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MARCUS POP FOOD: The President Comes to Harlem

By mahir | March 31, 2011

Obama Menu. Photo. Monika Sziladi

By Marcus Samuelsson

Tuesday was a historic day for the team and me. I’ve always known the role teamwork plays in the running of a restaurant and there was no better display of this combined effort than watching the elements come together for such a major day.

Although this wasn’t the first time cooking for President Barack Obama, it was different having him at Rooster and in Harlem. We wanted everything to be absolutely perfect, him being a guest in our house.

Together with Andrea, Mike and Jimmy, we put together a menu that was classic yet grandiose with flares of spring.

We started the meal off with a delicate lobster salad paired with a freshly baked biscuit and the season’s freshest peas and asparagus.

For the main, we went with a tenderly and flavorful braised short rib. Again, we served seasonally appropriate vegetables such as spring onions and glazed sunchokes.

Dessert was a double feature with hearty servings of chocolate cake with rhubarb compote and our famous sweet potato doughnuts.

Here’s a look at the full menu on foodrepublic.com

Dessert. Photo. Monika Sziladi

In the days leading up to the event, my good friend and Studio Museum director/curator Thelma Golden came across 125th to help us spruce up the place with some amazing artwork from her galleries.

To add to the artistic vibe, phenomenal jazz musician Christian Scott obliged my invite to play for our guests that night. Fresh off a flight back from South Africa, he and his band came in early to get ready while the chefs busily prepped the dinner in the open kitchen behind them.

Our servers came in bright and early that morning to help setup. The local florist joined in on the festivities, preparing table arrangements on-site and switching out our standard arrangements for more elaborate ones.

The most exciting thing for me was having my team of young cooks, servers and hosts. They’ve worked hard for several months to get us where we are today and Tuesday was an experience of a lifetime for us all. I’m so happy we had this opportunity.

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