it came to America and became these very defined cuisines that we have today.

12:39:22

NNAMDI For those of you who may not be aware, but whenever Marcus refers to the continent, he's speaking about the continent of Africa. (laugh)

12:39:29

SAMUELSSON (laugh) Yes. Thank you for that.

12:39:33

NNAMDI You write: “I was born in a hut in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in Harlem.” How does all of that influence who you are today and where you choose to call home?

12:39:50

SAMUELSSON Well, I would say, this is really what gratitude and privilege means, right. The gratitude of everything that the generation before me did, without the civil rights movement, I wouldn't live in America, right. And privilege. I come from a country like Sweden that had access to great education. I had an opportunity to travel. And I think, in times like this, with COVID, but also the even bigger pandemic of racism, as we're dealing with this now right in front of us, it's important to acknowledge the privilege and show gratitude.

12:40:30

SAMUELSSON So, this book really was done this spring, but I had to stop it and rewrite a big part of the book, because I couldn't have launched "The Rise" without acknowledging how horrific and how challenged this spring was for us in the hospitality industry. And it's really changed us forever.

12:40:50

NNAMDI 800-433-8850. We'd love to have you join the conversation. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Vincent in Fort Washington, Maryland. Vincent, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:41:05

VINCENT Marcus, hi. This is Vincent. I worked with you a long time ago in Aquavit, in New York. And your book at that time was called "Aquavit." And you said, Vincent, cook with passion. And ever since, I have, so just thank you so much for the inspiration.

12:41:20

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much, Vincent, and keep cooking that Swedish food. You know, cold times are coming, so you need some of that Swedish herring and meatballs. You know that, Vincent.

12:41:29

VINCENT I know that. I know that. But you've just taken it to an entirely different level and, you know, it's about the passion. And even here in Oxon Hill, I hear people who say, you know, we know Marcus. We know Marcus. He came in, you know, to see us. So, just keep doing it, man. All right?

12:41:45

SAMUELSSON Thank you. Thank you very much.

12:41:46

NNAMDI Thank you for your call, Vincent. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. I'd like you to build on a theme that you already touched on, Marcus. You write that COVID-19 is not the only disease infecting America. The pandemic will eventually be overcome, though its effects will stay in the black community for longer than elsewhere. The bigger disease we must fight is the virus of systemic racism. How did this dual pandemics inform "The Rise"?

12:42:17

SAMUELSSON Well, I'm very worried what's going to happen to our black and brown communities, such as Washington, D.C., Detroit, Harlem, Overtown in Miami and etcetera. Because the pandemic stays in our community longer. We have less access to healthcare and generational wealth. So, when retails go, think how many people that owns mom and pops or works in mom and pops. But when the retails are gone in our community, it will be -- so goes the soul of our community.

12:42:50

SAMUELSSON And I'm very, very worried about this winter, because our hospitality industry will completely change after this. Habits have already changed. So, if you can hold on through this winter, the chance that you can rebuild your business and rehire, you're going to be fine. But it's just about truly holding on through this very, very difficult time in front of us.

12:43:16

SAMUELSSON You know, America's relationship with race and class and caste is something that we've been dealing with for 400 years. And it's not just America, right. You think about today when we're speaking, Kojo, SARS is in Nigeria. And it shows the complexity of oppression. And it's not as simple as just race. It also has to do with class. And food is in the center of that, right.

12:43:47

SAMUELSSON When I look at American food, it's more -- people talk about food deserts. We don't have food deserts. We have food apartheid. This has been designed. Why fresh food was not in our communities, why we don't have access, as the richest country in the world, to have clean and fresh food in our communities, those are choices that we made that are more linked to Jim Crow than there are to anything else. So, I hope, post-COVID, that we really start a rethink, how we start to take care of one another, and look at food as a healing part of the process, cooking together, and make sure we get better nutrition into the poorest families in this country.

12:44:29

NNAMDI When the pandemic began, Marcus, you converted your restaurants into community kitchens, serving over 150,000 meals to those in need. What went into that big pivot? It's my understanding that you made a call to some guy named Jose Andres.


Chef Marcus Samuelsson On “Black Cooks And the Soul Of American Food”

“Black food is not just one thing. It’s not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy. A force. An engine.” So writes famed chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.”

“The Rise” is a project Samuelsson has been working on since the 2016 election — a documentation of the authorship of Black cooking, with James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn.

“The Rise,” Klancy Miller writes for Vogue, “is more than a cookbook it is a conversation, a collaboration, and, above all, a declaration that Black Food Matters.”

Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in the U.S., joins us to discuss Black food culture and the more than 150 recipes featured in “The Rise.”

Produced by Julie Depenbrock

Guests

  • Marcus Samuelsson Chef and Restaurateur Author, "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food" @MarcusCooks

Transcript

12:32:02

KOJO NNAMDI Welcome back. Black food is not just one thing. It's not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy, a force, an engine. So writes chef Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book called "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food." And it is, indeed, much more than a cookbook. It's a celebration of a movement. And with more than 150 recipes, from our own Michael Twitty -- who's been a guest on this show regularly -- from his grilled short ribs to Nyesha Arrington's crab curry, "The Rise" is a firm declaration that black food matters.

12:32:44

KOJO NNAMDI Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. He's a chef, restaurateur and author of many books. Currently he hosts the PBS series "No Passport Required." During the pandemic, Samuelsson converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens that served over 150,000 meals to those in need. Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. Welcome.

12:33:05

MARCUS SAMUELSSON Thank you for having me back. And, I mean, Kojo, you're killing it with the music. I mean, playing that Éthiopiques? You had me at jump, man. How are you? How have you been?

12:33:14

NNAMDI I am doing well, my friend. And thanks for the music is our Ben Privot, our engineer who selects the music. But he knows how to put it together. You began this book during the 2016 election. What was motivating you to write about black excellence in the culinary world at that time, in particular?

12:33:36

SAMUELSSON Well, you know, I've always been fascinated by the incredible contribution, the rich contribution that black chefs and cooks have done for hundreds and hundreds of years in this country, yet it's very hard to find. Right? So, I started this conversation about how can we celebrate black excellence in food the way we know it in music? Right? If you and I are going to explain for anybody about American music, we know about the James Brown era, we know about Miles, we know about Prince, we know about hip-hop, you know. And it's very clearly defined.

12:34:10

SAMUELSSON In food, you know, the food democracy and food injustices has a different history. It's much more muddy. But I'm here to tell you that the black experience in American food, the contribution's been incredible. And I wanted to write about it and share, also, what's happening today with some of the most exciting chefs in the world are African Americans, and they cook right here in America.

12:34:36

NNAMDI Marcus, you dedicated "The Rise" to your birth mother. What can you tell us about her?

12:34:43

SAMUELSSON You know, I don't have any memories and, you know, when your mother is the person -- I started my book, I say, I've never seen the eyes of my mother. So, every time I go back to the continent and I see a young woman carrying two children in Ethiopia, I always envision that could be my mother. That vision of a petite, but strong woman guiding a five-year-old and a two-year-old. That was us. She didn't survive tuberculosis, but I did. My sister did.

12:35:19

SAMUELSSON And, you know, there's also an act of kindness, right. She gave everything to us. But also, the nurse in the hospital, that had three kids of her own, that took us in and adopted us, made sure we got adopted. So sweet. And so, in times like this when exactly, you know, what the world needs, it's also act of kindness and being able to see each other and cook for one another.

12:35:44

NNAMDI You also thank many other black women, who have remained mostly unsung, but were often the most impactful engineers of the kitchen, and true leaders in the culinary arts. Tell us about some of those women.

12:35:58

SAMUELSSON You know, we know about incredible black women in American food, like Miss Leah Chase and Sylvia Woods. But there's also, in the origin, like think about Thomas Jefferson's executive chefs, Fanny and Edith. They were 15 and 18 years old when they worked for Thomas Jefferson. And I'll tell you, some of the more recent times, Georgette Gilmore. You know, she was a mother of six, and she started a club from nowhere. And she woke up at 3:00 in the morning to bake and she raised a hundred dollars a week and sent it away to the movement for Martin Luther King.

12:36:31

SAMUELSSON Think about someone like Zephyr Wright, that was Lyndon B. Johnson's chef. And he listened to her more than he listened to other politicians, right, and he really trusted her. And she has a big reason why he changed the vote to allow black people to vote, for example. So, food can be activism. Food is very often anonymous heroes, especially when it comes to black cooking. And this is the time as we have the conversation about culture, identity, race, class. So, in "The Rise," you find, really, the journey from anonymous cooking to visible cooking.

12:37:11

NNAMDI Here now is Cole in Annapolis, Maryland. Cole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:37:16

COLE Thank you, Kojo. I just wanted to thank Marcus for all you're doing to push the food culture forward in this country for African American chefs. Out of culinary school, I read “Yes, Chef.” I had a chance to make a pilgrimage up to Red Rooster in Harlem. And, again, just wanted to thank you for all you're doing.

12:37:37

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much. That's very, very kind. And keep pushing and keep cooking.

12:37:41

NNAMDI Thank you very much for your call, Cole. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. Have you read any of Marcus Samuelsson's books or been to his restaurants, like Cole? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Marcus, you say that once you began to live and cook in New York, you were shocked at how little the story of black cooking was being told. How have black food contributions been erased from the narrative, so to speak?

