Monday, November 16, 2009

A "C-ensational" Cookbook: New American Table

Ever notice when you're sitting amongst family and friends at an intimate dinner party or holiday celebration, someone always breaks out a heart-warming tale about the cuisine that shaped their life? Such is the premise for Chef Marcus Samuelsson's hot new cookbook, New American Table (Wiley Hardcover, $40.00), which documents some of the nation's most beloved, culturally-diverse dishes.

As a young, talented Ethiopian-born chef growing up in Sweden, Chef Samuelsson (C-House, Chicago and Aquavit, NYC) spent his childhood summers cooking seafood delicacies in local fishing villages then later as a top chef in Switzerland. When Samuelsson left "the land of Michelin for the land of the burger" (a term coined by a former Swiss chef) to start a successful career in the U.S., he created an award-winning style of cooking which married his culinary roots with an appreciation for his new country's diverse food flavors and bicultural celebrations. Samuelsson succeeds in making other culture's favorite cuisines look mouth-watering (the food photography is truly delectable) and offers delicious dishes for readers to enjoy at their own kitchen tables.

Maple-Glazed Tuna with Pear-Potato Salad

Mini Yellowtail Tacos

The airy elegance of C-House in the Affinia Hotel

Luxe File Chicago caught up recently with Chef Marcus Samuelsson, one of the country's most exciting and celebrated culinarians, while he was in town cooking up some finger-licking good crab cakes and promoting his new food bible at the Affinia Hotel.

Sweet Home Chicago: Chef Samuelsson at C-House

Luxe File Chicago: Tell us what we can expect from your cookbook, New American Table? How did you come up with the title?
Marcus Samuelsson:
New American Table is filled with over 300 recipes and photos focusing on the discussion of diversity within American cuisine. The title and the concept of the book were inspired by the immigrant story of American foods and it’s a book filled with diverse recipes by a diverse nation.

LFC: What utensil could you not cook without?
MS: You always need a great pan, a spatula that can handle even delicate fish and a good, sharp knife.

LFC: When you're not wearing chef's whites, what designer or clothing are you comfortable wearing?
MS: My style is a mixed bag. I love labels like ISAIA and Valentino as well as Nudie Jeans from Sweden. I especially love vintage clothes because they offer a history from a different era and I appreciate the opportunity to be able to mix up the old with the new.

LFC: Favorite places in the world you like to go for inspiration?
MS: I like downtown Los Angeles a lot. Internationally, I go to South Africa and Singapore for inspiration.

LFC: Which chefs do you admire?
MS: I admire many chefs because I understand how much hard work it takes to do what we do. I really look up to Leah Chase from New Orleans and all of the chefs the world doesn’t know because they are the ones who make the profession what it is, they give it its heart.

LFC: How does Chicago cuisine stock up against other foodie cities like NY, LA, and Paris?
MS: Chicago is just as world-class as New York City and definitely more diverse than Paris.

LFC: Favorite place to dine out in Chicago?
MS: Of course, I love C-View. Dining on the rooftop during the summertime in Chicago is amazing. Charlie Trotter’s has made a wonderful commitment to doing American fine dining properly and I really appreciate that. Arun and Avec are also great places.

LFC: Any plans on producing or starring in your own TV cooking show?
MS: I’d love to have my own show, it just needs to be the opportunity where I can do cooking my way. I’m absolutely looking forward to it in the future.

LFC: When no one's looking, what do you like to pig out on?
MS: I’ve always liked a really good burger which was what inspired me to create Marc Burger.

LFC: If you weren't a chef, what would you be?
MS: A baker.

LFC: Most memorable/disastrous cooking experience?
MS: When I was younger, I saved up my own money and traveled to Japan to eat the blowfish. I was broke afterward but very happy. Another was when Charlie Trotter took me to Arun for the first time – very memorable.

LFC: For newbie chefs following in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?
MS: In anything you do, it’s important to work hard and be truly passionate. It’s also important to work with several different chefs throughout your career and travel often so you can gain a lot of experience both in the kitchen and out. Also, work on developing your own point of view in terms of taste yet stay humble.

LFC: When you're not cooking, what do you enjoy doing?
MS: I love to paint and hang out with my wife.

Story by Kerry and Sally Shorr

Photographs courtesy of XA, THE EXPERIENTIAL AGENCY

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