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Marcus Samuelsson is a super star on first appearance at Food and Wine Festival

Restaurateur/ Chef Marcus Samuelsson
Restaurateur/ Chef Marcus Samuelsson
Caesars Entertainment

At the 6th annual Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival (ACFWF) presented by Caesars Entertainment, celebrity chef, restaurateur and Food Network star Marcus Samuelsson made his first appearance as a headlining host. He was a smashing success at all his sold-out events.

Lobster nestled in for an authentic New England Clambake
Margaret Morgan

For his first appearance at ACFWF, Samuelsson hosted a truly authentic New England Clambake on the beach at Bally’s. Guests were served tin buckets filled with lobster, clams, corn on the cob and boiled potatoes with lots of bubbly from Chandon to quench their thirst.

Following Saturday night’s Clambake, Chef Samuelsson hosted a three course breakfast for fans and food lovers. The three course menu included: Deviled Eggs with a little heat; Smoked Salmon and Green Papaya Salad, with shredded cabbage, zucchini, carrots, papaya and herbs of mint, basil and cilantro; Caribbean Bacon with Beans on Injera (a spongy and slightly sour flat bread that is a staple in Ethiopian cuisine) and Soy Poached Egg. The breakfast was an exotic and delicious blend of Chef Samuelsson's culinary heritage: the cured salmon, which is similar to the Swedish/Nordic gravlax, and Injera, the Ethiopian flat bread. Texture is key to Samuelsson whose Green Papaya Salad combined texture and color blended with sweet, tart and aromatic tastes. It was truly a delectable meal.

In speaking about hosting a breakfast or brunch similar to his, Samuelsson’s advice is easy: eggs are always good as a first course ~ the spice level can be controlled and if children are included, they can help prepare the eggs; plan dishes that you can prepare ahead of time and keep it simple. Poached eggs can be cooked before, and then put in ice water with salt until time to reheat and serve.

When interviewed, Samuelsson showed a great sense of humor and spoke with deep dedication about his craft and his community where he helps underserved youth through C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Programs). He said his Swedish grandmother Helga taught him everything about cooking from pickling fresh vegetables to food costs. In discussing his background briefly, Chef Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, was adopted by Swedish parents at age three after his mother died. Growing up in Sweden no food went to waste. When cooking a meal, one always thought about the second meal and leftovers. Meatballs were often eaten, as it was considered the dish of poverty. Summers he fished off the west coast of Sweden with his father where they caught lobster, crayfish and mackerel and often smoking the catch.

From his Ethiopian background he gained knowledge about spices, the key element in flavoring Ethiopian cooking, preserving flavors and the use of smoked chilies, dried garlic and ginger. In Ethiopian cooking the elements of heat, acidity, sweet and sour all come together.

Living in Harlem, he learned a lot about the community. With the mantra to “put your best food forward,” it took him five years of studying his community before opening Red Rooster Harlem. The restaurant showcases American comfort food with hints of his Swedish and African roots. Here he hires locally, his staff are local ambassadors in the community and it is a place where people from all walks of life “can break bread together.”

Samuelsson graduated from the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, Sweden and apprenticed in Switzerland, France and Austria. When he arrived in the United States, his palate was already trained in many cuisines. In 1995 he worked his way up to Executive Chef at Aquavit earning it three stars from The New York Times in just three months. He was a James Beard “Rising Star Chef” and in 2003 James Beard “Best Chef New York City.” However, after 9/11, his outlook on cooking and his community changed; five years later Red Rooster Harlem was born.

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