Award-Winning Chef Inspires Students with Global Flavors

JWU Culinary DVC Marcus SamuelssonFor Chef Marcus Samuelsson, the Providence Campus’ 158th Distinguished Visiting Chef, cooking is a great adventure.

Learning About Cultures through Food
Of Ethiopian descent and raised in Sweden, Samuelsson’s culinary curiosity has led him all over the world. The award-winning chef-owner of Red Rooster Harlem and author of successful cookbooks like “The New American Table” (2009) is known for blending culinary traditions.

“We learn about cultures through food,” he told the packed house at the Harborside Academic Center. “When I started cooking, the culinary world was completely Eurocentric. French classics were it. Now we’re in a transition period.”

“Multicultural Is In Your DNA”
As cooking becomes more global, Samuelsson thinks that today’s students have a distinct advantage. “You grew up with the internet. Multicultural is in your DNA. The access you have is unbelievable. Take advantage of that.”

He emphasized the importance of tapping into our unique cultural histories. “Each of you has your own story. Document it; develop your taste buds. Learn the classics and incorporate them into your own style. The better you are at [telling your story], the more people will dig your food.”

Chef as Cultural Ambassador
Samuelsson’s own story began in Sweden, where he learned to cook in his grandmother’s kitchen. A graduate of Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, Sweden, he apprenticed in Switzerland, Austria and France before becoming executive chef at Aquavit at the tender age of 25. “I wasn’t ready,” he admitted, “But I worked hard to close that gap.”

Samuelsson’s hard work paid off: he has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a Rising Star Chef (1999) and Best Chef, New York (2003). In 2007, he became the first chef to collaborate with Starbucks, delivering bakery items and coffee blends. Most recently, he was chosen as guest chef for President and Michelle Obama’s first official state dinner.

For his culinary demonstration, Samuelsson prepared fried yellowtail poke with wasabi rouille, and doro wat, a classic Ethiopian stew. He passed around freshly toasted berbere, the Ethiopian spice, calling its evocative scent “the cheapest trip to Ethiopia you’ll ever take.”