Funny how things have changed since March when we were staying home and finding all kinds of things to do. You know, stuff we put off for the past, oh, I’d say 10 to 20 years.
For the most part those tasks are finished. And remember how fun it was to cook nice dinners trying new recipes and feeling very chef like? Well, I’m here to tell you I’m over that. Here’s proof: Since we had a big lunch the other day we had popcorn for dinner. I can just hear my mom say, “Oh, for Pete’s sake.”
Looking at cookbooks usually inspires me, but this time not so much. So when I got an email from Steve Boleski at Morgan Stanley telling me I was invited to a virtual presentation with Chef Marcus Samuelsson, I thought aha! He’ll get me back in the cooking groove. He’s an award-winning chef, restaurateur, author, philanthropist and self-proclaimed “food nerd.”
He demonstrated what has to be delicious a recipe for halibut with glaze on broken rice. Broken rice is more like grits and cooks faster than rice. (I pay attention to anything that means I can speed up meal preparation.)
But most of the hour was his interesting insights on not only food, but culture and the role food plays in it. He’s cooked and judged on many of the cooking shows and finished his latest book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food” in March.
He asked the publisher to hold off until he could address the issues in our country, mainly the pandemic and racial unrest.
Marcus found his love for cooking in the humble kitchen of his grandmother in Sweden. He says he remembers the great feeling he had when he cooked a meal for the first time by himself. He’s been cooking ever since. He has cooked for President Obama in the White House.
But he also is very introspective about the industry and the importance of people, all people, helping each other.
One point he made was about mentoring, a practice I believe is very important. “Let a young person mentor you, we can learn from someone younger,” he said.
That’s such a good idea. We constantly think students and those younger than us can learn from us and we hope they do. But many times I’ve mentored a person and I’m sure I learned as much or more than they did.
The Red Rooster is the name of his his very popular restaurant in Harlem in New York. And he loves being in the business of feeding people, but he wants everyone to cook and have fun doing it.
“Learn how to cook. Cook! If you know how to cook, you’re going to be a more engaged diner,” he said.
That’s true. Think of the number of times you’ve tasted something in a restaurant and thought, ‘How come I can’t cook like this?’ or ‘My roasted chicken is never this good.’ Or maybe ‘Shoot, my spaghetti sauce is better than this.’
We’re still riding the Coronacoaster but we’re into the holidays so it’s time to get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans.
I’m going to make halibut with the lovely glaze Marcus made. Let’s forget that the last time I made a glaze I had to chip some of it out of the pan and soaked the pan for two days to get the rest of it out.
Try, try again.
Reach Bonnie Bing at [email protected]