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Cooking with Chef Samuelsson | Press Room | Chef Tips

th review_food_divaThe Food Diva

Published: June 27, 2008



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I had the amazing opportunity of working with celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson yesterday. Chef Samuelsson is the youngest chef to receive a three star rating from The New York Times. Along with his work with highly rated Aquavit in New York City, Chef Samuelsson has numerous restaurants around the world including the new Merkato55 which showcases the many vibrant flavors of several African countries. Marcus was recognized by the prestigious James Beard Foundation in 2003, has several cookbooks and has risen to star status with his highly regarded approach to food and culture. I must admit I was anxious, excited and eager to meet him. Chef Samuelsson was in San Francisco for a promo tour of his new book "The Soul Of A New Cuisine" and Hands On Gourmet was hired to work with him. Chef Samuelsson is the spokesperson for BlueStar, a company that makes professional stoves and ovens for home use. Just a week ago I was watching Chef Samuelsson challenge Bobby Flay on "Iron Chef" . And, now I'm working with him! Too cool.

pic review_food_diva02I arrived to the venue at 8am. I was told that Marcus would arrive at 9:30am for a morning shoot of a local TV show. To my surprise, as I was walking up two flights of stairs with several food boxes in hand, winded and red in the face, I walk in and who's there?? Marcus, an hour and a half early! I was delighted to meet him, but now more nervous that he was there before me. He approached me with a very warm smile, put out his hand, as I balanced the boxes, and said "hi, I'm Marcus". I caught my breath and replied "Good morning Chef Samuelsson, I'm Alex, I'm here to assist you". Before I could turn around and pick up my boxes to head to the kitchen, Marcus was off in a corner talking on his cell phone. He's a very busy guy. You know making deals, buying restaurants, doing interviews. I was planning to use the loading dock and load my equipment onto a small push cart. However, a delivery truck that was dropping off stoves and tables for the night's event was blocking the entry way. I continued to bring more boxes up the stairs. I thought I was going to pass out. I burned off my oatmeal cookie Luna bar that's for sure. The truck driver told me to wait 15 minutes and they would be heading out. Fifteen minutes, then twenty minutes passed, nada. What happened? The battery died, that's what happened..ah crap!! I lost 20 minutes, was all sweaty and had to get ready for the am photo shoot. I said to myself "don't worry, you can do this chica!". And I sure did.

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I got in the kitchen, put on my apron and began to pull ingredients out of boxes. If I am not organized I get this nervous energy that I can't work with. I like order in my kitchen. I was responsible for prepping all the food that Marcus would be cooking on TV. I made piri piri sauce that was fiery with tiny little red chile peppers, lots of garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and fresh herbs. I cut fresh pineapple into a petite dice and measured out flour, dark chocolate, butter and brown sugar for chocolate pancakes. I had to make sure that Marcus had all the equipment, plates, and ingredients he would need. No pressure. Yeah, right!

For the morning promo Marcus had an interview with Liam Mayclem from CBS5 "Eye On The Bay". Marcus was promoting BlueStar ranges along with his new cookbook . Marcus prepared shrimp piri piri, then guided Liam in making the chocolate pancakes. The pancakes were served with a fresh pineapple and cashew salad with mint. It was exciting to see all the action go down live and in person.

pic review_food_diva05The filming took about an hour to do. Afterwards, I cleaned up all the equipment that was used and prepared two more quarts of piri piri that would be used for the evening event. Along with a live demo from Marcus, the chefs of Hands On Gourmet would be doing live interactive cooking demos with the 300 plus invited guests. Some of the food items were prepared by a catering staff and then passed out after Marcus completed his demo. Here we are checking over the ingredients making sure nothing was forgotten. I tell you, I get OCD when it comes to checking food prep lists, especially when I am setting it up for someone else. This was a humbling experience. I have been a guests for numerous cooking demos and have had assistants to set up my demo. Today the role was reversed and I had to do this for a very well known chef.

The other items were completed with the guests at ten different stations. For the live demo Marcus cooked the shrimp. I had that set up all ready to go no problem, since I did it earlier in the day. Also, I prepped mango, tomato, jalapeno and couscous which was being served with a berbere crusted leg of lamb. The lamb had to be Frenched on the bone, very clean. Marinated in olive oil and garlic then crusted in a spicy berbere blend of chiles, spices and bread crumbs. The chefs at their stations prepared a beef stir fry with a spiced compound butter that was served with injera, a spongy crepe like Ethiopian bread that has a slight fermented note to it. Also, chocolate pancakes were fired up on griddles and served with pineapple and cashew salad and cinnamon whipped cream. I worked a very long day but seeing all the bright lights, and admiration that Chef Samuelsson received, along with the satisfaction I got from doing a good job, actually an excellent job according to Marcus, I know for sure this is the life I want.

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