As if he needs any introduction, we present Marcus Samuelsson as our eighth, esteemed Travel Tastemaker. Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, he is a many-award-winning chef known for mouthwatering and unique dishes at his restaurants in New York City and beyond, as well as great personal style. He also launched the really awesome, geared-for-men food blog Food Republic in 2011, when he recognized that men were getting the short end of the stick when it came to food and cooking content.
What’s more, Marcus travels the world hunting for hidden holes in the wall and great new foods and ingredients to try out. Case in point, on a recent trip to LA he discovered Koreatown’s many flavors and he’s hankering for a ceviche-focused trip to Peru next. To be frank, he seems quite insatiable. And that’s just the kind of food-obsessed travel we crave.
New to our Tastemakers series? Well, well, there is more where this came from. Check out the whole lot here!
We love Food Republic, can you tell us how it came about?
I saw a void in the cooking space for men. Men had traditionally been regulated outside to work the grill, but as more and more men were getting into the kitchen to learn how to sous vide or make a gastrique, they needed a place to complement their expanding skills.
What is the best meal you ever had while traveling?
How much space do I have to write? It’s a cliche, but I will never ever forget eating with Ferran Adria at El Bulli.
What has been your favorite discovery while traveling? Any great hole-in-the-wall or local spots?
I don’t think I can just name one because I only look for hole-in-the-wall or local spots when I travel. The most recent ones that come to mind are this small vintage shop in Aspen where I bought this awesome leather postal bag, and the seedy but awesome bar in LA next to Grand Central Market in downtown LA.
Where have you traveled recently that inspired you to cook something new or use a new ingredient?
When I was in LA, I got to check out the Korean markets. I couldn’t get the idea of rice cakes out of my head and so I bought a bunch to try out different recipes in my kitchen.
What is the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten on the road?
I saved my money for months just to travel to Tokyo to eat the fugu, the deadly blowfish that can actually kill you if not prepared properly.
Where would you send someone on their first trip to Sweden? Any tips?
First of all, I would send someone there in the late spring to early June. Fly into Stockholm for two days, and check out the modern museum, check out old town, and go shopping at the vintage shops in Soder, then go buy Swedish food at the open markets. Then I would advise them to train down to Gothenburg because you get a chance to see the whole countryside. I’d go to the west coast of Gburg where you can taste the best shrimp and cod, it’s a more rustic town. After that I’d tell them to fly or train to Malmo where there’s a large group of international Swedes then head to Copenhagen.
How often do you travel to Ethiopia? What’s the first thing you do when you arrive?
I try to go there at least once a year and if it’s early enough, the first thing I’ll do is go for a run.
Do you have a favorite destination? Or many?
Whenever I can, I go to my family’s house in Smoegen. That’s where I can truly relax and have some time to myself with my closest. Other than that, I love to head to Jamaica, Japan, or just stay in NYC for a weekend. That’s my favorite of them all.
What’s one thing you never travel without?
Notepads and running shoes.
What destination is on top of your ‘must-travel’ list now?
Peru, to find the best ceviche I can find.
Where are your favorite places to eat in NYC?
I love any spot in Chinatown, East Harlem for tacos, and of course anything my wife, Maya, makes.