Marcus Samuelsson: TOP TEN BOOKS


Photo courtesy of Monika Sziladi

The Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef made a name for himself with Aquavit in New York, becoming the youngest chef to win a three-star review from The New York Times. He served as the guest chef for the first state dinner of the Barack Obama presidency, and opened the popular and acclaimed Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem in 2010. His latest venture is Marcus at The Four Seasons Hotel in Montreal. “Food for me is really a window into our own identity,” he says in the recent documentary, Julia, about the chef Julia Child. “It looks back at the history that was here before us [and] it really tells us who we are. If you want to taste who I am, taste this.”

Below are Marcus Samuelsson’s favorite books, available to purchase as a set or individually.


Driving the King

Ravi Howard
Ravi Howard is a good friend, and a master at creating fictionalized accounts based on true experiences. This is his newest work, published just last year in 2015, and it's just as gripping as his first book. This time, Ravi focuses on Nat King Cole, another man I admire.
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White Girls

Hilton Als
I like how Hilton Als deals with issues of gender in this book. It made me pause and think numerous times while I was reading. I am constantly thinking about these themes especially in the culinary world where women are really becoming more and more empowered and important to the industry.
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Charlie Trotter's

Charlie Trotter
The culinary world was devastated when we lost Charlie Trotter in 2013, but I am glad that his cookbooks live on. His first book was published in the nineties and really helped to secure his place as one of the great chefs on the end of the millennium.
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Harlem, U.S.A.

Dawoud Bey
Dawoud recently brought a copy of his book to me at my Harlem restaurant, Red Rooster. This look at the neighborhood in the '70s sums up why I love living here. Dawoud is the street photographer who captured the swagger of the people and life exactly as it was lived back then.

Out of stock

Currently unavailable

Go Tell it on the Mountain

James Baldwin
One of the first books I read when I moved to New York City, I like that James Baldwin imparts some of his own experience growing up in Harlem into this novel. It deals with issues of race and the church, and how both can be positive and negative factors in life.
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Miles: The Autobiography

Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe
If I could have a meal with anyone, it would be Miles Davis. It would be so cool to hear his stories and sit back and talk about jazz. Miles moved to NYC around the same age as I did, and he was a transformative player in the evolution of jazz music as we know it. This autobiography was his chance to tell all.
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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou
It was hard to choose which Maya Angelou work I wanted to include in this list, but I ultimately decided I wanted the one that her most definitive. This is the book that made her a voice to be heard. I was also tempted to include her book of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, for which she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
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New Orleans Cookbook

Lena Richard
This woman was the real deal. She paved the way for Leah Chase during the ‘50s and ‘60s, and she paved the way for women in restaurants today. The amazing female chefs in my own restaurants look up to these strong women of the early 20th century. Her recipes are nothing but good old fashioned comfort food, which I use a lot of in Red Rooster and Streetbird, my Harlem restaurants.
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Block Party: NYC Soul of Summer

Anderson Zaca
This is an amazing collection of black and white photos of life on the city streets in the summer that really inspired me when opening Streetbird Rotisserie in Harlem. The block party is something so quintessential that I love about living in NYC, and this book gets the vibe, the people, and the community just so.

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Currently unavailable

The Autobiography of Malcom X

as told to Alex Haley
I was certainly intrigued by this book because of the topic — Malcolm X is a fascinating guy in the Black Rights Movement. However, what really makes me appreciate this book is the top-notch journalism that Alex Haley exhibited, putting together these stories of Malcolm X's. I think about this book whenever I am at Red Rooster, located appropriately on Malcolm X Blvd.
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