Marcus Samuelsson, a chef on ABC's "The Taste," has such international flair, it's hard to pinpoint his accent.
Born in Ethiopia and adopted by a Swedish family, he speaks Swedish, German, English and French. Samuelsson lives in Harlem, a few blocks from his restaurant, Red Rooster.
Deeply affected by 9/11, Samuelsson adjusted his menus and outlook after the attacks.
"I wanted to eat things that made me feel good and warm and comforting," he tells Zap2it.
"That was sort of the starting point for me in that sense. That is how I looked at it. "It changed a lot of things for me," Samuelsson continues. "Before that I did food that was high risk and very precise in its nature until moving to Harlem, where Red Rooster is all about comfort food."
Samuelsson grew up with traditional Swedish fare. The first thing he recalls making, at about age 6, was meatballs and gingersnaps with his sister and grandmother.
Trained at the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, Sweden, and having worked at many restaurants, Samuelsson says the difficult part of the Thursday show has been pulling back.
"Normally as a chef, I am the one cooking; I am in charge of it," he says, "But here you are constantly challenged. I am not allowed to cook. I can only guide and want to jump in and do it. But the purpose was to coach these individuals with mixed experiences to cooking, to get the most wonderful taste in one bite as possible."
Besides cooking, Samuelsson enjoys mingling with diners. To be conversant in different topics, he watches the news and immerses himself in the culture of New York. He frequents the Apollo Theater, the Museum of Modern Art and Lincoln Center.
"Places like Harlem and Brooklyn that has discoveries of raw talent, whether art, music or food," Samuelsson says, "it is one of the reasons to live in New York. You have this constantly bubbling scene of emerging talents."
What are you currently reading?
"I just finished a book about a fellow Swede, an immigrant, a good book, 'I Am Zlatan' (by Zlatan Ibrahimovic). His journey as a fellow Swede is very interesting."
What did you have for dinner last night?
"A stew that I cooked, cabbage and potatoes and dark chicken. I did a beer-based sauce, cooking down beer and onions."
What is your next project?
"I am in the middle of it, pushing and having fun with 'The Taste.' It is an exciting time for me. I continue to evolve with Ginny's Supper Club, here in the basement of Red Rooster. I am really excited about 14, 'The Taste,' and I know what we have upcoming in our restaurant."
When was the last vacation you took - where and why?
"Me and my wife went to Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. We just needed to get away. It was a great relaxing trip we needed."
Photo/Video credit: ABC