News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 2 to 3 p.m.
Arts & Entertainment

Marcus Samuelsson cooks at home: K-Town noodles, kitchen playlist and his LA happy place




Chef Marcus Samuelsson gives a cooking demonstration at the Grand Tasting presented by ShopRite featuring KitchenAid® culinary demonstrations presented by MasterCard during the New York City Wine & Food Festival at Pier 94 on October 19, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
Chef Marcus Samuelsson gives a cooking demonstration at the Grand Tasting presented by ShopRite featuring KitchenAid® culinary demonstrations presented by MasterCard during the New York City Wine & Food Festival at Pier 94 on October 19, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NYCWFF
Chef Marcus Samuelsson gives a cooking demonstration at the Grand Tasting presented by ShopRite featuring KitchenAid® culinary demonstrations presented by MasterCard during the New York City Wine & Food Festival at Pier 94 on October 19, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
Samuelsson includes a recipe for K-Town noodles in his new cookbook, inspired by when he ate in LA's Korea Town during a season of Top Chef.
Paul Brissman


Listen to story

11:16
Download this story 5MB

Cooking at home is a lovely hobby for many of us.

But what about professional chefs?

After slaving all day long at a restaurant, you have to imagine the last thing many chefs want to do is head back into the kitchen at the end of the day.

Then again, Marcus Samuelsson isn't many chefs. 

Samuelsson is almost as famous for where he came from as for what he is doing now.

Born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, Samuelsson became a chef -- learning, of course, French techniques -- as a young man when there were few black chefs in the kitchen.

You can see Samuelsson's recipe for "swushi," an Ethiopian and Swedish-inspired version of sushi, on his website

His restaurant - Red Rooster in Harlem - is all about Southern comfort food but before he had his own place he ping-ponged between New York and Europe, working in multiple kitchens and dabbling in many cuisines.

His new cookbook encompasses all that culinary diversity and more, but it's not about fine dining.

Nope, its all about eating and entertaining in your own abode.

It's called "Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home."

See a recipe for K-Town noodles, inspired by Korea Town in Los Angeles, below. 

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS 

You write in this book that at the very beginning you didn’t really cook that much at home—you didn't have time to, you're a busy guy. But things started to change in 2000. What went on?

A cook's journey is very often like, you have four roommates and live all over and move every year or so to train in a new place. Then around 2000 I moved to Harlem. And I started to think about how come there's not enough fresh vegetables and amenities in my surroundings and what can I do about that? And that was one of the starting points of the Red Rooster. I knew I wanted to do a restaurant that was very familiar and food that was very familiar and one of the best ways to do that was to start cooking it at home. … The food starts with a very familiar note and then we add something original.

 What is the difference between cooking in a restaurant and cooking at home?

You don't have a dishwasher or sous chefs. Basically all the help and incredible staff you have at a restaurant, obviously you don't have at home. But I was the dishwasher at home coming up. That's how I learned cooking, from my uncle, from my grandmother. I talk about it in the book, there's a whole section about cooking with kids. Cooking was basically just a reflection after everything else we had to do that was all about food. If we wanted fish we had to go fishing, there was always a season for pickling and preserving. So once I ate something as a child, I loved it because I was part of almost every step of bringing that food in. 

It must be really nice when you do have the time to unwind and cook at home. 

I think the most important thing, whether you cook at home or in a restaurant, is you want to tell a story about you and your family, where you are going, who you are, whether you came back from a vacation or want to celebrate something. The appropriate dish makes that occasion ever so special.

So much of what I do today echoes from my grandmother. Chicken becomes chicken soup, becomes chicken banh mi.

You offer a playlist at the beginning of each chapter, including "Push It" by Salt n' Pepa. How do use this music in the kitchen?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YleXlgHI1oM 

First of all, it's energy. If you walk into a room and hear some Salt n' Pepa and if you're not having fun, you're not smiling now, I can't help you. It just changes the mood. People work hard, it's a lot of information, people are tired. Coming together in the kitchen you put on some good music and just get your energy up.

Also this refers to hip-hop, which is very important because a lot of this food is like somewhere between jazz and hip hop. There is a very familiar note in hip-hop songs in the background. So all of these recipes, there's a familiar note we start with then you start, like a deejay, adding in your own character and personality.

People always ask you what the best tool is in the kitchen. You said "your own two hands." Why? 

You have to feel food. You want to touch the fish and see if it's fresh or not. We pick up food. If it doesn’t feel right in your hands, you want to put it down. Nothing beats touching the food and eating with your hands too. 

You have a chapter about street food and write that GCM is your happy place in LA. Why?

This shows the complexity of blue-collar food and how many ethnicities are in Los Angeles. Look at it visually, it's a masterpiece, you can see through it. It's also diversity at its best. You have Mexican, Hawaiian, Vietnamese, Chinese and it's all-American. They're very complex dishes there. You sit at the counters and can eat whole fish soup with whole roasted fish and incredible tacos. It's home when I'm in LA.