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Why I’ve Learned to Celebrate the Daily Successes

By Marcus Samuelsson | April 11, 2016

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To stay successful is to find balance in your life between your work and your personal time. I am naturally a workaholic — working nearly all the hours that I am awake. That means the metric for success is finding time to set aside work for my family. Specifically, I think of how much time I spend with my wife and family in Smögen at our summer home. It is truly the best place to get away from work in the kitchen, the emails, phone calls, and meetings. It’s peaceful and serene, simple, and comforting. It might be the only place I actually unplug.

When I was young, we spent about 8 weeks a year here; relaxing, cooking, fishing and enjoying the summer. Now that life has evolved and changed so much for me, in terms of my geographical location and work load, on a good year I aim for three weeks. The reality is, that based on this system of measurement, I fail more often than I succeed. I can think of one or two years when I spent only 8 hours in Smögen. As any Arsenal fan will tell you, sometimes you have to go through a rough time to end up on top. Each year I start fresh and set a new goal like anyone else, but the busier my business becomes, the less time there is to set aside.

Yearly successes can be overwhelming so measuring day by day is just important. On a daily basis, I look at how much time I’m able to spend being creative or close to my art. Through my creativity in food, I’ve been able to see, experience and share the things that make me happy. If I get one chance a day to share my craft with someone new or teach somebody the places anyone can go with drive and passion, I consider it a good day. Cooking classes with youth, exploring a new restaurant, tasting a different flavor that inspires me to get in the kitchen, these are daily successes.

This is a post that originally appeared on LinkedIN as a contributing post to a series where professionals describe what numbers govern their happiness. Read all of the stories here.

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Thinking About My Dreams with Harriette Cole

By Marcus Samuelsson | February 2, 2016

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When my good friend Harriette Cole invited me to be a part of her DREAMLEAPERS talk series at Ginny’s Supper Club last night, I didn’t realize what an inspirational evening it would prove to be. Harriette began the night by reciting one of her favorite poems:

Come to the edge.
We can’t. We’re afraid.
Come to the edge.
We can’t. We will fall!
Come to the edge.
And they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.
– Christopher Logue

What followed was an engaging discussion about how to dedicate yourself to your dreams and how the past shapes the way you approach your journey. Throughout the night Harriette challenged me with questions about my past and present that made me say “wow” multiple times during the hour long program. It made me think about what my dreams have been and what my dreams are now.

If you’ve read my memoir, Yes Chef, you know that one of my first dreams was to be a soccer player. Failing at this dream made me realize that your first dream may not be your last dream or the one that defines you. From playing soccer, I learned discipline, team work, and work ethic; no matter how hard you work, someone else is working harder. It was a very humbling experience. To be a soccer player was more of a hope then a dream.

My true dream was to open a restaurant in the United States. I wrote it down and hung it up on the wall so I could see it every day. Every action I did was targeted, and I became minutely focused on achieving this dream. A mentor of mine told me it was impossible, that he had never seen any black man open a restaurant, and it was painful to hear him say that. However, he also let slide the hint that maybe in America, I could achieve my dream. Maybe in New York City. Harriette and I talked about when you are faced with an obstacle that makes your dream seemingly unattainable, and you don’t take that leap. Those that do, those that thrive on friction and the ability to articulate what they want and work for it, those are the ones that succeed. I don’t see being successful as how much money you have, rather it’s how you complete the small tasks you’ve given yourself. Look at your progress after three months and critically examine where you started, where you are now, and where you are going.

Today my dream is for Harlem. You often hear people say that Harlem is a food desert, but Harlem wasn’t always this way! It flourished in the 40’s and 50’s, and we now are restoring what should’ve been here thriving all along. Harriette asked me how we can inspire those young black males with “clouds over their eyes.” I believe that restaurants, with their unique ability to source completely locally, have room for all types of people from all backgrounds. “Restaurant” means “to restore the community,” and even in the roughest areas, the restaurants are often on the cleanest part of the street. Now I just need to continue to work to overcome the stigma in the black community against working in the service industry. As a black man, there are very few opportunities to do something wrong. You don’t get as many chances. This reality has always pressured me to be number one and to work hard. There’s been a lot of progress of getting things “in” Harlem, now we need to focus on making things “of” Harlem.

