Marcus Samuelsson is an Ethiopian Swedish chef – he was born in Ethiopia but when he was separated from his biological parents during a civil war, he was adopted and raised by a Swedish family. He has accomplished so much as a chef – opened highly acclaimed restaurants in New York City and other locations, written award-winning cookbooks, taught as a visiting professor at the Swedish Umea University School of Restaurant and Culinary Arts, hosted the television shows Inner Chef and Urban Cuisine, and served as a cooking judge on Top Chef, Iron Chef USA, Iron Chef American and Chopped.
He is successful by any measure, but given his tumultuous beginnings, his success is very impressive. On top of all this, he is the chef at the Red Rooster in Harlem, a venue with African American music and Southern cuisine. In honor of Black History Month, the restaurant featured special food and drinks, including cocktails called Fred Sandford’s Elizabeth and Black is Beautiful.
In Our Harlem, Marcus has conversations with lots of people about Harlem. Warning!! Do not listen to this book while you are hungry! Most of the interviews are done while Marcus is cooking. You can frequently hear food sizzling in the background, or people eating their meals and exclaiming how good the food tastes. You will also be frequently regaled with music and other sounds of Harlem.
Marcus talks to a variety of people who contributed to the Harlem culture, whether they are entrepreneurs, long-standing residents, musicians, or neighborhood activists, and he also talks about some of his own contributions. One of my favorite stories was when President Obama visited the Red Rooster and was served a Red Rooster specialty, short ribs.
I have a new interest in Harlem, having listened to the book. The food and music that you hear about in the book are comforting and uplifting. There was such pride in the voices of everyone who participated in the making of this book. I didn’t realize the role that Harlem has played as one of the major centers of African American culture, but now that I better understand its role, I’m looking forward to re-exploring the history and culture of this city.
The audio version is the only way to read this book. Marcus teamed up with Audible to create these stories, so that is your only option. As an Audible subscriber, the book was free for me during the month of February. If you hurry, you might be able to download the book for free too. I rate this book as a 3.5/5.
In honor of Black History Month, I am reading books about African Americans. What are you doing to celebrate Black History Month?
Have you been to Harlem or the Red Rooster? If so, what did you think?
What other books have you read that really made you think about people who are different from you?