U.S. culi­nary di­ver­sity cel­e­brated in ‘No Pass­port Re­quired’ on PBS

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - NEWS - BY LUAINE LEE TRIBUNE NEWS SER­VICE

PASADENA, Calif. — What makes Amer­ica great? If you ask chef Mar­cus Sa­muels­son, it’s food and the di­verse ways it landed on our plates.

Sa­muels­son, the James Beard Award-win­ning chef and restau­ra­teur, will prove that point when he hosts “No Pass­port Re­quired,” pre­mier­ing Tues­day on PBS. Sa­muels­son and his team will visit six cities, un­cov­er­ing lit­tle pock­ets of eth­nic cui­sine and the ex­otic cul­tures that cre­ated them.

Sa­muels­son learned his craft from watch­ing his grand­mother, Helga, in the kitchen, he said.

“She was an amaz­ing cook, and she helped me from meat­balls to dumplings, to just learn­ing about her­ring, and all this stuff. And for me, as a 6-year-old, to learn the val­ues of cook­ing and un­der­stand­ing fla­vor points, and I’ve only had one job — to work with food. I’m al­ways so ex­cited to rep­re­sent her and the chefs and the men­tors that I’ve had that come from all back­grounds …”

The show will ex­plore such en­claves of culi­nary crosspol­li­na­tion as the Viet­namese in New Or­leans, Mex­i­cans in Chicago, Haitian cul­ture in Mi­ami, Ukrainian-Rus­sian tra­di­tions in Seat­tle.

“This part­ner­ship will … rep­re­sent my jour­ney and also the jour­ney of all the chefs that gave some­one from my kitchen or my­self a shot,” he said. “And yeah, it’s funny what you can learn in grandma’s kitchen.”

Sa­muels­son thinks the im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence is unique, and he un­der­stands it well.

“They’re up­rooted very of­ten,” he said. “There’s some­thing dra­matic hap­pen­ing in their coun­try. They were up­rooted from ev­ery­thing and came to Amer­ica, and very of­ten food — even if they had other gigs and other jobs and other things in their home­land — food was their first en­trée into this coun­try. And they made a liv­ing out of it. And I think that shows how in­cred­i­ble Amer­ica is and can be and will be. And I think we, as con­tent providers, have a huge op­por­tu­nity and re­spon­si­bil­ity to show that.”

Sa­muels­son stud­ied at the Culi­nary In­sti­tute in Gothen­burg, Swe­den, and later ap­pren­ticed in Aus­tria and Switzer­land. He was 23 when he im­mi­grated to the U.S. and landed a job as an ap­pren­tice at an up­scale restau­rant in Manhattan. A year later he be­came the ex­ec­u­tive chef there and copped a three-star re­view from the New York Times.

Sa­muels­son, 47, thinks the show will be dis­tinc­tive. “Be­cause you can fol­low up with com­ments and cre­ate com­mu­ni­ties that are strong, and we can fol­low up in a way, whether it’s on so­cial me­dia or through other ways that maybe you wouldn’t have the op­por­tu­nity on other shows.”

While ev­ery­one may have his fa­vorite Chi­nese or Mex­i­can restau­rant, there are count­less other eth­nic de­lights to be sam­pled, Sa­muels­son said.

“What’s amaz­ing as a cook and as a food lover is our di­ver­sity. What­ever hap­pens, try to go some­where else in the world. About 20, 30 years later, we have that food in our coun­try, and it’s amaz­ing. We’re bet­ter for it … I wouldn’t even imag­ine how Amer­ica would taste with­out im­mi­grants, and that restau­rant or food has been that first en­try point. What’s cool now is that some­thing like Eater (an on­line food site and co-pro­ducer) de­votes a whole ed­i­to­rial team to not just tell the story about the fancy restau­rant, but ac­tu­ally tells the story about Sri Lankan food in Staten Is­land or Ethiopian food in D.C.”

The PBS pro­ducer of the se­ries, Pamela A. Aguilar, de­scribes “Pass­port” this way: “It’s Mar­cus com­ing into a city, meet­ing in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ters, and then through their sto­ries and their ex­pe­ri­ences re­ally div­ing deep into that im­mi­grant com­mu­nity. But it’s also (about) how there’s al­ways a fu­sion within the greater Amer­i­can cul­ture and then see­ing what those touch points are, and how then we can cel­e­brate the dif­fer­ences and also cel­e­brate the bridg­ing of it all. So there­fore, (with) ‘No Pass­port Re­quired,’ you can ba­si­cally go around the world but stay in the U.S. be­cause we cel­e­brate ev­ery­one equally.”


Chef Mar­cus Sa­muels­son, who was born in Ethiopia but raised in Swe­den, is host­ing his new show, “No Pass­port Re­quired,” pre­mier­ing Tues­day on PBS. Sa­muels­son will visit var­i­ous pock­ets of eth­nic cui­sine in six cities.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.