The evening with Harriette was a great success with an engaged audience that made me feel so fortunate to have reached some of my dreams and eager to continue to work and move forward. If you are interested in learning more about achieving your owns entrepreneurial goals, I encourage you to sign up for Harriette’s DREAMLEAPERS Retreat on April 2nd.

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Celebrating Women in Black History at Red Rooster

By Raquel Jacquez | February 1, 2016

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We are celebrating women chefs in black history with a Black History Month Prix Fixe menu at Red Rooster.

We’re cooking up Blackened Catfish that is dedicated to Leah Chase with Creole cooked beans and turnip greens, or you can share in the delectable flavors of these Lucky Macaroons with duck liver and aged balsamic vinegar, in honor of Miss Adrienne.  Our Beer Braised Pork Belly is served with Lena’s creamed turnips and smoked vinegar jus in celebration of Lena Richardson. All of the dishes are infused with the history of the neighborhood and the strength of the women in our community who have been dishing up delicious eats for decades.

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Harlem to Bermuda

By Raquel Jacquez | January 28, 2016

Harlem to Bermuda

What an amazing time we had last weekend at Marcus’ Bermuda with Melba (of Melba’s Harlem) and my friends – the Nate Lucas All-Stars. The event really came together with jazz from Harlem and delicious food prepared with the soul of Harlem!  From Tandoori Smoked Salmon Deviled Egg, to Fish Chowder Bites, Melba’s Fried Chicken, Dunkley’s Eggnog Waffle, and JH’s Chicken Stew & Dumplings – we had plenty of good eats and great company throughout the night!

 

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Why I’m Working on Time Management Outside the Kitchen

By Raquel Jacquez | January 28, 2016

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At the start of the calendar year, I am always reflecting on the previous year, but also looking toward the new year to make important changes in how I operate and accomplish my goals. I’ve received a lot of great advice over the years and people have definitely guided me in becoming more skilled and creative — both in the kitchen and in business. Over time, I have learned that it is really important to surround yourself with quality people whom you can trust. This year, I will be working harder to focus on the big decisions so that I can leave the minutia to my team. In order to do that, I’ll be working on one essential skill that is critical to success in business — time management.

Time management is really just one tool in setting yourself for success. When I was a young chef working the line at Aquavit, I had to learn the dance that is a dinner service. Each dish was timed out just so and there was little room for mistakes. There weren’t timers there to keep us on top of each dish, but an internal clock that guided us through from start to finish, maximizing each moment and multitasking as we went along. I’ve figured out that I have to take this same approach outside of the kitchen as well.

As the list of projects grows, there is less and less time to make smaller decisions throughout the day. Time management is an essential skill that I am constantly challenging myself to improve so that I can be more efficient throughout the day and overall, be more effective in the work week. I have a lot of projects coming up this year, and I often rely on my team to keep me focused. I have the ultimate trust in the people I work with, so when things are critical and time is limited, collectively, we can just get things done when needed instead of needing the last approval from me.

Traveling is also a huge part of my business and work life, so utilizing my time effectively while moving from event to event or traveling overseas is becoming easier, thanks to technology. This year, I’ll be working on designing my travel schedule so that I can be overseas for longer periods of time to prevent too much back and forth. The longer periods of time in one place also allow for a rhythm to set in and consistency to shine through.

This is a post that originally appeared on LinkedIN as a contributing post to a series where professionals describe the skills they’re building this year. Read all of the stories here.

 

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This is the Year When Chefs Will Become Front-of-House Educators

By Raquel Jacquez | December 15, 2015

Marcus In the Herb Garden

There are many challenges that chefs face as a result of a multitude of factors — our industry, the environment, consumer wants and needs, and most importantly, our vision and artistry. Fortunately, chefs are wired to find creative solutions to difficult problems. As I look toward the new year, I am excited by the potential that chefs have to help train and grow our own employment pool and drive sustainable practices as solutions to many of our world’s climate and environmental challenges.

