Chef Marcus Samuelsson Celebrates Black Food


If anyone asks chef Marcus Samuelsson what African food tastes like, he has the answer: Have you ever had barbeque? Rice? Coffee?

“All of that food comes from Africa, has its roots in Africa,” says the Ethiopian Swedish writer and restaurateur. “Everyone has had African American dishes, whether they know it or not.”

Samuelsson is chef at the famous Red Rooster restaurant in New York City’s Harlem. He is hoping to educate Americans and help Black chefs in a new book. It is called The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.

The book has 150 recipes and includes the life stories of 26 Black chefs, writers and activists. The recipes celebrate Africa and the influence of migration and integration. It also examines where modern Black chefs are going next with their food.

“When I look at American food and I look at the Black experience, we’ve done so much, but almost got erased,” said Samuelsson. “There’s never been a better time to tell those stories,” he added.

“Our pasts are so unique and it’s so important to tell,” says Samuelsson. He notes that many cookbooks celebrate European and Asian foods, but few describe Black dishes. Americans know more about cheese products from Italy than the cheese of Ethiopia.

“This is America’s past. So, for me, as much as we learn about Japan, as much as we learn about Italy and Spain and so on, wouldn’t it be great to learn about our own food? This is America’s food,” he says.

Today's Vocabulary

1. unique (adj.)
being the only existing one of its type or, more generally, unusual, or special in some way

2. chef (n)
a skilled and trained cook who works in a hotel or restaurant, especially the most important cook

3. recipe (n)
a set of instructions telling you how to prepare and cook food, including a list of what food is needed for this

4. activists (n)
a person who believes strongly in political or social change and takes part in activities such as public protests to try to make this happen

5. integration (n)
the action or process of successfully joining or mixing with a different group of people

6. migration (n)
the process of animals traveling to a different place, usually when the season changes

  1. Who is Marcus Samuelsson?

  2. What do many cookbooks celebrate?

  3. Where does Samuelsson work at?

  4. What is the job of Samuelsson?

  5. How many recipes are there in his new book?
  1. Have you ever tried African American dishes?

  2. In your opinion, which countries have the best cuisine? The worst? Why?

  3. What is your opinion of American food? Have you tried any regional American cooking?

  4. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? Where were you? Why did you eat it?

  5. What is your favorite foreign food? How is it different from your country’s cuisine?