12:38:09

SAMUELSSON Well, it's a very layered question, right. Even the food from the continent, all the food that was ours -- coffee, wine -- it was taken out of us and really got the ownership of Europe. We think about Belgian chocolate. You think about coffee from the French roast coffee of Italy and France, but they're really from Ethiopia and Kenya. So, it starts with -- we didn't have the authorship, nor the ownership of our own food. So, the worth and value of why you would go into food was always in doubt. Could you own food, you know, as a black person, right? Could you be part of it, or were you just the laborer?

12:38:51

SAMUELSSON So, that is a very challenged starting point, right. But then the contribution of you think about through the slave trade, the rise that came here and, you know, the Gullah culture, for example. So, so much of the food that we consider today, low country cuisine, or what we consider southern cooking, or we think about something like Creole cooking, all stems from the continent. And then, obviously, it got another revival when it came to America and became these very defined cuisines that we have today.

12:39:22

NNAMDI For those of you who may not be aware, but whenever Marcus refers to the continent, he's speaking about the continent of Africa. (laugh)

12:39:29

SAMUELSSON (laugh) Yes. Thank you for that.

12:39:33

NNAMDI You write: “I was born in a hut in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in Harlem.” How does all of that influence who you are today and where you choose to call home?

12:39:50

SAMUELSSON Well, I would say, this is really what gratitude and privilege means, right. The gratitude of everything that the generation before me did, without the civil rights movement, I wouldn't live in America, right. And privilege. I come from a country like Sweden that had access to great education. I had an opportunity to travel. And I think, in times like this, with COVID, but also the even bigger pandemic of racism, as we're dealing with this now right in front of us, it's important to acknowledge the privilege and show gratitude.

12:40:30

SAMUELSSON So, this book really was done this spring, but I had to stop it and rewrite a big part of the book, because I couldn't have launched "The Rise" without acknowledging how horrific and how challenged this spring was for us in the hospitality industry. And it's really changed us forever.

12:40:50

NNAMDI 800-433-8850. We'd love to have you join the conversation. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Vincent in Fort Washington, Maryland. Vincent, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:41:05

VINCENT Marcus, hi. This is Vincent. I worked with you a long time ago in Aquavit, in New York. And your book at that time was called "Aquavit." And you said, Vincent, cook with passion. And ever since, I have, so just thank you so much for the inspiration.

12:41:20

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much, Vincent, and keep cooking that Swedish food. You know, cold times are coming, so you need some of that Swedish herring and meatballs. You know that, Vincent.

12:41:29

VINCENT I know that. I know that. But you've just taken it to an entirely different level and, you know, it's about the passion. And even here in Oxon Hill, I hear people who say, you know, we know Marcus. We know Marcus. He came in, you know, to see us. So, just keep doing it, man. All right?

12:41:45

SAMUELSSON Thank you. Thank you very much.

12:41:46

NNAMDI Thank you for your call, Vincent. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. I'd like you to build on a theme that you already touched on, Marcus. You write that COVID-19 is not the only disease infecting America. The pandemic will eventually be overcome, though its effects will stay in the black community for longer than elsewhere. The bigger disease we must fight is the virus of systemic racism. How did this dual pandemics inform "The Rise"?

12:42:17

SAMUELSSON Well, I'm very worried what's going to happen to our black and brown communities, such as Washington, D.C., Detroit, Harlem, Overtown in Miami and etcetera. Because the pandemic stays in our community longer. We have less access to healthcare and generational wealth. So, when retails go, think how many people that owns mom and pops or works in mom and pops. But when the retails are gone in our community, it will be -- so goes the soul of our community.

12:42:50

SAMUELSSON And I'm very, very worried about this winter, because our hospitality industry will completely change after this. Habits have already changed. So, if you can hold on through this winter, the chance that you can rebuild your business and rehire, you're going to be fine. But it's just about truly holding on through this very, very difficult time in front of us.

12:43:16

SAMUELSSON You know, America's relationship with race and class and caste is something that we've been dealing with for 400 years. And it's not just America, right. You think about today when we're speaking, Kojo, SARS is in Nigeria. And it shows the complexity of oppression. And it's not as simple as just race. It also has to do with class. And food is in the center of that, right.

12:43:47

SAMUELSSON When I look at American food, it's more -- people talk about food deserts. We don't have food deserts. We have food apartheid. This has been designed. Why fresh food was not in our communities, why we don't have access, as the richest country in the world, to have clean and fresh food in our communities, those are choices that we made that are more linked to Jim Crow than there are to anything else. So, I hope, post-COVID, that we really start a rethink, how we start to take care of one another, and look at food as a healing part of the process, cooking together, and make sure we get better nutrition into the poorest families in this country.

12:44:29

NNAMDI When the pandemic began, Marcus, you converted your restaurants into community kitchens, serving over 150,000 meals to those in need. What went into that big pivot? It's my understanding that you made a call to some guy named Jose Andres.


Chef Marcus Samuelsson On “Black Cooks And the Soul Of American Food”

“Black food is not just one thing. It’s not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy. A force. An engine.” So writes famed chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.”

“The Rise” is a project Samuelsson has been working on since the 2016 election — a documentation of the authorship of Black cooking, with James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn.

“The Rise,” Klancy Miller writes for Vogue, “is more than a cookbook it is a conversation, a collaboration, and, above all, a declaration that Black Food Matters.”

Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in the U.S., joins us to discuss Black food culture and the more than 150 recipes featured in “The Rise.”

Produced by Julie Depenbrock

Guests

  • Marcus Samuelsson Chef and Restaurateur Author, "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food" @MarcusCooks

Transcript

12:32:02

KOJO NNAMDI Welcome back. Black food is not just one thing. It's not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy, a force, an engine. So writes chef Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book called "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food." And it is, indeed, much more than a cookbook. It's a celebration of a movement. And with more than 150 recipes, from our own Michael Twitty -- who's been a guest on this show regularly -- from his grilled short ribs to Nyesha Arrington's crab curry, "The Rise" is a firm declaration that black food matters.

12:32:44

KOJO NNAMDI Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. He's a chef, restaurateur and author of many books. Currently he hosts the PBS series "No Passport Required." During the pandemic, Samuelsson converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens that served over 150,000 meals to those in need. Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. Welcome.

12:33:05

MARCUS SAMUELSSON Thank you for having me back. And, I mean, Kojo, you're killing it with the music. I mean, playing that Éthiopiques? You had me at jump, man. How are you? How have you been?

12:33:14

NNAMDI I am doing well, my friend. And thanks for the music is our Ben Privot, our engineer who selects the music. But he knows how to put it together. You began this book during the 2016 election. What was motivating you to write about black excellence in the culinary world at that time, in particular?

12:33:36

SAMUELSSON Well, you know, I've always been fascinated by the incredible contribution, the rich contribution that black chefs and cooks have done for hundreds and hundreds of years in this country, yet it's very hard to find. Right? So, I started this conversation about how can we celebrate black excellence in food the way we know it in music? Right? If you and I are going to explain for anybody about American music, we know about the James Brown era, we know about Miles, we know about Prince, we know about hip-hop, you know. And it's very clearly defined.

12:34:10

SAMUELSSON In food, you know, the food democracy and food injustices has a different history. It's much more muddy. But I'm here to tell you that the black experience in American food, the contribution's been incredible. And I wanted to write about it and share, also, what's happening today with some of the most exciting chefs in the world are African Americans, and they cook right here in America.

12:34:36

NNAMDI Marcus, you dedicated "The Rise" to your birth mother. What can you tell us about her?

12:34:43

SAMUELSSON You know, I don't have any memories and, you know, when your mother is the person -- I started my book, I say, I've never seen the eyes of my mother. So, every time I go back to the continent and I see a young woman carrying two children in Ethiopia, I always envision that could be my mother. That vision of a petite, but strong woman guiding a five-year-old and a two-year-old. That was us. She didn't survive tuberculosis, but I did. My sister did.

12:35:19

SAMUELSSON And, you know, there's also an act of kindness, right. She gave everything to us. But also, the nurse in the hospital, that had three kids of her own, that took us in and adopted us, made sure we got adopted. So sweet. And so, in times like this when exactly, you know, what the world needs, it's also act of kindness and being able to see each other and cook for one another.

12:35:44

NNAMDI You also thank many other black women, who have remained mostly unsung, but were often the most impactful engineers of the kitchen, and true leaders in the culinary arts. Tell us about some of those women.

12:35:58

SAMUELSSON You know, we know about incredible black women in American food, like Miss Leah Chase and Sylvia Woods. But there's also, in the origin, like think about Thomas Jefferson's executive chefs, Fanny and Edith. They were 15 and 18 years old when they worked for Thomas Jefferson. And I'll tell you, some of the more recent times, Georgette Gilmore. You know, she was a mother of six, and she started a club from nowhere. And she woke up at 3:00 in the morning to bake and she raised a hundred dollars a week and sent it away to the movement for Martin Luther King.

12:36:31

SAMUELSSON Think about someone like Zephyr Wright, that was Lyndon B. Johnson's chef. And he listened to her more than he listened to other politicians, right, and he really trusted her. And she has a big reason why he changed the vote to allow black people to vote, for example. So, food can be activism. Food is very often anonymous heroes, especially when it comes to black cooking. And this is the time as we have the conversation about culture, identity, race, class. So, in "The Rise," you find, really, the journey from anonymous cooking to visible cooking.

