Marcus Samuelsson has been on my radar for some time now. And not going to lie, I have a bit of a (foodie) crush.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Chef Samuelsson, let me introduce him to you. He’s Ethiopian and was adopted as a child by Swedish parents. He worked his way up the culinary ladder in Sweden and Europe before emigrating to New York City. He was the head chef at Aquavit where at 24 he was the youngest ever to receive a three-star restaurant review from the NY Times. (Already really cool!)
Since, he’s continued working in restaurants adding television to his CV – competing on Top Chef Masters (where he won!); Food Network’s Next Iron Chef among others; and recently on ABC’s The Taste with Anthony Bourdain. He co-founded the awesome website Food Republic. He’s a cookbook author — his cook book, The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa, is one I’m looking forward to buying soon! And he was the guest chef for Obama’s first state dinner as President. The man is going places!
I highly recommend you check out his recent James Beard Award winning memoir, Yes Chef, as well! I love chef memoirs to begin with – reading about working in kitchens and a chef’s passion for food…. I love it! But more so, I was intrigued with Samuelsson’s story – his discussions of race in the kitchen; the first time meeting his daughter; discovering new ingredients in Chinatown when he first moved to New York; the immigrant experience both as a Swede in America, but also as an “outsider” in his native Ethiopia. Really, run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore and pick it up!
But enough about Chef Samulesson’s amazing biography and accolades, on to the food! In 2010, he opened his own restaurant in Harlem, Red Rooster! The restaurant located just off the 125th St stop on the 2/3 on Lenox Ave is steps away from the famous Sylvia’s restaurant and has brought new life to the Harlem food scene. The restaurant serves soul food influenced by the many cultural aspects of Samuelsson’s life. The ambiance and space are great – live jazz in the front room, a huge dining room and open kitchen. Downstairs boasts Ginny’s, an intimate lounge with live music and a gospel brunch on Sundays!
The food at the Red Rooster is pure comfort food, classics like pork and beans and his grandmother’s Swedish meatballs, but everything was elevated. The combination of flavors were unexpected, but worked so well together. The menu has something for everyone and hints of all of Samuelsson’s influences – Swedish and Scandinavian with Caribbean and African touches with influences from the south and soul food. Words can not do this meal justice – everything was just amazing!
For appetizers, we had cornbread with tomato jam, deviled eggs, dirty rice and shrimp and the caribbean bacon and egg. We also enjoyed:
Bunny Chow – Lamb Stew, Sesame Bun, Fried Egg, Cottage Cheese
Mac & Greens – Gouda, NY Cheddar, Comté, Collard Greens
Helga’s Meatballs – Lingonberries, Braised Green Cabbage, Dill Potatoes
For dessert, we split the sweet potato doughnuts and the apple crisp!
I’ve been for brunch and dinner now and have loved every bite! I recommend the fried chicken if you go for Brunch and the meatballs if you go for dinner AND the mac and cheese!