As restaurants fill their seats with more experienced and savvy diners, the industry is facing a shortage that impacts us all; skilled workers. One of the organizations I spend time working with addresses this directly and will be hugely influential in 2016.  C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Program, provides culinary training for under-served youth and helps students to gain entrance to culinary schools, find scholarships and eventually jobs in the work force. They do so by asking industry leaders what training should be mandatory and then turning this into a teaching strategy. The success rate is high and the personal stories coming out of the program are incredible and inspiring. C-CAP benefits not just the restaurants like my own who are challenged with finding reliable and passionate employees, but it benefits the student, the culture of urban American cities and it chips away at the jobless rate in neighborhoods like my own.

Bringing in young talent also gives me the opportunity to teach and elevate the conversations in the kitchen to a dialogue about food waste and efficiency. When I think about Harlem, I see that there is even more possibility for growth in practices that sustain local markets. I speak with my team on daily basis about embracing our neighbors. Communicating with local vendors and farmers help to sustain people within the community and when we utilize local markets to create specific menu items — it reinforces that message to our guests in the restaurant. It’s exciting to see dishes in my restaurants, Red Rooster and Streetbird, that were created specifically for what is available locally and seasonally. I truly believe that chefs can be the voice of these kinds of messages — messages that encourage models that are moving toward more sustainable practices in the food system.

In the next year, chefs will be challenged to think creatively about how to use all parts of the plant or animal and make serious considerations for sourcing responsibly. It is critical that as we learn, we teach others what we have learned, through programs like C-CAP. 2016 will challenge us as chefs, to utilize our platform in order to educate each other and reinforce the important messages of sustainable practices in the restaurant and beyond.

This post was originally published in series of posts by LinkedIn Influencers. In this series, professionals predict the ideas and trends that will shape 2016. Read all of the posts here and be sure to follow Marcus on LinkedIN.

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Swedish American Chamber of Commerce Green Summit: From Farm to Fork

By Raquel Jacquez | November 17, 2015

Photo of Gail Simmons, Marcus Samuelsson, Emma Bengtsson, Fredrik Berselius and Amanda Cohen at the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce Green Summit - from Farm to Fork.
Photo of Gail Simmons, Marcus Samuelsson, Emma Bengtsson, Fredrik Berselius and Amanda Cohen at the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce Green Summit - from Farm to Fork.

Photo of Gail Simmons, Marcus Samuelsson, Emma Bengtsson, Fredrik Berselius and Amanda Cohen at the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce Green Summit – from Farm to Fork.

Just last week Marcus was in conversation with other Swedish restauranteurs at the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce Green Summit – from Farm to Fork.  Growing up in Sweden, Marcus has profound memories eating fresh fish and local foods that were the backbone of his diet as a child. Growing up in that environment allowed him to nurture his curiosity for the world around him and discover the multitude of connections between the environment and his family’s kitchen. Today, as a chef and restauranteur, Marcus uses his knowledge and awareness of the webbed supply chain in order to elevate the conversation around sustainability.

As a chef, Marcus has devoted so much of his energies toward growing sustainable models inside his restaurants in order to support the local communities where his restaurants reside. Whether he is in Stockholm, Bermuda or Harlem, Marcus says that each place has its own questions of sustainable practices and faces unique challenges based on the local markets and supply chain.  “We need to activate the farmers markets and hire from within the community in order to create sustainable practices,” says Marcus.  Red Rooster has been doing this since its inception and Marcus can recall the success that it has had in doing so. “Buying from the farmers market and purchasing ingredients that are relevant to the community is something chefs can do to activate the local economy. I see it when we create menu items at Red Rooster based on the availability of ingredients at the market,” Marcus said in response to a question about local practices from Gail Simmons, cookbook author and TV personality.