12:37:11

NNAMDI Here now is Cole in Annapolis, Maryland. Cole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:37:16

COLE Thank you, Kojo. I just wanted to thank Marcus for all you're doing to push the food culture forward in this country for African American chefs. Out of culinary school, I read “Yes, Chef.” I had a chance to make a pilgrimage up to Red Rooster in Harlem. And, again, just wanted to thank you for all you're doing.

12:37:37

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much. That's very, very kind. And keep pushing and keep cooking.

12:37:41

NNAMDI Thank you very much for your call, Cole. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. Have you read any of Marcus Samuelsson's books or been to his restaurants, like Cole? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Marcus, you say that once you began to live and cook in New York, you were shocked at how little the story of black cooking was being told. How have black food contributions been erased from the narrative, so to speak?

12:38:09

SAMUELSSON Well, it's a very layered question, right. Even the food from the continent, all the food that was ours -- coffee, wine -- it was taken out of us and really got the ownership of Europe. We think about Belgian chocolate. You think about coffee from the French roast coffee of Italy and France, but they're really from Ethiopia and Kenya. So, it starts with -- we didn't have the authorship, nor the ownership of our own food. So, the worth and value of why you would go into food was always in doubt. Could you own food, you know, as a black person, right? Could you be part of it, or were you just the laborer?

12:38:51

SAMUELSSON So, that is a very challenged starting point, right. But then the contribution of you think about through the slave trade, the rise that came here and, you know, the Gullah culture, for example. So, so much of the food that we consider today, low country cuisine, or what we consider southern cooking, or we think about something like Creole cooking, all stems from the continent. And then, obviously, it got another revival when it came to America and became these very defined cuisines that we have today.

12:39:22

NNAMDI For those of you who may not be aware, but whenever Marcus refers to the continent, he's speaking about the continent of Africa. (laugh)

12:39:29

SAMUELSSON (laugh) Yes. Thank you for that.

12:39:33

NNAMDI You write: “I was born in a hut in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in Harlem.” How does all of that influence who you are today and where you choose to call home?

12:39:50

SAMUELSSON Well, I would say, this is really what gratitude and privilege means, right. The gratitude of everything that the generation before me did, without the civil rights movement, I wouldn't live in America, right. And privilege. I come from a country like Sweden that had access to great education. I had an opportunity to travel. And I think, in times like this, with COVID, but also the even bigger pandemic of racism, as we're dealing with this now right in front of us, it's important to acknowledge the privilege and show gratitude.

12:40:30

SAMUELSSON So, this book really was done this spring, but I had to stop it and rewrite a big part of the book, because I couldn't have launched "The Rise" without acknowledging how horrific and how challenged this spring was for us in the hospitality industry. And it's really changed us forever.

12:40:50

NNAMDI 800-433-8850. We'd love to have you join the conversation. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Vincent in Fort Washington, Maryland. Vincent, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:41:05

VINCENT Marcus, hi. This is Vincent. I worked with you a long time ago in Aquavit, in New York. And your book at that time was called "Aquavit." And you said, Vincent, cook with passion. And ever since, I have, so just thank you so much for the inspiration.

12:41:20

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much, Vincent, and keep cooking that Swedish food. You know, cold times are coming, so you need some of that Swedish herring and meatballs. You know that, Vincent.

12:41:29

VINCENT I know that. I know that. But you've just taken it to an entirely different level and, you know, it's about the passion. And even here in Oxon Hill, I hear people who say, you know, we know Marcus. We know Marcus. He came in, you know, to see us. So, just keep doing it, man. All right?

12:41:45

SAMUELSSON Thank you. Thank you very much.

12:41:46

NNAMDI Thank you for your call, Vincent. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. I'd like you to build on a theme that you already touched on, Marcus. You write that COVID-19 is not the only disease infecting America. The pandemic will eventually be overcome, though its effects will stay in the black community for longer than elsewhere. The bigger disease we must fight is the virus of systemic racism. How did this dual pandemics inform "The Rise"?

12:42:17

SAMUELSSON Well, I'm very worried what's going to happen to our black and brown communities, such as Washington, D.C., Detroit, Harlem, Overtown in Miami and etcetera. Because the pandemic stays in our community longer. We have less access to healthcare and generational wealth. So, when retails go, think how many people that owns mom and pops or works in mom and pops. But when the retails are gone in our community, it will be -- so goes the soul of our community.

12:42:50

SAMUELSSON And I'm very, very worried about this winter, because our hospitality industry will completely change after this. Habits have already changed. So, if you can hold on through this winter, the chance that you can rebuild your business and rehire, you're going to be fine. But it's just about truly holding on through this very, very difficult time in front of us.

12:43:16

SAMUELSSON You know, America's relationship with race and class and caste is something that we've been dealing with for 400 years. And it's not just America, right. You think about today when we're speaking, Kojo, SARS is in Nigeria. And it shows the complexity of oppression. And it's not as simple as just race. It also has to do with class. And food is in the center of that, right.

12:43:47

SAMUELSSON When I look at American food, it's more -- people talk about food deserts. We don't have food deserts. We have food apartheid. This has been designed. Why fresh food was not in our communities, why we don't have access, as the richest country in the world, to have clean and fresh food in our communities, those are choices that we made that are more linked to Jim Crow than there are to anything else. So, I hope, post-COVID, that we really start a rethink, how we start to take care of one another, and look at food as a healing part of the process, cooking together, and make sure we get better nutrition into the poorest families in this country.

12:44:29

NNAMDI When the pandemic began, Marcus, you converted your restaurants into community kitchens, serving over 150,000 meals to those in need. What went into that big pivot? It's my understanding that you made a call to some guy named Jose Andres.


Chef Marcus Samuelsson On “Black Cooks And the Soul Of American Food”

“Black food is not just one thing. It’s not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy. A force. An engine.” So writes famed chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.”

“The Rise” is a project Samuelsson has been working on since the 2016 election — a documentation of the authorship of Black cooking, with James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn.

“The Rise,” Klancy Miller writes for Vogue, “is more than a cookbook it is a conversation, a collaboration, and, above all, a declaration that Black Food Matters.”

Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in the U.S., joins us to discuss Black food culture and the more than 150 recipes featured in “The Rise.”

Produced by Julie Depenbrock

Guests

  • Marcus Samuelsson Chef and Restaurateur Author, "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food" @MarcusCooks

Transcript

12:32:02

KOJO NNAMDI Welcome back. Black food is not just one thing. It's not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy, a force, an engine. So writes chef Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book called "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food." And it is, indeed, much more than a cookbook. It's a celebration of a movement. And with more than 150 recipes, from our own Michael Twitty -- who's been a guest on this show regularly -- from his grilled short ribs to Nyesha Arrington's crab curry, "The Rise" is a firm declaration that black food matters.

12:32:44

KOJO NNAMDI Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. He's a chef, restaurateur and author of many books. Currently he hosts the PBS series "No Passport Required." During the pandemic, Samuelsson converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens that served over 150,000 meals to those in need. Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. Welcome.

12:33:05

MARCUS SAMUELSSON Thank you for having me back. And, I mean, Kojo, you're killing it with the music. I mean, playing that Éthiopiques? You had me at jump, man. How are you? How have you been?

12:33:14

NNAMDI I am doing well, my friend. And thanks for the music is our Ben Privot, our engineer who selects the music. But he knows how to put it together. You began this book during the 2016 election. What was motivating you to write about black excellence in the culinary world at that time, in particular?

12:33:36

SAMUELSSON Well, you know, I've always been fascinated by the incredible contribution, the rich contribution that black chefs and cooks have done for hundreds and hundreds of years in this country, yet it's very hard to find. Right? So, I started this conversation about how can we celebrate black excellence in food the way we know it in music? Right? If you and I are going to explain for anybody about American music, we know about the James Brown era, we know about Miles, we know about Prince, we know about hip-hop, you know. And it's very clearly defined.

12:34:10

SAMUELSSON In food, you know, the food democracy and food injustices has a different history. It's much more muddy. But I'm here to tell you that the black experience in American food, the contribution's been incredible. And I wanted to write about it and share, also, what's happening today with some of the most exciting chefs in the world are African Americans, and they cook right here in America.

12:34:36

NNAMDI Marcus, you dedicated "The Rise" to your birth mother. What can you tell us about her?

12:34:43

SAMUELSSON You know, I don't have any memories and, you know, when your mother is the person -- I started my book, I say, I've never seen the eyes of my mother. So, every time I go back to the continent and I see a young woman carrying two children in Ethiopia, I always envision that could be my mother. That vision of a petite, but strong woman guiding a five-year-old and a two-year-old. That was us. She didn't survive tuberculosis, but I did. My sister did.

12:35:19

SAMUELSSON And, you know, there's also an act of kindness, right. She gave everything to us. But also, the nurse in the hospital, that had three kids of her own, that took us in and adopted us, made sure we got adopted. So sweet. And so, in times like this when exactly, you know, what the world needs, it's also act of kindness and being able to see each other and cook for one another.

12:35:44

NNAMDI You also thank many other black women, who have remained mostly unsung, but were often the most impactful engineers of the kitchen, and true leaders in the culinary arts. Tell us about some of those women.

12:35:58

SAMUELSSON You know, we know about incredible black women in American food, like Miss Leah Chase and Sylvia Woods. But there's also, in the origin, like think about Thomas Jefferson's executive chefs, Fanny and Edith. They were 15 and 18 years old when they worked for Thomas Jefferson. And I'll tell you, some of the more recent times, Georgette Gilmore. You know, she was a mother of six, and she started a club from nowhere. And she woke up at 3:00 in the morning to bake and she raised a hundred dollars a week and sent it away to the movement for Martin Luther King.

