Marcus Samuelsson, Chef Owner, Red Rooster

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th October 2018

Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia and adopted in Sweden - he is now a renowned chef in America and owns Red Rooster Harlem, Ginny’s Supper Club and Marcus’ Bermuda at the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club.

He has  cooked for the Obamas and now he’s opened his first UK based venture in Shoreditch, London. Red Rooster Shoreditch celebrates the roots of American cuisine, channelling Southern soul food alongside the diverse culinary traditions of New York and Marcus's Northern European upbringing.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Marcus about becoming a chef instead of a soccer player, why he wanted to open in London and what it takes to be a successful restaurateur.

Red Rooster Southern Heritage Jason Bailey low res

Red Rooster

Southern Heritage

credit - Jason Bailey

Why did you want to become a chef?

I actually wanted to become a professional soccer player, but I was cut from the team for being too small, so cooking was my backup.  I started cooking with my grandma Helga when I was around 6 years old.  She would really put me and my sisters to work.  I learned so much from her and one thing that really sticks with me about her cooking is how she used everything she had. Talk about zero waste; she would use everything on a chicken, for example, including use the bones to make a stock.  

Why did you choose to open in Shoreditch?

Before we embarked on the journey with The Curtain hotel in Shoreditch, I knew I only wanted to do it in a city with a dynamic environment we could learn from. Growing up in Sweden, London is the first big city you are taken to or dream of going to outside of Scandinavia. Why Shoreditch? Because we see a lot of parallels between Harlem where the original Red Rooster is located, and Shoreditch in London.

What is the food scene like in Harlem?

The food scene in Harlem is incredible.  It’s so diverse.  If you’re in El Barrio in East Harlem, you have a lot of Puerto Rican and Latin dishes, then you have little Senegal, some good places for soul food, cocktail bars, you name it.  I’m probably most impressed by the street food in Harlem; from seafood to vegan food to fresh squeezed juices, it’s all there. 

What are your plans for the future – will there be more restaurants on the cards? 

There will definitely be more restaurants, there will be more on the media side, and we will also continue to grow the annual food and culture festival, Harlem EatUp!

Red Rooster Ceviche del Barrio Jason Bailey low res

Red Rooster Ceviche

del Barrio

(Jason Bailey)

One message that is really important to me and will continue to be in the future, is the challenge of Sustainability and what does that look like for people all over the world.  Especially in the food service space, it’s something that we need to be really aware of and I am thinking about that a lot lately.

As a successful restaurateur, what advice would you give other chefs looking to open their own restaurant?  

It's always hard to start a business. It's important to think about what direction you want to go in and find your niche. And then it's important to stay flexible because business is always changing; when I first started the company, social media wasn't what it is today -- now, it's an important part of my business.

Tell us more about the careers through culinary arts programme. 

C-CAP is a program that is really special to me.  It offers education and training to prepare underserved youth for careers in the professional world of culinary and hospitality.

It’s a symbiotic relationship because in the hospitality world, we’re constantly looking for great talent, so it not only benefits the students, but also the restaurants in the communities where C-CAP has a chapter.

More images...

Red Rooster Rooster Princess Cake Jason Bailey low res
Red Rooster Rooster Princess Cake (Jason Bailey)

Marcus low res

Marcus Samuelsson

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th October 2018

Marcus Samuelsson, Chef Owner, Red Rooster