Photo credit: Courtesy of Vegas PBS

Showing Love for America Through Food

On February 12 I had the great pleasure of attending a Vegas PBS Spotlight Series Event entitled Flavors of the Far East, a free community event to celebrate award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson here in Las Vegas to showcase the tradition and culture of our Chinese-American community on the PBS show No Passport Required.

Marcus Samuelsson’s many talents include being a restaurateur, cookbook author, food activist and philanthropist. He has made several appearances as a judge on Food Network’s TV show Chopped and is currently starring in his second season of No Passport Required, a television show aired on PBS, which brings into focus the rich ethnic diversity evident in our varied immigrant backgrounds and traditions showcasing what American food is all about.

When I asked Chef Marcus Samuelsson about his inspiration for No Passport Required, his answer was heartfelt and passionate. “I am an immigrant. I am an American. I love this country and I moved here because of food and I want to share that story.” No Passport Required is the story of that passion from Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s perspective. 

Fusion is a hot topic today and Marcus specializes in Ethiopian and Swedish cuisine. We talked about what was most unique between the two types of cooking. “I think it’s climate. Sweden is very cold, and Ethiopia is a very hot climate,” he started off. “So, the need to be able to preserve is very important, right? ... Out of those cold climates (Sweden) came preserving techniques that are unique. It’s why we smoke things and why we cure things even to this day. And in Ethiopia it’s all about the spices. It’s really surrounded by ‘berbere,’ a spice blend that’s uniquely Ethiopian.” I was fascinated. A Swedish and Ethiopian food fusion is not something we just happen across in our day to day lives. We could have talked about that alone, for hours. Chef Marcus goes on naturally to his love for every style of cooking and he asks the whys. “Why is the cooking done this way? I love that,” he said. “I love to know the ‘why’ around food.” 

I have found that people of extraordinary talent are often gifted in other areas too. Chef Marcus loves art, culture and most of all family, big families with a lot of people. It’s his favorite subject and he wasted no time getting there. “It’s why I love my job, because it’s about storytelling and sharing and breaking bread. It’s a unique ritual that everyone is proud of because everyone does it a bit differently.”

Chef Marcus did have a message to those who may have similar aspirations. “It’s about being passionate and having a vision and a mission. You really need to think through what you want to share and by thinking through that, you can achieve it. There’s so much competition out there, so you've really got to have a precise story you want to share. So, for me, it’s really two things that happen with No Passport Required. It’s sharing the story about immigration and the complexity around diversity and to show the story of the beautiful cities. That’s what we talk about ... I think we forget how diverse America is.” 

I feel it’s important to say that for Chef Marcus, No Passport Required is an important part of his mission. “It was a lot of fun and an amazing journey to be able to tell the story of the Brazilians in Boston and the Chinese in Las Vegas or the West Africans in Houston. The more we know about each other in this great nation, the more we will have an understanding of the person sitting next to you on the train or the person you’re working with or the person you go to school with. I think we need those things.” It was a beautiful sentiment and I felt pleased to tell him so. 

For an interesting visual experience of this Vegas PBS Spotlight Event please follow this link: 

The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional: Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson at Vegas PBS 

Special thanks to Videographer James Hsu:

Aaron Diec Bottles and Boxes: