Renowned Chef Marcus Samuelsson Creates “A Cookbook Designed for Listening”

Chef Marcus Samuelsson on stage at Audible wearing an "Our Harlem" t-shirt.

On the eve of the launch of Audible Original Our Harlem: Seven Days of Cooking, Music, and Soul at the Red Rooster, chef, restaurateur, author, and TV personality Marcus Samuelsson arrived at our Innovation Cathedral with an Audible “Our Harlem” food truck in tow.

After several stops in our Newark neighborhood to give local fans a taste of Our Harlem and his signature dishes, Samuelsson appeared on our stage for a discussion with Audible’s Martha Little, Director of Audible Studios Originals and one of the series’ executive producers. Conversation focused on his genre-bending audio cookbook, in which Samuelsson explores the food, history, and culture of Harlem with a medley of interesting and informed guests.

In front of an audience of food-loving employees, Samuelsson and Little discussed the excitement and trepidation of working in a totally new format. “A cookbook designed for listening had never been done before,” he explained. “Neither one of us knew exactly what the outcome would be.” Still, “a traditional cookbook can’t pick up the sear of chicken,” nor can it capture the off-the-cuff conversations, music and community inside his acclaimed Red Rooster restaurant and out in the surrounding neighborhood. But Our Harlem can.

Samuelsson’s journey to making a home and a business in Harlem, he explained to employees, wasn’t a straightforward one. Born in Ethiopia then adopted by Swedish parents, Samuelsson traces his love of food to his Swedish grandmother, who was constantly baking, pickling and simmering food on the stove, he recalled. This down-to-earth version of hospitality took a back seat while Samuelsson was trained and made a name for himself in fine dining, eventually becoming the youngest chef to earn a three-star review from the New York Times and racking up many other accolades.

He refocused on his craft when he says he realized he had “studied food the completely wrong way,” likening his experience to learning music as part of a symphony orchestra when you all you really want is to play funk. Democratic and vibrant places that bring people together, he now believes, provide the best food experiences. “That’s the true essence of hospitality.”

Samuelsson also drew parallels between Harlem and Newark (where he opened Marcus B&P – an Audible Lunch Out Wednesday restaurant – two years ago) and their rich legacies of music, art history and black culture. “[Newark is] a place that mattered to me and to Audible.”

Outside on the streets of Newark after his talk, employees had the chance to mingle with Samuelsson as they enjoyed fare from the food truck serving Our Harlem recipes: mac and greens and short ribs. Our Newark high school interns got the chance to chat with the culinary star privately, where he impressed upon them the importance of making the most of opportunities, owning your unique story and giving hand-written thank you notes to mentors. Samuelsson also shared the one thing he’d do differently in his next audio project: adding more young voices like theirs into the conversation.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson speaking with Audible's high school interns and scholars.
Chef Marcus Samuelsson speaking with Audible high school interns and scholars.


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