tv Talk to Al Jazeera Al Jazeera March 27, 2016 1:30pm-2:01pm EDT
[♪ music ] this week on "talk to al jazeera" - chef and restaurateur marcus samuelsson. >> being able to have windows into three, four different communities is something that i feel privileged to the swedish-raised celebrity cook was born if ethiopia but group in scannedan ava. he and his sister were adopted
after their mother died from tush tuberculosis. in life, the worst thing can be a saviour. >> his nordic grandmother helle ga was the first to teach him about food. at the age of 23, marcus samuelsson was the youngest chef ever to receive a 3-star rating . >> i looked for the hidden paycheck, the stuff beyond the envelope on friday. >> he settled in harlem, where in 2010 he opened his first restaurant. several would follow. >> coming here as an immigrant with $200, as a black man, and being able to have a restaurant like red rooster - that's the best of america, on all sides now the executive chef is giving back. his efforts aimed at helping the less privileged through a culinary arts programme. >> taking inner city youth across a country, showing the
industry that is a profession. it is a profession i speak to michael samuel son at the red rooster. >> marcus samuelsson, it is a rare breed that will not know you, some will not know you, they may have encountered your brand, seen you on tv, eatsen your food but not known. there are some marcus samuelsson stories to be told. let's start from the beginning. the most interesting thing to some people about you is your differentness, and your career took off in america. and now you are one the hottest chefs around. >> yes. i mean, i always say like any other swede with a name marcus samuelsson, i was born in ethiopia, and grew up in a small town gothemburg on the west coast of sweden. i went from one of the warmest places on earth to a cold place. but our household was filled with love.
we were a regular family. besides the fact that my sisters and personalities were white, we were -- parents were white, we had a mixed family. aunty was jewish, cousins korean - we were a mixed family that, you know, do what a regular family does. >> in western sweden, doing what families do means fishing. >> absolutely. >> on my father's side they were professional fishermen. my uncle was still doing that full-time, and when school was out summer time, we went straight up to the summer house, spent the summer with my uncles and aunts and fished every day - mackerel, grab, you name it. it was in the ocean, we picked it up. >> your grandmother cooked or showed you how to cook the food. >> absolutely. helle ga - mum was not a good
cook and helga my grandmother was an amazing ago. everything i learnt about cooking, not just the techniques, but how to taste, how to smell, how to touch food, when to preserve, when to pick part. >> you have vivid memories of your youth in sweden. do you remember your life. you were young. you left before you were three. >> i don't. my memories game from my sister. she is the one with more memories, talked a lot about ethiopia. kept being curious about where we came from, and then 20 years later, when we went back together. it was really based on linda's curiosity, and she was always "i want to go back and see if there's family left. i want to know what happened to our birth fathers.
i was busy in new york. doing my chef life. >> you want fully identifying with that? >> coming to america helped me identify more in ethiopia. here everyone is an immigrant of some sort. >> when people saw me on the streets obviously they saw he as an ethiopia man first. i was "i'm swedish." the more i got involved with the ethiopian community and i realized what a rich mystique community and history it has, and culture. so it was really coming to america that i sort of discovered more. and going to places like washington d.c., where we have a huge ethiopian community. the reason you had to leave ethiopia, you and your mother tuberculosis. >> yes, it was common at the time.
sometimes in life, the worst saving. for us it was our ticket to get adopted. my mother didn't survive. but, you know, it's one of these things that i always think about what if. but i'm happy that i got the opportunity to be raised in sweden, and i love sweden, just as much as i love new york and ethiopia, i feel like i have three homes. >> what is the what if, if you had grown up in ethiopia? >> i come back to my village, and chances of me being a farmer, and being just - being that where, you know, just completely different life. i have been fortunate and act work with may passion throughout the world, whether i've been to japan, australia, switzerland,
and i've had the fortune to live out my passion. and there's not a lot of people that can say that, and make a living of that for over 20 years. if i live in ethiopia, i would have done something else. just wouldn't most likely have been cooking. >> northern europe and the scandanavian countries take pride in the fact that they can bring people into their culture, and they can grow up and have a good experience. they are facing threat with the indemrux of refugees -- influx of refugees and immigrants. you don't seem to describe that. >> "scandal" is in general an open place, where mifl, you have a pretty big country. we definitely stood out. but today it couldn't within 20 years later. it wouldn't have been a big deal. today you have immigrants.
