Marcus Samuelsson, who was in town for a New York minute eight years ago as founding chef of Washington Square restaurant (now Talula's Garden), is coming back Wednesday, Nov. 7 for a dinner on the first day of the First Person Arts Festival.
In keeping with First Person Arts' mission is transforming the drama or real life into memoir and documentary, Samuelsson will oversee an Ethiopian dinner. I should mention that the evening is coproduced by the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce. That duality defines him.
As he relates in his memoir (Yes, Chef) released last summer, Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia. When he was barely 3 years old in the early 1970s, his mother - sickened by tuberculosis - carried him and his older sister 75 miles to a hospital in Addis Adaba. His mother died; he and his sister recovered from TB and were adopted by a couple in Sweden.
The book - and the evening's dinner - will "highlight the journey of a creative man," says Samuelsson, who lives with his wife in New York, where he owns Red Rooster, a restaurant in Harlem. "I want to showcase the nuance of diversity and race and my upbringing, to show the journey, all the ups and downs." Frequent trips to Ethiopia starting in his 20s helped reconnect him to his homeland.
Samuelsson's is an amazing story. He acknowledges the daughter born after a one-night stand in Austria, where he was working at the time. We see how he was on top - winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters after becoming chef at Aquavit in New York at age 24. And at the bottom: when he drained his life savings to buy the rights back to his name after he left Aquavit. "I began considering going back to my Ethiopian birth name: Kassahun Tsegie," he writes. "Who was Marcus Samuelsson, after all?"
The menu, created by executive chef Brian Coseo, who actually lived in Ethiopia:
First Course: Misr Wot (Ethiopian Lentil Soup)
Second Course: Tunisian Braised Short Ribs with Atakilt wrapped in Injera
Third Course: Seared “Taste of Norway Salmon” over Swedish Potato Cake and topped Cucumber Salad
Fourth Course: Poached Ginger Pear with Vanilla Cream.
2010 Waterbrook Cabernet Sauvignon and 2011 Washington Hills Riesling will be served with dinner, courtesy of Precept Wine.
At the Racquet Club, 215 S. 16th St., 6-7 p.m. followed by a VIP reception from 7-9 p.m. Ticket is $100, $150 for VIP reception.