Other panelists agreed that chefs have a responsibility to link the produce from the market to the restaurant and broadcast that narrative for the larger public. Marcus was speaking at the Green Summit with Amanda Cohen, Fredrik Berselius, Emma Bengtsson and the conversation was facilitated by Gail Simmons.

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LIVE with Kelly & Michael

By Jenn Burka | November 5, 2015

Marcus Samuelsson appears LIVE on Kelly and Michael and makes a "Swediopian" Sweet Potato Mash

I had such a good time appearing on Kelly & Michael in Washington, DC last week. They challenged me to make a dish using the beautiful fall Sweet Potato. I went “Swediopian” with it, adding some Ethiopian Berbere, keeping it chunky, and serving it with Swedish Meatballs and a Raw Kale Salad. This side dish would be a great way to add some flavor to any fall meal. Try it for Thanksgiving for a new take on a classic.

Get the recipe for my Chunky Mashed Sweet Potatoes here!

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Join us at Rooster’s Market!

By Raquel Jacquez | November 3, 2015

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Kick-off your holiday shopping uptown at Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Rooster’s Market. This shopping event will feature some of NYC’s up and coming designers, collectors and artists. Come check off your wish list with us and enjoy complimentary mimosas and a special Rooster market menu you’re sure to love!

We are still looking for more vendors so send us a message if you’re interested in showcasing your work! Please send all inquiries to roostermarket@gmail.com

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Red Rooster Market on MarcusSamuelsson.com

 

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From a Chef’s Perspective: Marcus in Conversation with Tom Colicchio and Andrea Reusing at the New York Times’ Food for Tomorrow Conference

By Raquel Jacquez | October 22, 2015

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This week, chefs, activists, policymakers, farmers and journalists convened for the New York Times’ Food for Tomorrow Conference at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

In a conversation facilitated by Sam Sifton (New York Times food editor), with Tom Colicchio (Craft Restaurants and Co-Founder of Food Policy Action) and Andrea Reusing (Lantern and The Durham), Marcus discussed the divide between what comes out of urban America and what is in and of urban America, particularly when we think about food as an expression of art, culture and history.

Marcus first began thinking about this because he wanted to find purpose in being a chef in Harlem – a community where there is a huge divide between the pleasures of good food and access to a dining experience that celebrates the community’s art, history and culture. From the beginning, Marcus says, he was thinking about these dynamics when he opened Red Rooster.

As a result of the industrialized and modern food system, the working poor have gained the convenience of cheap food, but it has come with a price. Marcus believes that we have traded the convenience of cheap food for the basic skills of cooking and preparing foods. In other words, we now have an entire generation of people lacking the knowledge and skills needed to prepare food for themselves and are, instead, stuck in a food system that has removed agency by marketing cheap food that is conveniently making us sick. Whether or not this trade-off was an intentional decision we made, is not the point. The point is that we are facing major consequences as a result of the design of our food system and we have to begin to think about how to combat the challenges together, as a community. Tom Colicchio agreed with Marcus and added, “We need to educate a population. We are a generation removed from actually having any skills at all in the kitchen and knowing where food comes from.”

While we need radically different policies in our food system in order to create access to healthy foods for the working poor, there are significant solutions that we can implement in our own neighborhoods to change the way people are thinking about food. “My food memories growing up, aside from my family, come from the lunches that I had at school where I really actually started to develop a real sense of flavor because it was real food – not what we have right now,” says Marcus. Imagine if, as Marcus suggests, the lunchroom actually resembled the complexity of flavors in America’s diverse population and we were serving children real food while simultaneously educating them about how to prepare it.

“The beauty of America,” as Marcus points out, “is that we are so complex and so different. We are one of the few countries in the world that don’t have one food identity. That is the beauty and also the complexity.” By intentionally evoking interest in flavor and ingredients, we could potentially have a fully engaged population who is intrigued by real food and has baseline knowledge about the food system. A generation that can cook will raise the awareness that we need in order to prioritize what is important for the environment, our communities and ourselves.

You can view all of the videos from the New York Times’ Food for Tomorrow Conference here.

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