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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weekend Cooking- Marcus Samuelsson at Random House's Open House

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

Random House publishing held an Open House on December 14th at their offices on Broadway and 55th in Manhattan. It was a great day and good to meet new friends, JoAnn from Lakeside Musings and her daughter, and catch up with bookish friends, Candace, Nicole, Alison and Colleen.

They had some interesting discussions, including one between author Anna Quindlen (who is one of my all-time favorites) and her editor Kate Medina, a panel discussion with the team (acquistions, editing, publicity and marketing) who worked on Justin Cronin's novels The Passage and The Twelve, Self magazine's editor Lucy Danziger talking about a new book The Drop 10 Diet, and a closing talk with Kurt Andersen (True Believers), Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit) and Slate.com's Emily Bazelon on the 2012 election.

There were also some food related parts to the day. Chef Marcus Samuelsson, author of the critically praised and best-selling memoir Yes, Chef talked with his editor Andy Ward and Huffington Post Food Editor Carey Polls about his life and the journey to put his story on paper.

The talk was fascinating, with Samuelsson speaking about how "trust was the key thing" between himself and Ward. Ward spoke about how Samuelsson is a person who is "always in motion", and Ward had to get him to slow down and deepen the moments he was writing about. He gave as an example the time that Samuelsson was in a terrible car accident that killed Samuelsson's friend and left him injured. Samuelsson did not want to dig deep into those feelings, but Ward convinced him of the importance of doing just that.

Samuelsson advised everyone to write down their own story, even if it is just an exercise. He believes that going through the choices one has made in life, and thinking about what happens after those choices are made is important to understanding one's life.

They also talked about the evolution of food writing and food memoirs, and how eating is different in different cultures. In Ethiopia, where Samuelsson was born, he said "the map of eating is driven by spirituality." In Sweden, where he grew up with his adopted family, it is driven by seasonality. He talked about how Americans don't eat like other countries, citing our 'food holidays' like Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl.

In the Q&A section, a woman in the audience asked him to describe and label his cuisine, and his answer was fascinating. He wanted to know why it was important for her to have labels, and then he described how everything around him inspired his food. At his restaurant, The Red Rooster in Harlem, he said that everything from the art curated on the walls to the nationality of his employees to the makeup of the people who live near his restaurant impact the menu.

Harlem is a melting pot, with African-Americans, Mexicans, West Africans, Jewish and Italians all living there and influencing what Samuelsson puts on his menu. He wants the menu to "reflect the location and ambition of where we are going".

I've heard many good things about Yes, Chef, and have had that book on my radar for awhile, so I was excited to meet Marcus Samuelsson and listen to him talk. And getting to meet him and receive an autographed copy of the book was pretty cool too.


  1. Samuelsson is such an interesting man.
    not to mention for food..

  2. Wow, what a fantastic post! The open house sounded amazing and I loved hearing about Samuelsson's talk. Must put Yes, Chef on my TBR list. Nice pic :)!

  3. You are so fortunate-I would so love to have met them-whether it is at a book function or at his restaurant.

  4. Thanks for sharing in such good detail the meeting with Samuelson. I admire him too. I've seen him on various Food Network shows and like his character as well as his food. I really want to read the book.

  5. Looks like a fun event. So cool that you got to meet Samuelson.

  6. How good is that - to meet the author. I haven't got this book yet but it is definitely on my list

  7. Wasn't he fascinating? And so friendly and nice. Meeting him was one of the highlights of my day. You did a great job capturing the essence of his talk.

    BTW: It was great to see you again!

    1. Thanks- it was so good to see you again too. I hope you enjoyed your visit to NYC and that the drunken Santas didn't disturb you too much.

  8. What a wonderful event. Marcus Samuelsson looks so dapper :) I've heard good things about his book.

  9. What a great experience! I find Samuelsson's story so interesting, and I'm glad you got to meet him and hear about the writing process. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I'm going to have to check him out more! I recognize him from this morning's issue of Shelf Awareness. What a fun time!

  11. Random House did a great job putting together a fabulous day and Marcus Samuelsson was such a good speaker. Anna Quindlen was my favorite of the day, but the real highlight was meeting my blogging friends!