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Marcus Samuelsson’s Ramen

The Red Rooster Harlem chef combined some philosophy with food for a bowl of spiritual soup.

At the Austin Food & Wine Festival, internationally acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson was seemingly everywhere. After teaching attendees how to give yesterday’s dinner a makeover, with a presentation appropriately titled “Sexy Leftovers,” on Saturday, April 27, the New York Times best-selling author, TV personality and culinary icon took on another homey cuisine on Sunday: Ramen.

Not only did Samuelsson discuss his love for the simple, savory noodle dish, but he also enthusiastically shared a philosophy of food and life that was clearly shaped by the diversity of his upbringing (the Ethiopian-born chef was adopted by Swedish parents at age three). “We have to learn by traveling and being very curious,” he explained. And, as if demonstrating the fruits of his journeys, Samuelsson created a delicious broth from leftover chicken bones and shrimp shells, and then combined a cornucopia of ingredients—including mushrooms, red onion, ginger, daikon, scallions, bok choy, celery and eggs—into small bowls in front of an enthusiastic audience.

“One thing we need to do better is to learn to eat with a spritual conscience,” Samuelsson said during a Q&A that followed, “When we learn to eat with a spiritual competence, that teaches you to know better what to celebrate, what to do with the leftovers, when to not eat too much meat or fish…” And the chef, who was wearing a camouflage trucker cap emblazoned with a drawing of Martin Luther King Jr., could be considered a poster boy for more thoughtful eating, as he is certainly a role model in the food world. Samuelsson recalled a cooking demonstration he once did in Harlem, where a 13-year-old asked him, “Chef is that borrata or ricotta in the salad?” How did he know the difference? “Because of Chopped!” the student exclaimed. “That shows any one can get into food,” Samuelsson concluded, “and that makes me proud.”