Marcus Samuelsson got an invitation he couldn’t refuse from Seattle’s Swedish Club earlier this year. Some 80 members in the super-active organization held a gourmet dinner serving Samuelsson’s recipes, signed an enormous card asking him to visit, and photographed themselves holding his picture in what they joked was “a desperate ploy to get this town full of Nordic foodies” added to his book tour.
“I love it when people are passionate,” Samuelsson said about the spirited invite. Seattle’s always high on his list of places to visit, he said; it’s clearly a place where people choose to live. “The environment looks very similar to Sweden to me,” from the water to the salmon to the proximity to nature.
He’ll also demonstrate recipes from the book, “Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook At Home,” with Tom Douglas at an afternoon event Oct. 30 at the Hot Stove Society, and he’ll be at a cocktail party starting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Palace Ballroom.
Swedes here may count Samuelsson as one of their own, but the restaurateur and TV personality knows he’s considered a member of many geographic and cultural tribes, including adoptive families, the people of Ethiopia (his birthplace), Sweden (his home after age 2), and his neighbors and co-workers in Harlem.
His background, his culinary training, and his own inventive curiosity make the recipes in his book (written with Roy Finamore) impossible to categorize. Flavorings range from colorful dende oil to Madras curry powder to miso, with recipes stretching from dill-spiced salmon to doro wat tostadas to the garam masala pumpkin tart he prepared for Barack Obama’s first state dinner.
“For me, it’s like a nod to where America came from, but also where America is going. It’s very much an Americana book from an immigrant’s perspective,” he said. Some people reserve foods like Asian-influenced or Latin-influenced dishes for restaurants or takeout, “the last step is bringing it in, cooking it at home…”
“The pantry can change, and it’s OK.”
Eating at home provides plenty of opportunities that restaurant dining doesn’t. For one, “”With home cooking, everything can be wrong and it can still be delicious. You don’t run a restaurant that way,” he said. One tradition he’d like to carry over from work to home, though, is the music that’s a given in restaurant kitchens. He included playlists with his menus, saying that adding some interactivity to daily cooking, and preparing food with other family members, makes it seem less like a chore.
“Put on some good old Salt n Pepa and you will shake it when you cook.”
Just as the meals he prepares for family and friends are different at home than restaurant versions, the careful process of creating a book lets him communicate with diners in a completely different way.
“I love it when people bring a messy, greasy cookbook to me at a book signing, because it shows they used it,” he said. “Nothing makes me happier.”