Marcus Samuelsson (1973- )

Marcus Samuelsson, Stockholm, Sweden, June 8, 2013
Photo by Frankie Fouganthin (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Marcus Samuelsson is an Ethiopian-Swedish chef and restaurateur. Samuelsson was born Kassahun Tsegie on January 25, 1973, in Ethiopia. His father was President of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. His unnamed mother died during the Ethiopian tuberculosis epidemic of 1974. Samuelsson and his sister, Fantaye, later were separated from their father the during the Ethiopian Civil War and in 1974 adopted by Ann Marie and Lennart Samuelsson from Gothenburg, Sweden. During the Civil War and resultant famine, numerous European, Canadian, and U.S. couples adopted Ethiopian orphans. Because of their adoption, Kassahun and Fantaye took the couple’s last name, Samuelsson. Kassahun also adopted the name Marcus.

Samuelson’s adopted Swedish grandmother Helga taught him how to cook which, as he later claimed, helped develop his passion for cooking. In 1989, 16-year-old Samuelsson enrolled at the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, Sweden. He was later apprenticed in Switzerland in 1989 and in France from 1992 to 1994.

In 1994, 21-year-old Samuelsson moved to the United States for an apprenticeship with Aquarit, an exclusive restaurant in New York City. Working with Aquarit, Samuelsson developed popular new food dishes and as a result was promoted to executive chief and made partner with the restaurant in 1997 at the age of 24.

In 2003, Samuelsson opened his own restaurant in New York City called Riingo which featured Japanese American food. Two years later he launched a television show called Inner Chef which appeared on the Discovery Home Channel. He also launched a second restaurant, Urban Cuisine, in 2008 and two years later in 2010, Samuelsson opened a third restaurant, Red Rooster, in Harlem, New York City.

In 2011 Samuelsson founded the foodie website Food Republic and in 2012 he opened his fourth restaurant, Ginny’s Supper Club. Now considered one of the most popular chefs in the United States, Samuelsson teamed with Clarion Hotels to create a restaurant concept called Kitchen and Table. The concept includes Samuelsson’s New York City multicultural mix of flavors and cuisine which, while influenced by Scandinavia, also features local ingredients.

By this point Samuelsson was a visiting professor of international culinary science at the Umea University School of Restaurants and Culinary Arts in Sweden and an advisor to the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City.

Samuelsson is also author of numerous books including Aquavit and the New Scandinavian Cuisine (2003), The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa (2006), New America Table (2009), and Yes, Chef: A Memoir (2012). That year he also authored a Swedish cookbook called En Smakresa: Mmiddagstips from Marcus Samuelsson.

Over the course of his short career Samuelsson has won numerous awards as well. He received the James Beard Rising Star Chef Award in 1999 and Best Chef: New York City from the James Beard Foundation (2003). He was also named a Great Chef of America by the Culinary Institute of America and a Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum. He also won the James Beard Foundation award for Writing and Literature in 2013.

Samuelsson is married to model Gate Haile. The couple have a son, Zion Mandela, and Samuelsson has a daughter, Zoe, from a previous relationship. The family splits its time between New York City and Stockholm, Sweden.