I know I'll always remember this year because it’ll be our first Thanksgiving together. Both my wife, Maya, and I came to this country as immigrants. Our son, Zion, who is four months old, is the first in our family to be born and raised in America. On Thanksgiving, you get to look at the present and the past—at where you are and where you came from. I’m looking forward to having that moment where I can sit down and take it all in, to really savor the gifts of my life and what it means to finally find a home where you feel both security and possibility.
As someone who left Ethiopia, was raised in Sweden, then traveled the globe working in kitchens, for me, Harlem is the truest home I’ve ever known. And it somehow, improbably, incorporates all of the places that make me who I am. The hustle and bustle of the street vendors reminds me of the markets in Addis Ababa. The light in Harlem at sunset, the way it falls over the brownstones, reminds me of Gothenburg, the Swedish fishing village where my father grew up. I have been thinking about my father so much these days–he passed away before he could witness any of my success, yet he gave me everything of value that I know. Now that I’m a father to a son, I want to teach him as my father taught me: how to row, how to paint, how to build a family and a community. My father never saw Red Rooster, but his spiritis imbued throughout the restaurant.
- Marcus Samuelsson’s Thanksgiving Recipes
- 7 Ways That Chefs Are Reinventing Pumpkin Pie
- 5 New Places to Eat and Drink in Harlem
When we were opening Red Rooster in Harlem, and the New York food community wasn’t used to the idea of a fine-dining experience above 125th Street, we used to say all the time, “The ’hood needs good food, too.” This is why The Red Rooster Cookbook means so much to me. It’s about Harlem’s storied past, its delicious present and the future we are cooking up together. In the six years since we opened, everything I’ve ever given to Harlem has come back to me a hundredfold. The way we feel at Red Rooster is that the Harlem community has taken in our restaurant and made it an extension of their home. And so we go big at the Rooster for Thanksgiving. We start decorating and menu planning weeks before. We invite local bands and the Abyssinian Baptist Church choir to perform. It’s a special feeling when you walk into the restaurant and see a nine-year-old and a 90-year-old at the same table, having a great time.