Marcus Samuelsson: Making Ethiopia Proud

Nowadays, Samuelsson is an internationally recognized chef with a hugely successful restaurant in the heart of New York. He’s married to a very celebrated model, and father to two children, while also managing to find time to be a UNICEF ambassador, and co-chair on the board of directors for C-CAP (Careers Through Culinary Arts Program). But life wasn’t always so pleasant for this amazing chef, let’s take a look at his story and how he got to where he is today. In 1971, this amazing chef was born in Ethiopia. Tragedy struck early in his life when his mother died, victim to a tuberculosis epidemic, when Marcus was just three years old. Then, during the Ehtiopian Civil War, Samuelsson and one of his older sisters, Fantaye, were separated from their father, Tsegie, an Ethiopian Orthodox priest, and the rest of the 6 siblings.

Luckily for Fantaye and Marcus, they were adopted by a Swedish couple who moved them to Gothenburg. There, they grew up peacefully with their new adopted sister, Anna Samuelsson. Marcus has said Ann Marie, his adopted mother, wasn’t particularly good in the kitchen, but her mother, however, was who inspired him to become a chef. Though little is known about the woman who inspired one of the most amazing chefs of our time, Marcus has hinted many times that all her talent and creativity came out of poverty. As soon as he could, Marcus enrolled in the Culinary Institute of Gothenburg. Upon graduation, he managed to get apprenticeships in Europe. In France, he worked at Restaurant Georges Blanc, a hot spot for foodies all over the world, it was there that he learned how brutal working in a kitchen can be. Then, in 1994, in the United States. But not just in any restaurant, he got his start in award winning restaurant, Aquavit. He was soon offered a head chef position, which he promptly took becoming the youngest ever chef to get a three-star review by the New York Times.

Marcus Samuelsson: Making Ethiopia Proud
Marcus Samuelsson: Making Ethiopia Proud

Like any person living in America in 2001, the 9/11 tragedy deeply affected him. Samuelsson had always created deep bonds within the culinary community, so he knew a lot of the industry workers in the towers. Once the dust has settled, he started thinking about how he could get more out of life, what would be the next meaningful step in his life. His introspection led him to Harlem where he started thinking about opening a restaurant, but not just any restaurant. He wanted to open a place that was inspired by its surroundings, the culture, and the history of its communities. A place that didn’t exist for the fame or to attract lines of tourists, but rather to give something back to the community.

That’s how Red Rooster was born. A place inspired by the Harlem community. Samuelsson and his partner hire from the community, and constantly support Harlem by putting their residents first and exalting its customs.