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Can You Spend Less Money on Food and Improve Global Poverty? I Think So. And Here’s How to Do It.

By Marcus Samuelsson | October 6, 2015

Marcus Samuelsson discusses hunger, cooking and obesity in the U.S.
Marcus Samuelsson discusses hunger, cooking and obesity in the U.S.

Marcus Samuelsson discusses hunger, cooking and obesity in the U.S.

Poverty in America looks very different from poverty in other parts of the world. While being poor in my home nation of Ethiopia means not having access to water but eating incredibly delicious and healthy foods everyday, being poor in the United States can mean clean water but not necessarily nutritious things to eat. Poverty is a problem that affects all parts of the globe, so it can be hard to visualize what you can do here at home to.

As a chef running a busy kitchen, I’ve learned a lot about about saving, planning and projecting and I truly believe that making even a small change to an individual’s daily routine can make an impact on a larger scale. The mentality in American culture is often “the bigger the better,” but we are all smart enough to know that’s not exactly the case. Just like at a restaurant, planning out your meals in advance means you are only buying exactly what you need and not spending in excess. Saving room in the plan for leftovers means wasting less and that planning will become easier as “needs” adjust away from “wants.”

You’ll be saving money, but how does this affect the global idea of poverty? Simple economics tells us that demand is directly related to price. When demand drops because more people are buying only what they need, the price drops making commodities more affordable for everyone, especially those who have smaller budgets and income. While it may seem like a far-fetched solution, a more global consciousness of need versus want could have big implications.

Another way that I, as a chef, have thought about this issue in regard to food has been through education. After the financial crisis of 2008, many Americans were facing financial insecurity, especially in neighborhoods like mine. Unemployment in Harlem was more than twice the national average and in a neighborhood where amenities are already scarce this meant different kinds of sacrifices were made, especially when it came to nutrition. American families in general began spending less of their incomes on food and the category that took the biggest hit: fresh produce. People instead began turning more and more to quick and cheap calories at fast food places, where a few dollars can buy you fries, a burger and a soda. While shopping and cooking does take more time than drive-thru, a commitment to healthy eating can be delicious and cost-effective.

I’ve been doing cooking classes in Harlem since Red Rooster opened in 2010 and it has been an indescribable experience showing kids from the YMCA or a local charter school that vegetables don’t have to be soggy and over-steamed but delicious! They’ve learned about food they’ve never had before that can pack in protein and nutrients and still taste good, including alternative grains like teff, quinoa and couscous. I believe you can eat wonderful meals and feel satisfied after eating less when you infuse rich flavors into your cooking. Simply put, nourishing foods can be budget friendly – and chefs share the responsibility of broadcasting that message!

Let’s not forget that healthy eating leads to a healthier society overall, which means a cheaper cost of living for everyone! Our country is in the midst of a cataclysmic health crisis, much of it caused by how we eat. More than one-third of American adults are currently obese (another one-third are overweight), and according to the CDC, the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents has almost tripled since 1980. It becomes an even more alarming number when you read that obesity is already causing $150 billion annually in medical costs. Imagine where that money could be spent if we reduced American obesity rates by even half! There would be more funding for programs that helped feed the homeless, educate the underserved and increase the employability of those in poverty through job training.

This article was originally posted as part of LinkedIN’s Take Action series in which Influencers and members discuss how to drive change that matters. Read the original post here.

Food Stories

Swedish Salty Licorice

By Suzannah Schneider | August 15, 2014

Image by /kallu
Image by /kallu

Image by /kallu

It’s unfathomable to most, coveted by some. Enthusiasts keep an emergency stash of the stuff in their purse; others take a nibble and promptly spit it out. It elicits passion, nostalgia, pain, discomfort, and satisfaction.

Ah, yes, Swedish salty licorice.

Swedish candy is notoriously fantastic, but salted licorice is the black sheep of the otherwise delectable family of gummy sweets. The stuff is potent and undoubtedly polarizing.

Licorice itself is the root of a plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra that is native to Spain, Italy, and Asia. The plant contains a component that is 20-40 times sweeter than sugar, so it is logical flavoring option for candy.

No one quite knows how or why licorice candy was first combined with a salty flavor, but its history as a confectionary began in Scandinavia in the 1930s. Salted licorice, however, doesn’t actually contain any salt. The brininess comes from the chemical ammonium chloride, so salted licorice is often called salmiakki, the Finish word for ammonium chloride. Modern salty licorice ranges in color from light brown to deep black, and it may be chewy or hard. Salted licorice is popular in Sweden, of course, as well as The Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, and Germany.

What is so enticing about salted licorice for Scandinavians? Consider the classic dishes gravlax or pickled herring. Bitter saltiness is deeply embedded in Scandinavian cuisine and home cooking, so a salty flavor is intertwined with notions of comfort and home. Curing meat and fish with salt during the long winter months is standard practice for many Scandinavians in past and present time, so an affinity for salt is deeply rooted in the Scandinavian palette.

