Born in Ethiopia, Marcus Samuelsson grew up in the care of adoptive parents in Sweden. He began cooking at a young age under the watchful care of his grandmother who was a professional chef. A graduate of the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, Sweden, Samuelsson apprenticed in Switzerland, Austria, and France before coming to the US.
In 1995, he was hired as the executive chef at New York’s Aquavit; just three months later, Aquavit received a three-star review from The New York Times. Samuelsson received the James Beard “Rising Star Chef” award in 1999, and “Best Chef, New York” in 2003. He was recognized in Crain’s New York Business’ annual “40 under 40,” and was celebrated as one of “The Great Chefs of America” by The Culinary Institute of America.
Known for many years as a wunderkind of Scandinavian cuisine, Samuelsson returned to the cuisine of his birth, publishing The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa in 2006, which received a James Beard Award for “Best International Cookbook” in 2007.
Samuelsson is the co-founder and chief creative director of Townhouse Restaurant Group, a restaurant management and consulting company with projects in the US and Europe, including New York City’s Aquavit, Riingo, AQ Kafé, and August, C-House (in Chicago), and formerly Merkato 55, an Ethiopian-focused restaurant in New York City’s Meatpacking district. He is the author of Aquavit and the New Scandinavian Cuisine, Aquavit c/o New York, En Smakresa med Marcus Samuelsson, and Street Food. His upcoming book, New American Table, is due out in October.
Samuelsson is the host of “The Inner Chef with Marcus Samuelsson”, a cooking series on the Discovery Home Channel that premiered in the fall of 2005. Samuelsson serves on the StarChefs.com Advisory Board and the board of directors of Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), and is an ambassador for the US Fund for UNICEF. In 2005, Samuelsson was appointed visiting professor of International Culinary Science at the Umeå University School of Restaurant and Culinary Arts, and received an honorary doctorate of culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University in 2006.