Samuelsson is one busy chef: in addition to opening his new restaurant, Red Rooster, he is also an ambassador for UNICEF and sits on the board for Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP). He is author of Aquavit and the New Scandinavian Cuisine, The Soul of a New Cuisine and The New American Table. Among his many achievements, he was the youngest chef to ever receive three stars from TheNew York Times. ICE is always happy when he takes time out from his busy schedule to do a demo at the school.
Samuelsson’s path to award-winning chef has certainly been unique. He was born in Ethiopia but was adopted and raised in Sweden. He worked in kitchens in Switzerland, Austria, and France before moving to New York to pursue his culinary dreams. The dishes he made for the demo reflect this multicultural background. He made Fried Chicken with Spicy Ketchup and Foie Gras Ganache with Quince Chutney. The dishes drew on many influences to reflect current culinary trends. He said, “These dishes are both poultry, but they are totally different. I think they are a reflection of the direction where food is going. One is more high-end and the other is comfort food.”
Samuelsson engaged the students in a discussion of trends and why comfort food has become so popular, pointing to the recession as a time to embrace the familiar and nostalgic. Samuelsson then invited two students up to help him complete his mouth-watering version of Fried Chicken, made using a twice-fried technique. The demo included many other examples of student participation including a challenge to the audience to come up and share your worst kitchen disaster.
One student shared her experience forgetting to dissolve bouillon cubes in water. Samuelsson topped that story by recounting the time he miscalculated how to convert gelatin sheets to powder. He told the audience, “It’s the journey that is important. The person who makes mistakes is the richest person in here.” He challenged the students to always ask questions and be curious on their food journey — “My life-long journey in food has been very unique. I love it. And a huge part of that is always asking how can I make this better, what can I learn, how does this relate to my experience.” Excellent advice from a true culinary master.