On the other hand, salty licorice could merely exist as national entertainment. Many Scandinavians admit to enjoy feeding salty licorice to tourists just to watch them squirm. Some say it’s almost a national sport!

Most Swedes consume salted licorice as typical candy, but many also enjoy Turkish Pepper Shots, which are hard salted licorice popped into a shot of vodka. If you’re hooked to the flavor, it’s easy to want to infuse everything with salmiakki. However, too much licorice can cause a spike in blood pressure, so be careful not to overdo it.

Salty licorice is a unique treat for a large part of the world. It acts to demonstrate the diversity of global food preferences and the fascinating ways in which tastes are formed through the forces of climate, culture, and ecology.

Have you ever tried salty licorice? What was your experience like?


ChefCommunityFood StoriesNews

A Talented Harlem Student Enjoys a Pastry Internship with Red Rooster

By Suzannah Schneider | July 29, 2014


Jake hard at work in the Red Rooster Kitchen

In May, Marcus met an impressive young man named Jacob at Celebrate Northside! The Northside Center for Child Development 68th Anniversary Gala. Marcus was so moved by Jacob’s interest in cooking that he extended an internship to the 15 year-old aspiring chef. From Tuesday, July 15 through Wednesday, July 16 Jacob enjoyed a hands-on culinary experience within the pastry department at Red Rooster Harlem.

Jacob is a student at a rigorous college preparatory school in The Bronx. He loves science, especially chemistry and forensic sciences. His family is from the Dominican Republic, and he grew up learning how to cook dishes like fried sweet plantains and sorbets from his grandma and uncle. He’ll often make himself Dominican breakfast for dinner, which is a traditional dish of fried eggs, mashed plantains, fried salami, fried cheese, and fried sausage.


Marcus spoke with Jacob about his aspirations as a chef

Jacob’s time with Red Rooster began early on Tuesday at 8:15 in the morning. He worked with our Pastry Chef Melissa Camacho making strawberry jam, cookies, cornbread, and peanut butter pie. He was appreciative of their patience, and really enjoyed working with the kind chefs. Jacob liked making cornbread because he makes a similar recipe at home with his uncle.


Pastry Chef Melissa Camacho taught Jacob how to begin Peanut Butter Pie

For lunch, Jacob enjoyed Red Rooster’s famous Triple-Double Burger infused with bacon, Jarlsberg, and rooster sauce, with, of course, a side of French fries. He was surprised he was able to finish the gigantic sandwich, but loved every bite of it. Jacob wrapped up his first day on the job with a chat with Chef Mark Gandara, mapping out his dreams for the future. He spent his second day of the internship preparing peaches to practice his knife skills.

Jacob with Chef Mark Gandara

A four-day sleep-away basketball camp is coming up for Jacob at the end of this summer. Although he’s eager to learn more about pastry and cooking, Jacob’s looking forward to some rest and relaxation after two long days on his feet.

Food Stories

History of the New England Clambake

By Suzannah Schneider | July 21, 2014

Photo by andrewyang
Photo by andrewyang

Photo by andrewyang

Marcus is hosting a traditional New England clambake on the Jersey Shore this Saturday at The Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival. In preparing for the event, many of us here in the Marcus Samuelsson Group offices recently found ourselves quite curious about the custom. We turned to trusty Google to learn more, and wanted to share our findings with you.

Today, clambakes are no longer exclusive to New England, as they are incredibly popular in Ohio and even California. There are also endless variations in technique and ingredients. For instance, some clambakes include sausages and other meat. In the past, seafood was not considered an adequate protein source for the men doing the hard labor of digging and gathering for the clambake, so meat was added for energy. This is why some clam chowder includes ham bone or bacon. Other menu items for a clambake can include lobster, white potatoes, corn, and cold beer; the only universal item is steamed clams. Clambakes have also been streamlined in recent years with the use of enormous stainless-steel pots heated by propane burners.

We were astonished to learn that clambakes have been a tradition in New England for over 2,000 years. Native American tribes of states such as Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut have long cooked clams and lobsters in sand pits as means of subsistence. In fact, it is possible to still stumble upon remnants of historic cooking pits in Rhode Island.

A 1947 clambake in Pembroke, Massachusetts. Photo by Boston Public Library

A 1947 clambake in Pembroke, Massachusetts. Photo by Boston Public Library

A traditional clambake begins by digging a pit in the sand of the beach where the clams are gathered. The pit is a product of centuries past: Native Americans did not have massive cooking pots, so they used the earth as their cooking vessel. The pit is then filled with seaweed, lined with hot rocks or stones that have been heated until white-hot over a wood fire. Next, live clams, mussels, and lobsters are added, and the pit is covered with more seaweed and some sand. Finally, a wet tarp of canvas or plastic is laid over all until the food is cooked.

The end product of a clambake is not necessarily a decadent meal. Clambakes are the types of cultural traditions that don’t just feed the participants. Instead, they are deeply nourishing events for the individual and the community. Kathy Neustadt’s book Clambake paints a vivid picture of the Allen’s Neck Friends Meeting’s annual clambake in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, which has occurred on the third Thursday of August since 1888 (!). Neustadt discusses how the event is inclusive, relying on the abilities of every individual.  She also emphasizes how clambakes revere the surrounding environment, relying on the fertile soil and easy access to the ocean to create the custom. Clambakes exist as a reminder of ancestry as time marches on.

