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Marcus Samuelsson on His New Book and Minneapolis Memories

The former chef/owner of Aquavit in town talks about the cookbook and more.

Photo courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson

Here, Marcus Samuelsson, whose slammed schedule has him traveling both coasts to promote his brand new book, Marcus Off Duty, the Recipes I Cook at Home. Samuelsson, the Harlem-based, multiple James Beard Award-winning chef, answered some of our questions about his time in here and his latest cookbook. Let's face it: Minneapolis will always has a soft spot for this Swede.

It’s been 11 years since Aquavit closed here, but every time you come to town, you draw huge crowds at multiple events. Why do you think Minnesotans continue to relate to you so well?

Other than being familiar, there is a huge Swedish community here in the Twin Cities, and really in the midwest in general. I feel like with my background and where I came from in Sweden there is a shared spirit of hospitality.

For the four and half years Aquavit was open in Minneapolis, it definitely left a footprint and kick started a few careers. Do you keep in touch with any of the old crew?

Of course! I stay in touch with all my crews from all over the world— Sweden to France to Minneapolis to New York. Working in a kitchen is very much like having a big, extended and sometimes dysfunctional family.

Did anyone end up coming to work for you in New York?

There have always been people over the years that have made their way to NYC and to my kitchen, either Aquavit or Rooster. Even though there are so many in our field, it really is a small world.

When was your last trip to Minneapolis?

I was here a few years back with my book, Yes Chef, in 2012.

Do you have any favorite stops, restaurants, must-sees?

I always try and visit my friends who still live here or ones who have come back. I'm disappointed that Gavin Kaysen's place isn't open yet, but I can't wait to come back again to see his success.

The way we cook at home should be the way we eat now.Was this your original vision with this book?

This book has taken on many different iterations, but the intent was always to show and talk about how the way we cook at home should be the way we eat now. Our palates are much more attuned to multi-cultural, regional specific cuisines than ever before. Why can't you go out to eat great noodles in Koreatown or make them at home.

Of all your projects (TV, working in the restaurants, public appearances), how does the process of creating cookbook rank? Is this something you enjoy?

Somewhere in the middle. Being in the kitchen of course is number one, but it allows me to express myself in other ways like making cookbooks. This book is unique because I've added other parts of my life to the pages. My favorite music to cook to has been put into playlists at the beginning of each chapter and my good friend and artist Rebekah Maysles has added her illustrations to the book to show how fun art can be. We had so much fun shooting the photos in my home kitchen and, of course, eating the leftovers.

Who is your biggest creative collaborator on your cookbooks? How do you come up with concepts and recipes?

The biggest collaborator on this book was my team, both in the office and at Rooster. I love seeing what everyone else is eating, trying it, tasting it and then taking it back to my kitchen to give it my own twist. My team comes from all walks of life, all corners of the globe and all different cultures that eat uniquely. They are the biggest inspiration for my home cooking and this book.

You have made a nice home in New York/Harlem. I know that Sweden is still your home and probably Ethiopia as well. As you have gotten to know other parts of the United States in all your travels (and for last two cookbooks), where else could you see yourself living besides New York?

I've really grown to love LA and I will say it honestly took a long time for me to say that. The food scene there is just so different and vibrant. Whenever I'm in town shooting or visiting, I just can't stop eating and chasing new flavors.