Marcus Samuelsson is a busy man. Not only is he helming the kitchen at the popular new Red Rooster, he’s also just launched Food Republic, an online cooking and lifestyle publication geared toward the male sex. So we called up this Renaissance man and the site’s editorial director, Richard Martin, to learn more.
Tell me about the impetus for Food Republic.
Richard Martin: I came into the project recently because these guys had developed something interesting: a food website that talked about lifestyle but where food was really at the center of it, and mostly from a male perspective. Most food magazines and websites come from a woman’s point of view, or a neutral one. Guys are becoming more interested in cooking and food politics and there wasn’t something exclusive for them.
Marcus Samuelsson: I felt very strongly about that. There’s information that’s not just the latest menu item or what chefs are cooking. How do guys interact with food? I remember my father cooked maybe once a month and on a Friday night he’s like, “Let’s cook.” Now that guys are in the kitchen, we look at the kitchen differently. There’s a different conversation.
And why now?
Marcus Samuelsson: I’ve worked with food all my life and I see everything through food. If I read an article about a band, I want to know what they’re eating after the show. I think of everything as a cook. I wasn’t finding a lot about the intersection of food and politics. Food and politics will be the biggest conversation out there that we are now beginning to have.
So what exactly will your involvement be?
Marcus Samuelsson: We’re going to use a lot of outsiders. We have a narrative and a point of view, and I’m sharing my experiences with my editorial team. But it wouldn’t work without other contributors.
Richard Martin: Marcus is listed as a co-founder but he’s also an inspiration. Whenever I’m starting a new media product, I’m looking for ideal readers, and he’s one of them. If you take Marcus and put him on a train to D.C., he may get off and go to an Ethiopian restaurant or get his hair cut at a cool barbershop or go shopping for sneakers in Dupont Circle.
Are there plans for the site to become a print publication or to expand into a television show down the line?
Marcus Samuelsson: We’re about four days old. We have a big learning curve, but I think also the reader will tell us about what they want. We are excited about Food Republic and it’s a daily conversation. I can’t see beyond the launch right now.
Nowadays, chefs are much more than just people who cook for a living. Do you feel like chefs have to become brands?
Marcus Samuelsson: We called our site Food Republic because we wanted to invite chefs in and be inclusive in the conversation. If you want to know about Marcus, you can go to www.marcussamuelsson.com. This is a different conversation we’re having now. I look at my fellow chefs; they have a lot of information and I want them to share that. This isn’t just about chefs that are known. It’s about the guy on the L train. We have a lot of information and we want to share that with everyone.
What would you advise cooks just starting out in the business?
Marcus Samuelsson: I think you have to be extremely passionate and develop a narrative. Ask yourself why you cooking your food, both in the language and also in the food language. There are so many chefs and restaurants. Those that have the narrative get the voice. [Being a chef] is going to be fantastic but also horrible at times, too. I’m continuously on that road and I’m passionate. My curiosity increases every day.
Check back in tomorrow when Marcus reveals what it was like cooking for the one and only President Obama.