12:36:31

SAMUELSSON Think about someone like Zephyr Wright, that was Lyndon B. Johnson's chef. And he listened to her more than he listened to other politicians, right, and he really trusted her. And she has a big reason why he changed the vote to allow black people to vote, for example. So, food can be activism. Food is very often anonymous heroes, especially when it comes to black cooking. And this is the time as we have the conversation about culture, identity, race, class. So, in "The Rise," you find, really, the journey from anonymous cooking to visible cooking.

12:37:11

NNAMDI Here now is Cole in Annapolis, Maryland. Cole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:37:16

COLE Thank you, Kojo. I just wanted to thank Marcus for all you're doing to push the food culture forward in this country for African American chefs. Out of culinary school, I read “Yes, Chef.” I had a chance to make a pilgrimage up to Red Rooster in Harlem. And, again, just wanted to thank you for all you're doing.

12:37:37

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much. That's very, very kind. And keep pushing and keep cooking.

12:37:41

NNAMDI Thank you very much for your call, Cole. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. Have you read any of Marcus Samuelsson's books or been to his restaurants, like Cole? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Marcus, you say that once you began to live and cook in New York, you were shocked at how little the story of black cooking was being told. How have black food contributions been erased from the narrative, so to speak?

12:38:09

SAMUELSSON Well, it's a very layered question, right. Even the food from the continent, all the food that was ours -- coffee, wine -- it was taken out of us and really got the ownership of Europe. We think about Belgian chocolate. You think about coffee from the French roast coffee of Italy and France, but they're really from Ethiopia and Kenya. So, it starts with -- we didn't have the authorship, nor the ownership of our own food. So, the worth and value of why you would go into food was always in doubt. Could you own food, you know, as a black person, right? Could you be part of it, or were you just the laborer?

12:38:51

SAMUELSSON So, that is a very challenged starting point, right. But then the contribution of you think about through the slave trade, the rise that came here and, you know, the Gullah culture, for example. So, so much of the food that we consider today, low country cuisine, or what we consider southern cooking, or we think about something like Creole cooking, all stems from the continent. And then, obviously, it got another revival when it came to America and became these very defined cuisines that we have today.

12:39:22

NNAMDI For those of you who may not be aware, but whenever Marcus refers to the continent, he's speaking about the continent of Africa. (laugh)

12:39:29

SAMUELSSON (laugh) Yes. Thank you for that.

12:39:33

NNAMDI You write: “I was born in a hut in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in Harlem.” How does all of that influence who you are today and where you choose to call home?

12:39:50

SAMUELSSON Well, I would say, this is really what gratitude and privilege means, right. The gratitude of everything that the generation before me did, without the civil rights movement, I wouldn't live in America, right. And privilege. I come from a country like Sweden that had access to great education. I had an opportunity to travel. And I think, in times like this, with COVID, but also the even bigger pandemic of racism, as we're dealing with this now right in front of us, it's important to acknowledge the privilege and show gratitude.

12:40:30

SAMUELSSON So, this book really was done this spring, but I had to stop it and rewrite a big part of the book, because I couldn't have launched "The Rise" without acknowledging how horrific and how challenged this spring was for us in the hospitality industry. And it's really changed us forever.

12:40:50

NNAMDI 800-433-8850. We'd love to have you join the conversation. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Vincent in Fort Washington, Maryland. Vincent, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:41:05

VINCENT Marcus, hi. This is Vincent. I worked with you a long time ago in Aquavit, in New York. And your book at that time was called "Aquavit." And you said, Vincent, cook with passion. And ever since, I have, so just thank you so much for the inspiration.

12:41:20

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much, Vincent, and keep cooking that Swedish food. You know, cold times are coming, so you need some of that Swedish herring and meatballs. You know that, Vincent.

12:41:29

VINCENT I know that. I know that. But you've just taken it to an entirely different level and, you know, it's about the passion. And even here in Oxon Hill, I hear people who say, you know, we know Marcus. We know Marcus. He came in, you know, to see us. So, just keep doing it, man. All right?

12:41:45

SAMUELSSON Thank you. Thank you very much.

12:41:46

NNAMDI Thank you for your call, Vincent. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. I'd like you to build on a theme that you already touched on, Marcus. You write that COVID-19 is not the only disease infecting America. The pandemic will eventually be overcome, though its effects will stay in the black community for longer than elsewhere. The bigger disease we must fight is the virus of systemic racism. How did this dual pandemics inform "The Rise"?

12:42:17

SAMUELSSON Well, I'm very worried what's going to happen to our black and brown communities, such as Washington, D.C., Detroit, Harlem, Overtown in Miami and etcetera. Because the pandemic stays in our community longer. We have less access to healthcare and generational wealth. So, when retails go, think how many people that owns mom and pops or works in mom and pops. But when the retails are gone in our community, it will be -- so goes the soul of our community.

12:42:50

SAMUELSSON And I'm very, very worried about this winter, because our hospitality industry will completely change after this. Habits have already changed. So, if you can hold on through this winter, the chance that you can rebuild your business and rehire, you're going to be fine. But it's just about truly holding on through this very, very difficult time in front of us.

12:43:16

SAMUELSSON You know, America's relationship with race and class and caste is something that we've been dealing with for 400 years. And it's not just America, right. You think about today when we're speaking, Kojo, SARS is in Nigeria. And it shows the complexity of oppression. And it's not as simple as just race. It also has to do with class. And food is in the center of that, right.

12:43:47

SAMUELSSON When I look at American food, it's more -- people talk about food deserts. We don't have food deserts. We have food apartheid. This has been designed. Why fresh food was not in our communities, why we don't have access, as the richest country in the world, to have clean and fresh food in our communities, those are choices that we made that are more linked to Jim Crow than there are to anything else. So, I hope, post-COVID, that we really start a rethink, how we start to take care of one another, and look at food as a healing part of the process, cooking together, and make sure we get better nutrition into the poorest families in this country.

12:44:29

NNAMDI When the pandemic began, Marcus, you converted your restaurants into community kitchens, serving over 150,000 meals to those in need. What went into that big pivot? It's my understanding that you made a call to some guy named Jose Andres.


Chef Marcus Samuelsson On “Black Cooks And the Soul Of American Food”

“Black food is not just one thing. It’s not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy. A force. An engine.” So writes famed chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.”

“The Rise” is a project Samuelsson has been working on since the 2016 election — a documentation of the authorship of Black cooking, with James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn.

“The Rise,” Klancy Miller writes for Vogue, “is more than a cookbook it is a conversation, a collaboration, and, above all, a declaration that Black Food Matters.”

Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in the U.S., joins us to discuss Black food culture and the more than 150 recipes featured in “The Rise.”

Produced by Julie Depenbrock

Guests

  • Marcus Samuelsson Chef and Restaurateur Author, "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food" @MarcusCooks

Transcript

12:32:02

KOJO NNAMDI Welcome back. Black food is not just one thing. It's not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy, a force, an engine. So writes chef Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book called "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food." And it is, indeed, much more than a cookbook. It's a celebration of a movement. And with more than 150 recipes, from our own Michael Twitty -- who's been a guest on this show regularly -- from his grilled short ribs to Nyesha Arrington's crab curry, "The Rise" is a firm declaration that black food matters.

12:32:44

KOJO NNAMDI Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. He's a chef, restaurateur and author of many books. Currently he hosts the PBS series "No Passport Required." During the pandemic, Samuelsson converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens that served over 150,000 meals to those in need. Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. Welcome.

12:33:05

MARCUS SAMUELSSON Thank you for having me back. And, I mean, Kojo, you're killing it with the music. I mean, playing that Éthiopiques? You had me at jump, man. How are you? How have you been?

12:33:14

NNAMDI I am doing well, my friend. And thanks for the music is our Ben Privot, our engineer who selects the music. But he knows how to put it together. You began this book during the 2016 election. What was motivating you to write about black excellence in the culinary world at that time, in particular?

12:33:36

SAMUELSSON Well, you know, I've always been fascinated by the incredible contribution, the rich contribution that black chefs and cooks have done for hundreds and hundreds of years in this country, yet it's very hard to find. Right? So, I started this conversation about how can we celebrate black excellence in food the way we know it in music? Right? If you and I are going to explain for anybody about American music, we know about the James Brown era, we know about Miles, we know about Prince, we know about hip-hop, you know. And it's very clearly defined.

12:34:10

SAMUELSSON In food, you know, the food democracy and food injustices has a different history. It's much more muddy. But I'm here to tell you that the black experience in American food, the contribution's been incredible. And I wanted to write about it and share, also, what's happening today with some of the most exciting chefs in the world are African Americans, and they cook right here in America.

12:34:36

NNAMDI Marcus, you dedicated "The Rise" to your birth mother. What can you tell us about her?

12:34:43

SAMUELSSON You know, I don't have any memories and, you know, when your mother is the person -- I started my book, I say, I've never seen the eyes of my mother. So, every time I go back to the continent and I see a young woman carrying two children in Ethiopia, I always envision that could be my mother. That vision of a petite, but strong woman guiding a five-year-old and a two-year-old. That was us. She didn't survive tuberculosis, but I did. My sister did.

