|Marcus Samuelsson & Osayi Endolyn: Black Excellence in Food For his latest cookbook, The Rise (Voracious/Little, Brown, $38; reviewed below), featuring inspired recipes alongside profiles of Black American culinarians, chef Marcus Samuelsson collaborated with writer Osayi Endolyn. |
Shelf Awareness spoke with them about their research and writing process, as well as their aims for The Rise as it enters the world during a year defined by a pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.
(photo: pbs.org)Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, and currently resides in Harlem, where he runs the restaurant Red Rooster. He has opened restaurants around the world and traveled throughout the United States for his PBS series No Passport Required. His other books include the memoir Yes, Chef and The Red Rooster Cookbook.
When did you first start thinking about writing this book?
Marcus Samuelsson: I’ve been in the space for 25 years and also evolving as an individual. As I evolved through the 2000s, I started asking myself, here are all these incredible people that I’ve met along the way. They either cooked with me, their parents owned a mom-and-pop, or they’re amazing writers.The Rise is about presenting Black excellence, one. Then second, take back the authorship of American food where Black excellence and Black chefs have done incrediblecontributions. For me, it’s very important to create content that I feel taps a void.
What was the writing and recipe development process like–and the collaborative nature of it?
Samuelsson: Osayi, Yewande [Komolafe, who collaborated on recipe development] and myself–you’re looking at three Black people in the food space. Our journeys are vastly different. Yewande’s expertise, specifically in West African cuisine, is far beyond mine. Osayi’s know-how in non-chefs, for example, is much better than mine–and obviously coming at it from a journalist’s point of view and asking other questions.There’re so many curveballs to it, too. We thought we were done and then… the pandemic, which obviously impacts the Black and brown community very differently. Here we go again with something that impacts us differently. So now it took a whole other turn.
One of the distinctive motifs in The Rise is music. In your description of the Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with NOLA East Mayo, you write, “I imagine a brass band, a second line, the Neville Brothers and Lil Wayne. My stomach is nodding along with the music.” How did music and food become so connected for you?
Samuelsson: Being Black–especially being in a white country–I had to constantly define my level of normalcy. So, music was that thing. You came to our home, Miriam Makeba was playing, Marvin was on the speakers, Prince constantly in my sister’s and my room, A Tribe Called Quest. When I looked at Blackness and excellence, it was through music.My goal one day is that when you look up Black food, you can define it the way you can define music. When you look at American music, the way it’s divided between gospel, R&B, rock and roll, hip-hop, etc., those are promises to a sound, but it’s almost like a pantry of flavors. We’re not there yet with how we define our food. I hope one
Who or what is inspiring how you’re cooking right now?
Samuelsson: I’m inspired by us. When I speak to Mashama [Bailey], she’s got a book coming up. When I speak to Kwame [Onwuachi], he’s cooking more than ever. If I call Eduardo [Jordan] right now, he’s cooking. Patricia [Gonzalez], 18 years old, she’s in my kitchen cooking. Covid is here, but it hasn’t stopped us. Yes, we have this horrible, horrible, horrible thing, but I think that so much energy has been also given to us through the movement of Black Lives Matter. I’m inspired by the movement of us telling our stories.
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