Few meals are as fulfilling as a clambake. It is an all-day activity that yields scrumptious results, but the long process and intricate cooking method creates a reverence for the tradition and its participants.


Food Stories

Black History Month: The History of Chicken and Waffles

By Marcus Samuelsson | February 20, 2014

(Photo by Maria G.)
(Photo by Maria G.)

(Photo by Maria G.)

The artistic and cultural explosion of the 1920’s and 30’s known as The Harlem Renaissance, also known as one of the most socially alive and creatively conscious eras of African-American history,  ignited a mighty wave of Black literary, musical and visual artistic expression introducing us to Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, jazz, tap dancing and yes, even chicken and waffles.   Read More

Food StoriesQ & A

Q&A: Dee Charboneau of Juice Served Here

By Tawnya Manion | October 10, 2013

Juice Served Here. Photo courtesy of Dee Charboneau

Three weeks ago, the juice scene in Los Angeles just got hotter. The fashion forward juice bar, Juice Served Here, opened on West Third Street bringing cold-pressed juices, nut milks, tonics, coffees, and raw dessert to the toothsome neighborhood of West Hollywood. Last week, I sat down with Head of Operations Dee Charboneau to talk about her ever ambitious entrepreneur spirit, and the opening of the much anticipated store front. Here’s what she had to say. 

Read More

Food StoriesQ & A

Q&A: Jack Summers of Sorel Liqueur

By Tawnya Manion | July 22, 2013

Sorel. (Photo Courtesy of Jack Summers)
Sorel. (Photo Courtesy of Jack Summers)

Sorel. (Photo Courtesy of Jack Summers)

Last week at the Slow Food NYC Event, “Spirits of New York”, I was lucky enough to catch up with Jack Summers, the creator and distiller of the hibiscus liqueur, Sorel. His concoction nods to the Caribbean island’s celebratory beverage drank by natives for hundreds of years. Sorel’s spicy complexity and multifaceted flavors make it a versatile mixer or a thirst-quenching refreshment served best as a slushy, over ice, or warm in a mug. I was fascinated to know how Jack got his start to create such an interesting libation, so I asked. Here’s what he had to say. Read More

Food StoriesQ & A

Q&A: Alison Cross of Boxcar Grocer

By Alexandra Fleischman | July 13, 2013

alison cross, atlanta, boxcar grocer

Boxcar Grocer in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo Courtesy of Alison Cross)

I was lucky to have the chance to talk with Alison Cross, co-founder of Boxcar Grocer last week. Located in Atlanta, Georgia, the store partners with local farmers and producers to offer high-quality products in a neighborhood with few food stores. She and her brother Alphonzo Cross make an inspiring team, driven by their desire to make an impact and how much they care about their community. Read the text of my conversation with her, below, and check out Boxcar Grocer’s website for more information.   Read More

Food StoriesYes Chef

What’s Your Soul Food Remix?

By Marcus Samuelsson | July 9, 2013

Korean ban chan at Plaza Market

Korean ban chan at Plaza Market

For the last four years, I’ve been able to travel throughout the country, meeting people and hearing their personal stories, and sharing my own. I’ve witnessed the history of artisan food in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, the artistic sensibility of Austin restauranteurs, and the budding food scene in Oakland, California. I’ve met with chefs, readers, fans, and cooks who all celebrate food and culture in their own ways, and want to share what they’re doing.

What’s become clear is that food is a lifeblood to all communities, and it’s been how I’ve been able to connect with everyone across cultures. Making and enjoying food is practicing our culture with family and friends, but it’s communicating it with everyone . Like great music, great food doesn’t have barriers between people. Read More

Food Stories

Animal Feed is Going Gourmet

By Christopher Stewart | July 8, 2013

pigs, farmers, antibiotics, health,

Photo: Vicky T.

With the rising concern of GMO’s, animal health, and the effects of the food we are consuming at record numbers, I believe everyone has a concern about the foods that we digest. In the times of numerous restaurants opening up every day, and the constant want of a 24-hour restaurant, food is being produced faster and faster, even if it’s not the safest. Farmers are taking notice of their animals and switching up things for the better, not just for the animal, but for the customer as well. Gourmet animal feed is now the topic of conversation, and farmers are designing specialty feed for their animal’s health and enjoyment. Read More


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About The Team

Whether it’s finding the best goat tacos in LA, spotting a well-worn vintage bag in Sweden, or interviewing the “crab man” selling seafood on a corner in Harlem, we tell stories seen from Chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s point of view. strives to create conversations about food, nutrition, culture, art, and design. We want to find Read More


Streetbird Rotisserie
Marcus’ Bermuda
Red Rooster Harlem
Ginny’s Supper Club
Uptown Brasserie
American Table Cafe and Bar
Kitchen and Table
American Table Brasserie and Bar
Marc Burger