12:35:19

SAMUELSSON And, you know, there's also an act of kindness, right. She gave everything to us. But also, the nurse in the hospital, that had three kids of her own, that took us in and adopted us, made sure we got adopted. So sweet. And so, in times like this when exactly, you know, what the world needs, it's also act of kindness and being able to see each other and cook for one another.

12:35:44

NNAMDI You also thank many other black women, who have remained mostly unsung, but were often the most impactful engineers of the kitchen, and true leaders in the culinary arts. Tell us about some of those women.

12:35:58

SAMUELSSON You know, we know about incredible black women in American food, like Miss Leah Chase and Sylvia Woods. But there's also, in the origin, like think about Thomas Jefferson's executive chefs, Fanny and Edith. They were 15 and 18 years old when they worked for Thomas Jefferson. And I'll tell you, some of the more recent times, Georgette Gilmore. You know, she was a mother of six, and she started a club from nowhere. And she woke up at 3:00 in the morning to bake and she raised a hundred dollars a week and sent it away to the movement for Martin Luther King.

12:36:31

SAMUELSSON Think about someone like Zephyr Wright, that was Lyndon B. Johnson's chef. And he listened to her more than he listened to other politicians, right, and he really trusted her. And she has a big reason why he changed the vote to allow black people to vote, for example. So, food can be activism. Food is very often anonymous heroes, especially when it comes to black cooking. And this is the time as we have the conversation about culture, identity, race, class. So, in "The Rise," you find, really, the journey from anonymous cooking to visible cooking.

12:37:11

NNAMDI Here now is Cole in Annapolis, Maryland. Cole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:37:16

COLE Thank you, Kojo. I just wanted to thank Marcus for all you're doing to push the food culture forward in this country for African American chefs. Out of culinary school, I read “Yes, Chef.” I had a chance to make a pilgrimage up to Red Rooster in Harlem. And, again, just wanted to thank you for all you're doing.

12:37:37

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much. That's very, very kind. And keep pushing and keep cooking.

12:37:41

NNAMDI Thank you very much for your call, Cole. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. Have you read any of Marcus Samuelsson's books or been to his restaurants, like Cole? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Marcus, you say that once you began to live and cook in New York, you were shocked at how little the story of black cooking was being told. How have black food contributions been erased from the narrative, so to speak?

12:38:09

SAMUELSSON Well, it's a very layered question, right. Even the food from the continent, all the food that was ours -- coffee, wine -- it was taken out of us and really got the ownership of Europe. We think about Belgian chocolate. You think about coffee from the French roast coffee of Italy and France, but they're really from Ethiopia and Kenya. So, it starts with -- we didn't have the authorship, nor the ownership of our own food. So, the worth and value of why you would go into food was always in doubt. Could you own food, you know, as a black person, right? Could you be part of it, or were you just the laborer?

12:38:51

SAMUELSSON So, that is a very challenged starting point, right. But then the contribution of you think about through the slave trade, the rise that came here and, you know, the Gullah culture, for example. So, so much of the food that we consider today, low country cuisine, or what we consider southern cooking, or we think about something like Creole cooking, all stems from the continent. And then, obviously, it got another revival when it came to America and became these very defined cuisines that we have today.

12:39:22

NNAMDI For those of you who may not be aware, but whenever Marcus refers to the continent, he's speaking about the continent of Africa. (laugh)

12:39:29

SAMUELSSON (laugh) Yes. Thank you for that.

12:39:33

NNAMDI You write: “I was born in a hut in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in Harlem.” How does all of that influence who you are today and where you choose to call home?

12:39:50

SAMUELSSON Well, I would say, this is really what gratitude and privilege means, right. The gratitude of everything that the generation before me did, without the civil rights movement, I wouldn't live in America, right. And privilege. I come from a country like Sweden that had access to great education. I had an opportunity to travel. And I think, in times like this, with COVID, but also the even bigger pandemic of racism, as we're dealing with this now right in front of us, it's important to acknowledge the privilege and show gratitude.

12:40:30

SAMUELSSON So, this book really was done this spring, but I had to stop it and rewrite a big part of the book, because I couldn't have launched "The Rise" without acknowledging how horrific and how challenged this spring was for us in the hospitality industry. And it's really changed us forever.

12:40:50

NNAMDI 800-433-8850. We'd love to have you join the conversation. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Vincent in Fort Washington, Maryland. Vincent, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:41:05

VINCENT Marcus, hi. This is Vincent. I worked with you a long time ago in Aquavit, in New York. And your book at that time was called "Aquavit." And you said, Vincent, cook with passion. And ever since, I have, so just thank you so much for the inspiration.

12:41:20

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much, Vincent, and keep cooking that Swedish food. You know, cold times are coming, so you need some of that Swedish herring and meatballs. You know that, Vincent.

12:41:29

VINCENT I know that. I know that. But you've just taken it to an entirely different level and, you know, it's about the passion. And even here in Oxon Hill, I hear people who say, you know, we know Marcus. We know Marcus. He came in, you know, to see us. So, just keep doing it, man. All right?

12:41:45

SAMUELSSON Thank you. Thank you very much.

12:41:46

NNAMDI Thank you for your call, Vincent. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. I'd like you to build on a theme that you already touched on, Marcus. You write that COVID-19 is not the only disease infecting America. The pandemic will eventually be overcome, though its effects will stay in the black community for longer than elsewhere. The bigger disease we must fight is the virus of systemic racism. How did this dual pandemics inform "The Rise"?

12:42:17

SAMUELSSON Well, I'm very worried what's going to happen to our black and brown communities, such as Washington, D.C., Detroit, Harlem, Overtown in Miami and etcetera. Because the pandemic stays in our community longer. We have less access to healthcare and generational wealth. So, when retails go, think how many people that owns mom and pops or works in mom and pops. But when the retails are gone in our community, it will be -- so goes the soul of our community.

12:42:50

SAMUELSSON And I'm very, very worried about this winter, because our hospitality industry will completely change after this. Habits have already changed. So, if you can hold on through this winter, the chance that you can rebuild your business and rehire, you're going to be fine. But it's just about truly holding on through this very, very difficult time in front of us.

12:43:16

SAMUELSSON You know, America's relationship with race and class and caste is something that we've been dealing with for 400 years. And it's not just America, right. You think about today when we're speaking, Kojo, SARS is in Nigeria. And it shows the complexity of oppression. And it's not as simple as just race. It also has to do with class. And food is in the center of that, right.

12:43:47

SAMUELSSON When I look at American food, it's more -- people talk about food deserts. We don't have food deserts. We have food apartheid. This has been designed. Why fresh food was not in our communities, why we don't have access, as the richest country in the world, to have clean and fresh food in our communities, those are choices that we made that are more linked to Jim Crow than there are to anything else. So, I hope, post-COVID, that we really start a rethink, how we start to take care of one another, and look at food as a healing part of the process, cooking together, and make sure we get better nutrition into the poorest families in this country.

12:44:29

NNAMDI When the pandemic began, Marcus, you converted your restaurants into community kitchens, serving over 150,000 meals to those in need. What went into that big pivot? It's my understanding that you made a call to some guy named Jose Andres.


Chef Marcus Samuelsson On “Black Cooks And the Soul Of American Food”

“Black food is not just one thing. It’s not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy. A force. An engine.” So writes famed chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.”

“The Rise” is a project Samuelsson has been working on since the 2016 election — a documentation of the authorship of Black cooking, with James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn.

“The Rise,” Klancy Miller writes for Vogue, “is more than a cookbook it is a conversation, a collaboration, and, above all, a declaration that Black Food Matters.”

Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in the U.S., joins us to discuss Black food culture and the more than 150 recipes featured in “The Rise.”

Produced by Julie Depenbrock

Guests

  • Marcus Samuelsson Chef and Restaurateur Author, "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food" @MarcusCooks

Transcript

12:32:02

KOJO NNAMDI Welcome back. Black food is not just one thing. It's not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy, a force, an engine. So writes chef Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book called "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food." And it is, indeed, much more than a cookbook. It's a celebration of a movement. And with more than 150 recipes, from our own Michael Twitty -- who's been a guest on this show regularly -- from his grilled short ribs to Nyesha Arrington's crab curry, "The Rise" is a firm declaration that black food matters.

12:32:44

KOJO NNAMDI Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. He's a chef, restaurateur and author of many books. Currently he hosts the PBS series "No Passport Required." During the pandemic, Samuelsson converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens that served over 150,000 meals to those in need. Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. Welcome.

12:33:05

MARCUS SAMUELSSON Thank you for having me back. And, I mean, Kojo, you're killing it with the music. I mean, playing that Éthiopiques? You had me at jump, man. How are you? How have you been?

12:33:14

NNAMDI I am doing well, my friend. And thanks for the music is our Ben Privot, our engineer who selects the music. But he knows how to put it together. You began this book during the 2016 election. What was motivating you to write about black excellence in the culinary world at that time, in particular?

12:33:36

SAMUELSSON Well, you know, I've always been fascinated by the incredible contribution, the rich contribution that black chefs and cooks have done for hundreds and hundreds of years in this country, yet it's very hard to find. Right? So, I started this conversation about how can we celebrate black excellence in food the way we know it in music? Right? If you and I are going to explain for anybody about American music, we know about the James Brown era, we know about Miles, we know about Prince, we know about hip-hop, you know. And it's very clearly defined.

12:34:10

SAMUELSSON In food, you know, the food democracy and food injustices has a different history. It's much more muddy. But I'm here to tell you that the black experience in American food, the contribution's been incredible. And I wanted to write about it and share, also, what's happening today with some of the most exciting chefs in the world are African Americans, and they cook right here in America.