refugees, adopted kids, layers. you start, you know, post world war ii when, you know, the whole industry, revolution and all the rest of it. first we had a lot of corking for it from italy, staying from yugoslavia, and eventually the next wave of refugees and immigrants. it's a mixed bag of waste getting to sweden and denmark. >> norway and finland is a little different. out. >> was it negative, positive or neutral? >> for an adopted kid it is different. if you think about the refugee and immigrant family. >> you look like a family. >> you are clear on the identity and the language. >> as an adopted kid you speak swedish perfectly, but may not be clear on the culture. like
anything, we are giving different cards. but what it did do is it prepare me for the 21st century. what are we challenged by today. figuring out what diversity looked like in the 21st century, in terms of spirituality, marriage, relationship, so many things. our family really - we are a diverse family. >> so your grandmother is showing you how to cook, it's a pastime as a child. at what point in your life did it occur to you that the thing you enjoyed doing on the side could be the future? >> i think it occurred, the fact player. >> you like your soccer. >> yes. >> you still play. >> i'm hit by 22-year-olds every saturday. almost by chinatown.
we have fun, i'm playing. it's great. >> you really thought about soccer player. >> yes. what soccer taught me is there's a kid working as hard as you. you probably in life have to listen to coach, listen to chef. talent. it may not work out. circumstances might change us. it was a good lesson, humbling experience. i took that energy and the work ethic. >> you just want to the belong to something. going from a soccer team to a christmas team, it's us against them. you work hard. it's a great rush, you try to improve yourself every day. >> how did it start out.
what was the first thing you did living? >> i would say getting a scholarship in cooking school and showing that this could make a difference, you could go places with this. i remember being 19 and working in switzerland, where you have to learn german and french and wow, i'm in a different country, i'm in the middle of europe and i'm, you know, my room-mate is from south america, we converse in german and french. this is a different world. they threw me in the water. >> then you went to paris. >> yes. >> what did that mean to you? >> france - working in a store, that was one of those things that when i was coming up, there was no chefs on tv.
it was a simple way of chef. you wear a big hat. you have a french accent and worked really, really hard. the road was maybe you can scream at someone. and you cook beautiful food. >> france, and 3-star mich lan was to go. eventually, over 30 letters, eventually we got in. we got, actually - i had a chance at a restaurant in lian, and it was game changing for me. it was one of those things that i dreamt about. the day i started and saw i belonged in a 3-star michelin, with others coming from over the world working, and i can be a tiny, tiny part of this theatre, of making this meal. that was a huge reward. i had to look for other rewards. i didn't get paid.
it didn't matter to me. i always looked for the hidden paycheck, the stuff beyond what you get in the envelope on friday. it's the life lessons you get. >> talk to me about that experience, the first 3-star restaurant experience. is there something that stands out. is there the first meal you prepare, or something that went wrong? >> oh, my god. how long do we have. >> i remember the first time i cooked for chef. i cooked an elaborate people, they took my plate, put it on it. >> it was like hazing. >> of course. two weeks later. others were on top of that. >> next, career opportunities and employment for inner city youth. marcus samuelsson talks about giving back - just ahead. >> from rural midwest to war-torn mideast.
this is "talk to al jazeera", i'm ali velshi, joined by culinary artist and restaurant owner marcus samuelsson. if you want to be your job, you have to bus and wait tables and do your thing. >> yes.. >> your programme goes into high schools. tell me about it? . >> well my experience taught me two things, i thought what do my surroundings look like - there was never people of colour, and few women. i thought about it it, the day i have an opportunity to give back, i want to hire more
diverse kitchen. we see that really it is a programme that is started by richard grasman where he focussed on after school programme, and giving them simple tools in life skills through cooking. right, showing up on time, making an armalet. being disciplined. and eventually if you do that well, you get a scholarship, and eventually go to college. very often for free, full scholarship to go to places like cornell, the culinary newt of america. major scholarships. and 15 years, 20 years later. we have students that own their own business, or are executive chefs, are in the management programme for the mandarin or ritz carlton. taking the youth across the country. showing them our industry.
