This May, Marcus Samuelsson is bringing his blockbuster Harlem restaurant, Red Rooster, to London. The Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef and author will open his first international outpost at The Curtain, a new hotel and private-members club in Shoreditch. As Samuelsson tells Karen Pinchin, his next take on soul food will have an international twist.
Can you give me an overview of the London restaurant's concept and menu?
We wanted to find a neighbourhood that matched the excitement of Harlem, and felt that Shoreditch and London, as a town, really matches New York. It has incredible mystique, funk and coolness. I've been asked to open a new Red Rooster every week for the past four and a half years, and I always say no. When you walk into the restaurant, the first thing you'll see is a taqueria inspired by the barrio. We have a huge Latin community in east Harlem.
What Red Rooster classics can diners expect?
We will definitely do our fried yardbird, and our fried yardbird royale, where we fry a whole chicken, making sure it stays moist and crispy. We'll definitely have our chowders, devilled eggs and cornbread – our iconic Rooster dishes. But this was also an opportunity to do something new. Shoreditch was, traditionally, a Jewish neighbourhood, and I grew up in Sweden, so looking at the community and my upbringing, we'll definitely have herring here.
You recently said you chose London as your second location because you wanted a city "with a dynamic we could learn from."
New York is a world city, and so is London, but London has a different kind of diversity than New York and I thrive off that. In London you find more Middle Eastern influences, so those notes and spices can come into our food.
So much of your cooking focuses on community and shared experience. What would we know of other communities if it wasn't for culture, art, storytelling, food and music?If you think about what Red Rooster is, it's all about those things.
When I travel I eat foods that intrigue me, I listen to local music, I see local art. Food presents this incredible opportunity to break bread and open your curiosity in a way politics, and definitely money, and not even religion can.
What is your favourite destination city to eat in right now?
I love Tokyo. I've always been a fan of Tokyo since I first arrived there when I was 19. You have 15 different cuisines in Tokyo alone, and as the chef I am, I couldn't be happier than that.
For more information, visit www.thecurtain.com.