12:34:36

NNAMDI Marcus, you dedicated "The Rise" to your birth mother. What can you tell us about her?

12:34:43

SAMUELSSON You know, I don't have any memories and, you know, when your mother is the person -- I started my book, I say, I've never seen the eyes of my mother. So, every time I go back to the continent and I see a young woman carrying two children in Ethiopia, I always envision that could be my mother. That vision of a petite, but strong woman guiding a five-year-old and a two-year-old. That was us. She didn't survive tuberculosis, but I did. My sister did.

12:35:19

SAMUELSSON And, you know, there's also an act of kindness, right. She gave everything to us. But also, the nurse in the hospital, that had three kids of her own, that took us in and adopted us, made sure we got adopted. So sweet. And so, in times like this when exactly, you know, what the world needs, it's also act of kindness and being able to see each other and cook for one another.

12:35:44

NNAMDI You also thank many other black women, who have remained mostly unsung, but were often the most impactful engineers of the kitchen, and true leaders in the culinary arts. Tell us about some of those women.

12:35:58

SAMUELSSON You know, we know about incredible black women in American food, like Miss Leah Chase and Sylvia Woods. But there's also, in the origin, like think about Thomas Jefferson's executive chefs, Fanny and Edith. They were 15 and 18 years old when they worked for Thomas Jefferson. And I'll tell you, some of the more recent times, Georgette Gilmore. You know, she was a mother of six, and she started a club from nowhere. And she woke up at 3:00 in the morning to bake and she raised a hundred dollars a week and sent it away to the movement for Martin Luther King.

12:36:31

SAMUELSSON Think about someone like Zephyr Wright, that was Lyndon B. Johnson's chef. And he listened to her more than he listened to other politicians, right, and he really trusted her. And she has a big reason why he changed the vote to allow black people to vote, for example. So, food can be activism. Food is very often anonymous heroes, especially when it comes to black cooking. And this is the time as we have the conversation about culture, identity, race, class. So, in "The Rise," you find, really, the journey from anonymous cooking to visible cooking.

12:37:11

NNAMDI Here now is Cole in Annapolis, Maryland. Cole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:37:16

COLE Thank you, Kojo. I just wanted to thank Marcus for all you're doing to push the food culture forward in this country for African American chefs. Out of culinary school, I read “Yes, Chef.” I had a chance to make a pilgrimage up to Red Rooster in Harlem. And, again, just wanted to thank you for all you're doing.

12:37:37

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much. That's very, very kind. And keep pushing and keep cooking.

12:37:41

NNAMDI Thank you very much for your call, Cole. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. Have you read any of Marcus Samuelsson's books or been to his restaurants, like Cole? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Marcus, you say that once you began to live and cook in New York, you were shocked at how little the story of black cooking was being told. How have black food contributions been erased from the narrative, so to speak?

12:38:09

SAMUELSSON Well, it's a very layered question, right. Even the food from the continent, all the food that was ours -- coffee, wine -- it was taken out of us and really got the ownership of Europe. We think about Belgian chocolate. You think about coffee from the French roast coffee of Italy and France, but they're really from Ethiopia and Kenya. So, it starts with -- we didn't have the authorship, nor the ownership of our own food. So, the worth and value of why you would go into food was always in doubt. Could you own food, you know, as a black person, right? Could you be part of it, or were you just the laborer?

12:38:51

SAMUELSSON So, that is a very challenged starting point, right. But then the contribution of you think about through the slave trade, the rise that came here and, you know, the Gullah culture, for example. So, so much of the food that we consider today, low country cuisine, or what we consider southern cooking, or we think about something like Creole cooking, all stems from the continent. And then, obviously, it got another revival when it came to America and became these very defined cuisines that we have today.

12:39:22

NNAMDI For those of you who may not be aware, but whenever Marcus refers to the continent, he's speaking about the continent of Africa. (laugh)

12:39:29

SAMUELSSON (laugh) Yes. Thank you for that.

12:39:33

NNAMDI You write: “I was born in a hut in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in Harlem.” How does all of that influence who you are today and where you choose to call home?

12:39:50

SAMUELSSON Well, I would say, this is really what gratitude and privilege means, right. The gratitude of everything that the generation before me did, without the civil rights movement, I wouldn't live in America, right. And privilege. I come from a country like Sweden that had access to great education. I had an opportunity to travel. And I think, in times like this, with COVID, but also the even bigger pandemic of racism, as we're dealing with this now right in front of us, it's important to acknowledge the privilege and show gratitude.

12:40:30

SAMUELSSON So, this book really was done this spring, but I had to stop it and rewrite a big part of the book, because I couldn't have launched "The Rise" without acknowledging how horrific and how challenged this spring was for us in the hospitality industry. And it's really changed us forever.

12:40:50

NNAMDI 800-433-8850. We'd love to have you join the conversation. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Vincent in Fort Washington, Maryland. Vincent, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:41:05

VINCENT Marcus, hi. This is Vincent. I worked with you a long time ago in Aquavit, in New York. And your book at that time was called "Aquavit." And you said, Vincent, cook with passion. And ever since, I have, so just thank you so much for the inspiration.

12:41:20

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much, Vincent, and keep cooking that Swedish food. You know, cold times are coming, so you need some of that Swedish herring and meatballs. You know that, Vincent.

12:41:29

VINCENT I know that. I know that. But you've just taken it to an entirely different level and, you know, it's about the passion. And even here in Oxon Hill, I hear people who say, you know, we know Marcus. We know Marcus. He came in, you know, to see us. So, just keep doing it, man. All right?

12:41:45

SAMUELSSON Thank you. Thank you very much.

12:41:46

NNAMDI Thank you for your call, Vincent. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. I'd like you to build on a theme that you already touched on, Marcus. You write that COVID-19 is not the only disease infecting America. The pandemic will eventually be overcome, though its effects will stay in the black community for longer than elsewhere. The bigger disease we must fight is the virus of systemic racism. How did this dual pandemics inform "The Rise"?

12:42:17

SAMUELSSON Well, I'm very worried what's going to happen to our black and brown communities, such as Washington, D.C., Detroit, Harlem, Overtown in Miami and etcetera. Because the pandemic stays in our community longer. We have less access to healthcare and generational wealth. So, when retails go, think how many people that owns mom and pops or works in mom and pops. But when the retails are gone in our community, it will be -- so goes the soul of our community.

12:42:50

SAMUELSSON And I'm very, very worried about this winter, because our hospitality industry will completely change after this. Habits have already changed. So, if you can hold on through this winter, the chance that you can rebuild your business and rehire, you're going to be fine. But it's just about truly holding on through this very, very difficult time in front of us.

12:43:16

SAMUELSSON You know, America's relationship with race and class and caste is something that we've been dealing with for 400 years. And it's not just America, right. You think about today when we're speaking, Kojo, SARS is in Nigeria. And it shows the complexity of oppression. And it's not as simple as just race. It also has to do with class. And food is in the center of that, right.

12:43:47

SAMUELSSON When I look at American food, it's more -- people talk about food deserts. We don't have food deserts. We have food apartheid. This has been designed. Why fresh food was not in our communities, why we don't have access, as the richest country in the world, to have clean and fresh food in our communities, those are choices that we made that are more linked to Jim Crow than there are to anything else. So, I hope, post-COVID, that we really start a rethink, how we start to take care of one another, and look at food as a healing part of the process, cooking together, and make sure we get better nutrition into the poorest families in this country.

12:44:29

NNAMDI When the pandemic began, Marcus, you converted your restaurants into community kitchens, serving over 150,000 meals to those in need. What went into that big pivot? It's my understanding that you made a call to some guy named Jose Andres.


Chef Marcus Samuelsson On “Black Cooks And the Soul Of American Food”

“Black food is not just one thing. It’s not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy. A force. An engine.” So writes famed chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.”

“The Rise” is a project Samuelsson has been working on since the 2016 election — a documentation of the authorship of Black cooking, with James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn.

“The Rise,” Klancy Miller writes for Vogue, “is more than a cookbook it is a conversation, a collaboration, and, above all, a declaration that Black Food Matters.”

Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in the U.S., joins us to discuss Black food culture and the more than 150 recipes featured in “The Rise.”

Produced by Julie Depenbrock

Guests

  • Marcus Samuelsson Chef and Restaurateur Author, "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food" @MarcusCooks

Transcript

12:32:02

KOJO NNAMDI Welcome back. Black food is not just one thing. It's not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy, a force, an engine. So writes chef Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book called "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food." And it is, indeed, much more than a cookbook. It's a celebration of a movement. And with more than 150 recipes, from our own Michael Twitty -- who's been a guest on this show regularly -- from his grilled short ribs to Nyesha Arrington's crab curry, "The Rise" is a firm declaration that black food matters.

12:32:44

KOJO NNAMDI Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. He's a chef, restaurateur and author of many books. Currently he hosts the PBS series "No Passport Required." During the pandemic, Samuelsson converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens that served over 150,000 meals to those in need. Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. Welcome.

12:33:05

MARCUS SAMUELSSON Thank you for having me back. And, I mean, Kojo, you're killing it with the music. I mean, playing that Éthiopiques? You had me at jump, man. How are you? How have you been?

12:33:14

NNAMDI I am doing well, my friend. And thanks for the music is our Ben Privot, our engineer who selects the music. But he knows how to put it together. You began this book during the 2016 election. What was motivating you to write about black excellence in the culinary world at that time, in particular?