it is a profession. learning that through - you know, the kids are highly motivated. a big reward if they succeed. it's important. we can't ignore this in the city of america. it's one of the reason i opened red rooster in harlem. it has 30% unemployment. 19% unemployment. we hired 200 people. the jobs can't be outsourced. it's important to work when you have the opportunity to give back and create jobs. >> and this are workers what are locals. 70% of the stuff is from harlem. >> between the red roosters, that's over 200 employees, targetting year for year in terms of schooling programs. these are all jobs that whether
they stay in the industry, it doesn't matter. they have life skills jobs and can move to the next industry. if we do that, we have done our job. let's talk about red rooster, it's a hard place to get a reservation. i've tried, it's hard. maybe i'll say i talked to you and get a seat. >> maybe not. >> it is a hard place to get a reservation, you faced great accolades and a bit of criticism that this is not harlem, or you romanticized harlem. respect. if you are not criticized. no one cares what you are doing. that's a fact. i don't necessarily think criticism is bad. we work with this every day. how do we improve the job environment. how do we improve the experience for the guest. when people criticize, roque,
let's go through it and figure out how to do it better. >> gentrification is a problem. what you want to do, the harlem you love, or the one you loved in the past disappears. >> yes. >> as newer buildings come up, and it's more expensive to live here. the best harem, of your dreams and imaginations can only exist exist. do you see that happening. are you worried that the face changes too much and is a destination for down-towners. >> i think that a neighbourhood complex. with a low side, a lot of people that sort of go to db g - there's something else there. this is happening all over. obviously with harr hem being a center for african american culture, you have race, other things to think about. change is very difficult.
as long as the people that were born and raised and have ties into harlem can afford to stay. as long as new things are coming that are affordable. like any community, there should really be nuanced layered complex neighbourhood with highs institutions. >> we are in the restaurant part. every time i have been here this is full. you stand over there in the bar part. which is lively. in the corner there's always music. >> if you don't want to have a good time, don't come. >> you are an american living the american dream. >> yes. >> every american at one point, i think, wants a bar or restaurant and run it. it's a lot of work. >> you are an african american. >> i am an african american. >> being an african american today. educated, financially successful or not is complex, more than it has been in a few decades.
discussion? >> of course. >> being a black man is a blessing to me. being an african man having spirits and roots in africa, it's a blessing. being able to have windows into throwar four different communities is something that i feel privileged to. the world today is - it's more complex because also there's more channels to talk about it. but, i also realise the opportunity and my responsibility as a black man. it's very important for me to hold a high standard, to take not just being a chef. but being an employer serious, and i - being part of - reshaping the narrative of what a black man can be in the 21st century is important to me. there's a generation of
african-americans that when i think about the civil rights movement. and the fact that i can own a restaurant in harlem, when i think about how low hurdles, and fr giving americans have, to me, coming as an immigrant, as a black man, and able to have a restaurant like red rooster. that's the best of america. on all sides. that's the audience coming to support it. that's the works ethic. it's the hope. be. >> when i think about the incarceration rate of black men, that's the worst of america this is "talk to al jazeera", stay with us.
you're watching "talk to al jazeera" with me, ali velshi. my guest this week is celebrity chef marcus samuelsson. >> marcus samuelsson, someone told me never trust a chef that doesn't eat his own food. you don't look like a guy that [ laughs ] >> kid ding. i eat your food. why are you so skinny? >> every morning i try - not every morning, three days a week i run in central park. it's not about the running, it's about the routine, thinking through next step. what the day would bring. >> in the early morning. >> yes. >> and one thing is the only time i know i'll be by myself. and running gave me a great focus. also it's - it keeps me focused,
but allows me to go back and eat my own food. i eat a lot of food, too much. that's part of the job. >> yes. >> you're on tv. you're on a great food show. i love the shows, it's my guilty pleasure. there's some people that criticize the idea that you and anthony bordain and others, now there's t-shirts, hats, frozen food, aeroplane food that you make, does it dilute your brand. it makes you money. have you faced that criticism and thought about that? >> absolutely. managing - no person grows up to think about himself or herself. i'm going to be a brand. this is a long journey. these are things i have to think about today. i have great people helping me to navigate that. yes. fitting.
at the end of the day, we say no to 90% of the staff. i do think that it's fitting. i do think that it will help the community i work in. ed i think that i'm excited about it. if it doesn't work out. i'm always going to look ahead, look at the future and say what is the next intersection between technology and food. how do we make it easier to order out. or communicate to the customer base at what is happening on the street. you know, being a chef is also about being a food entrepreneur. some will stick and work, some will not. if people are upset about that. part of living is feeling out who you are. and what is the next chant or going to be. you have to allow yourself to make mistakes. and, of course, people are going to come to you for that.
it's okay. i'm a big boy. i'll be fine. >> what is your favourite thing to cook? >> favourite thing to eat, it's mackerels. smurgeon in sweden, and favourite thing to cook - i have to go with the yard bird. >> excellent. >> what a pleasure. >> thank you so most. >> are we eating soon or what? >> i wish. let me tell you. >> singer / songwriter natalie merchant. >> i became fully human when i became a mother. >> devoted community activist. >> people become victimized by their circumstances. >> revelations about her new solo album. >> i was just trying to make music that transferred what was in my heart to other people. >> i lived that character. >> we will be able to see change.
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