Treasured: Marcus Samuelsson
Originally published on Food and Wine, July 2014. Interview and photographs by Melanie Dunea.
Chef Marcus Samulesson: "Berbere is an Ethiopian spice mixture made of chile peppers, garlic, ginger, cardamom and more. It's the salt and pepper of Ethiopian cuisine, used for everything. Its taste is not as strong as cayenne pepper. It's pretty mild—more like a smoked paprika."
"Modern cooking can have a very male undertone in the sense of thinking about the latest, greatest high-tech machine and how it can be used. I value the opposite. To me, a great kitchen is a balance between the old-school skills and the vintage traditions."
"It's funny how a skillet can be so meaningful! My grandmother's skillet lived on the stove. I never, ever saw it in the pantry or cupboard. It was covered in oil and always wiped with the fat and grease she had on hand. My memory of her is from behind because she was always standing and cooking over the stove. As a kid, I was always trying to be next to her. I would stand endlessly on a chair by the stove."
"Great food shows a little bit about where you're from, where you are today and where you will go from here. We're going to eat a lot of food, but not all of it is going to be memorable."
"When I think about my Ethiopian family and the kitchen, it means so many different things to me. Sometimes I remember a corner in a hut with just a fire. Then there are the memories of those pots and pans that will last forever."
Three things that every kitchen should have:
1. A bell. My parents and grandparents had a bell that they would hit when it was time for dinner. That sound still means food to me. I use one now at home and when I "ding," it means dinnertime. It's so weird and cool because I know it's also a Samuelsson tradition.
2. Music. Music sets the vibe and the mood. It's doesn't have to be loud, but with music you can influence time, tone and almost be transported to another era.
3. A skillet, obviously.