12:33:36

SAMUELSSON Well, you know, I've always been fascinated by the incredible contribution, the rich contribution that black chefs and cooks have done for hundreds and hundreds of years in this country, yet it's very hard to find. Right? So, I started this conversation about how can we celebrate black excellence in food the way we know it in music? Right? If you and I are going to explain for anybody about American music, we know about the James Brown era, we know about Miles, we know about Prince, we know about hip-hop, you know. And it's very clearly defined.

12:34:10

SAMUELSSON In food, you know, the food democracy and food injustices has a different history. It's much more muddy. But I'm here to tell you that the black experience in American food, the contribution's been incredible. And I wanted to write about it and share, also, what's happening today with some of the most exciting chefs in the world are African Americans, and they cook right here in America.

12:34:36

NNAMDI Marcus, you dedicated "The Rise" to your birth mother. What can you tell us about her?

12:34:43

SAMUELSSON You know, I don't have any memories and, you know, when your mother is the person -- I started my book, I say, I've never seen the eyes of my mother. So, every time I go back to the continent and I see a young woman carrying two children in Ethiopia, I always envision that could be my mother. That vision of a petite, but strong woman guiding a five-year-old and a two-year-old. That was us. She didn't survive tuberculosis, but I did. My sister did.

12:35:19

SAMUELSSON And, you know, there's also an act of kindness, right. She gave everything to us. But also, the nurse in the hospital, that had three kids of her own, that took us in and adopted us, made sure we got adopted. So sweet. And so, in times like this when exactly, you know, what the world needs, it's also act of kindness and being able to see each other and cook for one another.

12:35:44

NNAMDI You also thank many other black women, who have remained mostly unsung, but were often the most impactful engineers of the kitchen, and true leaders in the culinary arts. Tell us about some of those women.

12:35:58

SAMUELSSON You know, we know about incredible black women in American food, like Miss Leah Chase and Sylvia Woods. But there's also, in the origin, like think about Thomas Jefferson's executive chefs, Fanny and Edith. They were 15 and 18 years old when they worked for Thomas Jefferson. And I'll tell you, some of the more recent times, Georgette Gilmore. You know, she was a mother of six, and she started a club from nowhere. And she woke up at 3:00 in the morning to bake and she raised a hundred dollars a week and sent it away to the movement for Martin Luther King.

12:36:31

SAMUELSSON Think about someone like Zephyr Wright, that was Lyndon B. Johnson's chef. And he listened to her more than he listened to other politicians, right, and he really trusted her. And she has a big reason why he changed the vote to allow black people to vote, for example. So, food can be activism. Food is very often anonymous heroes, especially when it comes to black cooking. And this is the time as we have the conversation about culture, identity, race, class. So, in "The Rise," you find, really, the journey from anonymous cooking to visible cooking.

12:37:11

NNAMDI Here now is Cole in Annapolis, Maryland. Cole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:37:16

COLE Thank you, Kojo. I just wanted to thank Marcus for all you're doing to push the food culture forward in this country for African American chefs. Out of culinary school, I read “Yes, Chef.” I had a chance to make a pilgrimage up to Red Rooster in Harlem. And, again, just wanted to thank you for all you're doing.

12:37:37

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much. That's very, very kind. And keep pushing and keep cooking.

12:37:41

NNAMDI Thank you very much for your call, Cole. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. Have you read any of Marcus Samuelsson's books or been to his restaurants, like Cole? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Marcus, you say that once you began to live and cook in New York, you were shocked at how little the story of black cooking was being told. How have black food contributions been erased from the narrative, so to speak?

12:38:09

SAMUELSSON Well, it's a very layered question, right. Even the food from the continent, all the food that was ours -- coffee, wine -- it was taken out of us and really got the ownership of Europe. We think about Belgian chocolate. You think about coffee from the French roast coffee of Italy and France, but they're really from Ethiopia and Kenya. So, it starts with -- we didn't have the authorship, nor the ownership of our own food. So, the worth and value of why you would go into food was always in doubt. Could you own food, you know, as a black person, right? Could you be part of it, or were you just the laborer?

12:38:51

SAMUELSSON So, that is a very challenged starting point, right. But then the contribution of you think about through the slave trade, the rise that came here and, you know, the Gullah culture, for example. So, so much of the food that we consider today, low country cuisine, or what we consider southern cooking, or we think about something like Creole cooking, all stems from the continent. And then, obviously, it got another revival when it came to America and became these very defined cuisines that we have today.

12:39:22

NNAMDI For those of you who may not be aware, but whenever Marcus refers to the continent, he's speaking about the continent of Africa. (laugh)

12:39:29

SAMUELSSON (laugh) Yes. Thank you for that.

12:39:33

NNAMDI You write: “I was born in a hut in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in Harlem.” How does all of that influence who you are today and where you choose to call home?

12:39:50

SAMUELSSON Well, I would say, this is really what gratitude and privilege means, right. The gratitude of everything that the generation before me did, without the civil rights movement, I wouldn't live in America, right. And privilege. I come from a country like Sweden that had access to great education. I had an opportunity to travel. And I think, in times like this, with COVID, but also the even bigger pandemic of racism, as we're dealing with this now right in front of us, it's important to acknowledge the privilege and show gratitude.

12:40:30

SAMUELSSON So, this book really was done this spring, but I had to stop it and rewrite a big part of the book, because I couldn't have launched "The Rise" without acknowledging how horrific and how challenged this spring was for us in the hospitality industry. And it's really changed us forever.

12:40:50

NNAMDI 800-433-8850. We'd love to have you join the conversation. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Vincent in Fort Washington, Maryland. Vincent, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:41:05

VINCENT Marcus, hi. This is Vincent. I worked with you a long time ago in Aquavit, in New York. And your book at that time was called "Aquavit." And you said, Vincent, cook with passion. And ever since, I have, so just thank you so much for the inspiration.

12:41:20

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much, Vincent, and keep cooking that Swedish food. You know, cold times are coming, so you need some of that Swedish herring and meatballs. You know that, Vincent.

12:41:29

VINCENT I know that. I know that. But you've just taken it to an entirely different level and, you know, it's about the passion. And even here in Oxon Hill, I hear people who say, you know, we know Marcus. We know Marcus. He came in, you know, to see us. So, just keep doing it, man. All right?

12:41:45

SAMUELSSON Thank you. Thank you very much.

12:41:46

NNAMDI Thank you for your call, Vincent. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. I'd like you to build on a theme that you already touched on, Marcus. You write that COVID-19 is not the only disease infecting America. The pandemic will eventually be overcome, though its effects will stay in the black community for longer than elsewhere. The bigger disease we must fight is the virus of systemic racism. How did this dual pandemics inform "The Rise"?

12:42:17

SAMUELSSON Well, I'm very worried what's going to happen to our black and brown communities, such as Washington, D.C., Detroit, Harlem, Overtown in Miami and etcetera. Because the pandemic stays in our community longer. We have less access to healthcare and generational wealth. So, when retails go, think how many people that owns mom and pops or works in mom and pops. But when the retails are gone in our community, it will be -- so goes the soul of our community.

12:42:50

SAMUELSSON And I'm very, very worried about this winter, because our hospitality industry will completely change after this. Habits have already changed. So, if you can hold on through this winter, the chance that you can rebuild your business and rehire, you're going to be fine. But it's just about truly holding on through this very, very difficult time in front of us.

12:43:16

SAMUELSSON You know, America's relationship with race and class and caste is something that we've been dealing with for 400 years. And it's not just America, right. You think about today when we're speaking, Kojo, SARS is in Nigeria. And it shows the complexity of oppression. And it's not as simple as just race. It also has to do with class. And food is in the center of that, right.

12:43:47

SAMUELSSON When I look at American food, it's more -- people talk about food deserts. We don't have food deserts. We have food apartheid. This has been designed. Why fresh food was not in our communities, why we don't have access, as the richest country in the world, to have clean and fresh food in our communities, those are choices that we made that are more linked to Jim Crow than there are to anything else. So, I hope, post-COVID, that we really start a rethink, how we start to take care of one another, and look at food as a healing part of the process, cooking together, and make sure we get better nutrition into the poorest families in this country.

12:44:29

NNAMDI When the pandemic began, Marcus, you converted your restaurants into community kitchens, serving over 150,000 meals to those in need. What went into that big pivot? It's my understanding that you made a call to some guy named Jose Andres.


Chef Marcus Samuelsson On “Black Cooks And the Soul Of American Food”

“Black food is not just one thing. It’s not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy. A force. An engine.” So writes famed chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.”

“The Rise” is a project Samuelsson has been working on since the 2016 election — a documentation of the authorship of Black cooking, with James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn.

“The Rise,” Klancy Miller writes for Vogue, “is more than a cookbook it is a conversation, a collaboration, and, above all, a declaration that Black Food Matters.”

Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in the U.S., joins us to discuss Black food culture and the more than 150 recipes featured in “The Rise.”

Produced by Julie Depenbrock

Guests

  • Marcus Samuelsson Chef and Restaurateur Author, "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food" @MarcusCooks

Transcript

12:32:02

KOJO NNAMDI Welcome back. Black food is not just one thing. It's not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy, a force, an engine. So writes chef Marcus Samuelsson in the introduction to his newest book called "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food." And it is, indeed, much more than a cookbook. It's a celebration of a movement. And with more than 150 recipes, from our own Michael Twitty -- who's been a guest on this show regularly -- from his grilled short ribs to Nyesha Arrington's crab curry, "The Rise" is a firm declaration that black food matters.

