Abby Hocking

"The creative director on this show was Donald Trump."

Elisabeth Sherman
June 18, 2018

At the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Marcus Samuelsson gave the audience at his cooking demonstration an inside look at what to expect on his upcoming PBS travel show, No Passport Required—and he wasn’t afraid to make the discussion political.

Samuelsson—Ethiopian born, but raised in Sweden—has spent most of his life traveling, mostly in service of his ongoing quest to try every style of food from every culture on the planet. Through these experiences, Samuelsson has come to believe that sharing a meal is the best way to understand another person.

“We’re all basically immigrants here, and we share food. Food is the biggest window into another culture,” he said. “That’s why I want politicians to go to the immigrant parts of town to eat Iranian-Persian rice, Korean kimchi, Swedish herrings, German sauerkraut.”

This is essentially the premise of Samuelsson’s show: Since many politicians have yet to explore these communities, the chef does it himself. He visits different American cities with vibrant immigrant communities and explores their culinary traditions.

“I got to six cities, and we look at immigrant cultures in those cities. The creative director on this [show] was Donald Trump. Any time he said something negative about a place, that’s where we went,” Samuelsson said. “We went to Chicago for Mexican culture, Queens for Guyana, DC for Ethiopia, and Arab [cuisine] in Detroit. Once you’ve eaten food from another culture, it’s not as strange, it’s not as far away.”

Samuelsson hopes to create a bridge of understanding through food by showing his viewers first-hand how other cultures nourish themselves and their families. But he doesn’t want the experience to end there. Samuelsson thinks people should take those lessons—that the way to connect to new people is through food—and apply it to their daily lives.

“If there’s someone new coming into your community, go over with a spice or a preserve from your family,” he said. “If you start trading food ideas, you’re going to eat so well and you’re going to have such a good time. Maybe you’re not going to like everything. That’s part of eating too.”

And as difficult as it might seem, Samuelsson recommends doing this even, if not especially, with people who you don’t exactly see eye to eye with.

“We need to break bread with even the people that we don’t like,” said Samuelsson. “If Mike Pence wants to come to Harlem, he’s more than welcome to come by.”