Marcus Samuelsson's New TV Series Will Explore Immigrant Cuisine
Red Rooster Harlem executive chef, Chopped judge, and soon-to-be New Jersey-facing Marcus Samuelsson is coming to PBS with a new documentary series on the cuisines of American immigrant communities. Currently going by the working title "No Passport Required," the show will focus on Samuelsson's travels to "underexplored neighborhoods of U.S. cities" to showcase "the people, places, and foods of immigrant communities."
The subject is clearly close to Samuelsson's heart. Born in Ethiopia, the chef, TV host, and author grew up in Sweden before moving to New York in 1991 where, at age 24, he became the youngest chef to receive a three-star New York Times review. Yet, as he's written about before, he still faced many barriers to entry similar to those that keep immigrant communities cuisine so underexplored.
“I can relate to this topic," Samuelsson told Variety, “It’s about cooking and food—but also about the other sub-contexts when we break bread.” So far, the communities “No Passport Required” plans to find those contexts in include Little Ethiopia in Washington D.C., Fremont, California's largely Afghan Little Kabul, and the Vietnamese shrimper community in Louisiana.
The season is planned to span six one hour episodes, and premiere in 2018 on PBS, either during summer or fall. "There are all these layers about cultural identity, ancestry, and diversity—for me, it’s a great combination." PBS chief programming exec Beth Hoppe told Variety, but added that, despite the success of the station's broadcasts of The Great British Bake Off (or, as it's known in the states, The Great British Baking Show), this does not signal a big food-based primetime push.
It does, however, mark a bigger foray into the digital food and broadcast worlds. Samuelsson's series is produced by Vox Media's Eater, making it that outlet's first TV project. Episodes will air on PBS, with "behind-the-scenes digital content" distributed online. “We live in both spaces, and that’s where the audiences are,” Samuelsson says, and hopefully he can help bring those audiences to the communities that deserve them.