12:32:44

KOJO NNAMDI Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. He's a chef, restaurateur and author of many books. Currently he hosts the PBS series "No Passport Required." During the pandemic, Samuelsson converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens that served over 150,000 meals to those in need. Marcus Samuelsson joins us now. Welcome.

12:33:05

MARCUS SAMUELSSON Thank you for having me back. And, I mean, Kojo, you're killing it with the music. I mean, playing that Éthiopiques? You had me at jump, man. How are you? How have you been?

12:33:14

NNAMDI I am doing well, my friend. And thanks for the music is our Ben Privot, our engineer who selects the music. But he knows how to put it together. You began this book during the 2016 election. What was motivating you to write about black excellence in the culinary world at that time, in particular?

12:33:36

SAMUELSSON Well, you know, I've always been fascinated by the incredible contribution, the rich contribution that black chefs and cooks have done for hundreds and hundreds of years in this country, yet it's very hard to find. Right? So, I started this conversation about how can we celebrate black excellence in food the way we know it in music? Right? If you and I are going to explain for anybody about American music, we know about the James Brown era, we know about Miles, we know about Prince, we know about hip-hop, you know. And it's very clearly defined.

12:34:10

SAMUELSSON In food, you know, the food democracy and food injustices has a different history. It's much more muddy. But I'm here to tell you that the black experience in American food, the contribution's been incredible. And I wanted to write about it and share, also, what's happening today with some of the most exciting chefs in the world are African Americans, and they cook right here in America.

12:34:36

NNAMDI Marcus, you dedicated "The Rise" to your birth mother. What can you tell us about her?

12:34:43

SAMUELSSON You know, I don't have any memories and, you know, when your mother is the person -- I started my book, I say, I've never seen the eyes of my mother. So, every time I go back to the continent and I see a young woman carrying two children in Ethiopia, I always envision that could be my mother. That vision of a petite, but strong woman guiding a five-year-old and a two-year-old. That was us. She didn't survive tuberculosis, but I did. My sister did.

12:35:19

SAMUELSSON And, you know, there's also an act of kindness, right. She gave everything to us. But also, the nurse in the hospital, that had three kids of her own, that took us in and adopted us, made sure we got adopted. So sweet. And so, in times like this when exactly, you know, what the world needs, it's also act of kindness and being able to see each other and cook for one another.

12:35:44

NNAMDI You also thank many other black women, who have remained mostly unsung, but were often the most impactful engineers of the kitchen, and true leaders in the culinary arts. Tell us about some of those women.

12:35:58

SAMUELSSON You know, we know about incredible black women in American food, like Miss Leah Chase and Sylvia Woods. But there's also, in the origin, like think about Thomas Jefferson's executive chefs, Fanny and Edith. They were 15 and 18 years old when they worked for Thomas Jefferson. And I'll tell you, some of the more recent times, Georgette Gilmore. You know, she was a mother of six, and she started a club from nowhere. And she woke up at 3:00 in the morning to bake and she raised a hundred dollars a week and sent it away to the movement for Martin Luther King.

12:36:31

SAMUELSSON Think about someone like Zephyr Wright, that was Lyndon B. Johnson's chef. And he listened to her more than he listened to other politicians, right, and he really trusted her. And she has a big reason why he changed the vote to allow black people to vote, for example. So, food can be activism. Food is very often anonymous heroes, especially when it comes to black cooking. And this is the time as we have the conversation about culture, identity, race, class. So, in "The Rise," you find, really, the journey from anonymous cooking to visible cooking.

12:37:11

NNAMDI Here now is Cole in Annapolis, Maryland. Cole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:37:16

COLE Thank you, Kojo. I just wanted to thank Marcus for all you're doing to push the food culture forward in this country for African American chefs. Out of culinary school, I read “Yes, Chef.” I had a chance to make a pilgrimage up to Red Rooster in Harlem. And, again, just wanted to thank you for all you're doing.

12:37:37

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much. That's very, very kind. And keep pushing and keep cooking.

12:37:41

NNAMDI Thank you very much for your call, Cole. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. Have you read any of Marcus Samuelsson's books or been to his restaurants, like Cole? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Marcus, you say that once you began to live and cook in New York, you were shocked at how little the story of black cooking was being told. How have black food contributions been erased from the narrative, so to speak?

12:38:09

SAMUELSSON Well, it's a very layered question, right. Even the food from the continent, all the food that was ours -- coffee, wine -- it was taken out of us and really got the ownership of Europe. We think about Belgian chocolate. You think about coffee from the French roast coffee of Italy and France, but they're really from Ethiopia and Kenya. So, it starts with -- we didn't have the authorship, nor the ownership of our own food. So, the worth and value of why you would go into food was always in doubt. Could you own food, you know, as a black person, right? Could you be part of it, or were you just the laborer?

12:38:51

SAMUELSSON So, that is a very challenged starting point, right. But then the contribution of you think about through the slave trade, the rise that came here and, you know, the Gullah culture, for example. So, so much of the food that we consider today, low country cuisine, or what we consider southern cooking, or we think about something like Creole cooking, all stems from the continent. And then, obviously, it got another revival when it came to America and became these very defined cuisines that we have today.

12:39:22

NNAMDI For those of you who may not be aware, but whenever Marcus refers to the continent, he's speaking about the continent of Africa. (laugh)

12:39:29

SAMUELSSON (laugh) Yes. Thank you for that.

12:39:33

NNAMDI You write: “I was born in a hut in Ethiopia, adopted by parents in Sweden, trained as a chef in Europe and chose to work in Harlem.” How does all of that influence who you are today and where you choose to call home?

12:39:50

SAMUELSSON Well, I would say, this is really what gratitude and privilege means, right. The gratitude of everything that the generation before me did, without the civil rights movement, I wouldn't live in America, right. And privilege. I come from a country like Sweden that had access to great education. I had an opportunity to travel. And I think, in times like this, with COVID, but also the even bigger pandemic of racism, as we're dealing with this now right in front of us, it's important to acknowledge the privilege and show gratitude.

12:40:30

SAMUELSSON So, this book really was done this spring, but I had to stop it and rewrite a big part of the book, because I couldn't have launched "The Rise" without acknowledging how horrific and how challenged this spring was for us in the hospitality industry. And it's really changed us forever.

12:40:50

NNAMDI 800-433-8850. We'd love to have you join the conversation. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Vincent in Fort Washington, Maryland. Vincent, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

12:41:05

VINCENT Marcus, hi. This is Vincent. I worked with you a long time ago in Aquavit, in New York. And your book at that time was called "Aquavit." And you said, Vincent, cook with passion. And ever since, I have, so just thank you so much for the inspiration.

12:41:20

SAMUELSSON Thank you so much, Vincent, and keep cooking that Swedish food. You know, cold times are coming, so you need some of that Swedish herring and meatballs. You know that, Vincent.

12:41:29

VINCENT I know that. I know that. But you've just taken it to an entirely different level and, you know, it's about the passion. And even here in Oxon Hill, I hear people who say, you know, we know Marcus. We know Marcus. He came in, you know, to see us. So, just keep doing it, man. All right?

12:41:45

SAMUELSSON Thank you. Thank you very much.

12:41:46

NNAMDI Thank you for your call, Vincent. You, too, can give us a call at 800-433-8850. I'd like you to build on a theme that you already touched on, Marcus. You write that COVID-19 is not the only disease infecting America. The pandemic will eventually be overcome, though its effects will stay in the black community for longer than elsewhere. The bigger disease we must fight is the virus of systemic racism. How did this dual pandemics inform "The Rise"?

12:42:17

SAMUELSSON Well, I'm very worried what's going to happen to our black and brown communities, such as Washington, D.C., Detroit, Harlem, Overtown in Miami and etcetera. Because the pandemic stays in our community longer. We have less access to healthcare and generational wealth. So, when retails go, think how many people that owns mom and pops or works in mom and pops. But when the retails are gone in our community, it will be -- so goes the soul of our community.

12:42:50

SAMUELSSON And I'm very, very worried about this winter, because our hospitality industry will completely change after this. Habits have already changed. So, if you can hold on through this winter, the chance that you can rebuild your business and rehire, you're going to be fine. But it's just about truly holding on through this very, very difficult time in front of us.

12:43:16

SAMUELSSON You know, America's relationship with race and class and caste is something that we've been dealing with for 400 years. And it's not just America, right. You think about today when we're speaking, Kojo, SARS is in Nigeria. And it shows the complexity of oppression. And it's not as simple as just race. It also has to do with class. And food is in the center of that, right.

12:43:47

SAMUELSSON When I look at American food, it's more -- people talk about food deserts. We don't have food deserts. We have food apartheid. This has been designed. Why fresh food was not in our communities, why we don't have access, as the richest country in the world, to have clean and fresh food in our communities, those are choices that we made that are more linked to Jim Crow than there are to anything else. So, I hope, post-COVID, that we really start a rethink, how we start to take care of one another, and look at food as a healing part of the process, cooking together, and make sure we get better nutrition into the poorest families in this country.

12:44:29

NNAMDI When the pandemic began, Marcus, you converted your restaurants into community kitchens, serving over 150,000 meals to those in need. What went into that big pivot? It's my understanding that you made a call to some guy named Jose Andres.