“I love Harlem, it’s a very vibrant community,” says chef Marcus Samuelsson of his chosen live-and-work neighborhood. Samuelsson is a big part of the Uptown scene: He shares an apartment there with his wife, Maya, and is the chef/owner of Red Rooster and Ginny’s Supper Club just a few blocks away.
The 43-year-old James Beard Award-winner first made a splash in New York City as the executive chef at the Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit, when in 1995 he was the youngest chef in history to receive three stars from The New York Times. Since then, he has built an international empire of restaurants that stretch from New York to Sweden, the country where he grew up, and he even penned an award-winning memoir, Yes, Chef, the paperback version of which came out this past spring. Though he has been spending a lot of time in L.A. recently, filming The Taste with colleagues Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre and Nigella Lawson, Samuelsson says he loves coming home to his daily routine in New York City. Here’s a taste of a day with a master chef.
I wake up and start the day with a run, about three to four miles in Central Park. My morning runs are among the best part of my day.
After, for breakfast, I’ll make a smoothie with veggies and fruits, or I just grab an apple from the nearest fruit stand.
I sit down to look at my schedule for the day, with a cappuccino, to see what meetings I need to prepare for, and what’s going on at the restaurant today.
I arrive at Red Rooster. I’ll pop into the restaurant and talk to my managers and chefs to get an assessment of how the night went and what dishes guests enjoyed the most.
I’ll likely be meeting with my executive team, or talking with my digital team to discuss social media strategy. These can last from 10 minutes chats to two-hour jam sessions.
I definitely don’t have a typical lunch every day. It can be a tasting at Rooster, or it could be some Caribbean food from this spot, Sisters, in Harlem which I love, or it could be stealing bites of a sandwich or salad from my team.
My afternoons can involve everything from phone or in-person interviews, photo shoots, tastings of new dishes, attending board meetings for the MoMA or the Apollo Theater, and thinking (always thinking) about the new projects I want to do in the future. Many times my afternoon has more than one of these things going on.
Back to the Red Rooster. If I am within walking distance, walking is my favorite way to get around town. We have great farmers’ markets in the area, so I’ll always pick something up when I walk by. If where I am coming from isn’t in walking distance, I’ll take the subway or a cab. I will talk to the managers and the chefs, check in with all the front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house staff, and talk to my music team for Ginny’s and Rooster just before service.
I don’t really have a typical dinner night. I like to eat with different friends and explore different restaurants in the city and in Harlem. Sometimes I am eating at Red Rooster. I also like to cook at home because it is the most relaxing.
If I’m working in the kitchen, I will usually stay at the restaurant until 11pm. I sometimes leave the kitchen a little early to spend time with the regulars, especially if there’s some good live music, and hang out with them until I leave around 11pm. But sometimes I do like to go home at about 7 or 8pm, cook dinner and just hang out with my wife. I treasure those nights of quiet time with Maya. Once home, I like to read up on what’s been going on in the news, especially arts and culture-wise in the city.
Bedtime. I will crash as soon as my head hits the pillow.