(The author is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are her own.)
By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
NEW YORK, March 16 As success stories go, chef
Marcus Samuelsson’s is as geographically varied and fascinating
as they come.
Born in Ethiopia and separated from his family a few years
later during the Ethiopian civil war, Samuelsson was then
adopted and raised by a Swedish couple, who taught him his
earliest lessons about money and work ethic.
In the span of his career, the 46-year-old Samuelsson has
won awards both for his cooking at New York City’s Aquavit and
later his own restaurant, Red Rooster, as well as for his books.
These range from a memoir to several cookbooks, including the
2016 “The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in
In May, the New York City-based Samuelsson will open a
London outpost of Red Rooster. He talked to Reuters about his
recipes for cooking up financial success.
Q: What were some of your first lessons about money?
A: My mom came from poverty and understood the value of
money. She was very responsible and looked at her bank account
every day to make sure it added up correctly. Even when her
financial situation changed for the better, she was always very
smart with her money.
Q: Who else taught you the value of money?
A: My uncles were fishermen. Where they stood with money
could change swiftly because of the weather. If they went
fishing on the roughest day, the price of the fish went up, and
on good weather days, they might not go out because the prices
would be so low. Even though they didn't have a lot of money,
they always ate well.
Q: What was your first job?
A: My first job was fishing, and it definitely shaped my
work ethic. You wake up early and have to clean the boat and
other equipment. You'd be out there all day sometimes battling a
rough sea, and then you'd come back and collect your wages.
There was also a social aspect of it that was fun. It definitely
taught me the value of hard work.
Q: What drove you to open your own restaurant?
A: I was inspired by advice from my mom about cooking for
people in the community where I lived. Up until that point, I
had been cooking for the 1 percent. It just made sense to open a
restaurant in Harlem - which was also where I made my home. I
love that the clientele at Red Rooster are a mix of local
Harlemites, the downtown crowd, and people from all over the
world visiting. It's very much in-and-of the Harlem community.
Q: What has running your own restaurant taught you about
A: Humility. You can have a great day and then the next day
will be the opposite because of the weather or something breaks
in the kitchen. Being an entrepreneur is an endurance test that
challenges you and your team.
Q: How do you give back?
A: Coming from a humble background, I wouldn't be here
without people being charitable, so I think about that all the
time. I try to select charities across various matters including
culinary education or clean water in Africa, or something else
needing immediate action. In addition, I've also been involved
with many organizations over the years and am currently a board
co-chair at C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program), which
prepares underserved youth for careers in the professional world
of culinary and hospitality.
Q: What life lessons did you father teach you about money?
A: Growing up, my father made it clear that his money was
his money and not mine. He was happy to help out, but never paid
for everything. He taught us if we wanted it, we'd have to do it
ourselves. When I wanted to visit Japan, my dad paid for half,
but it was up to me to come up with the other half so I could
travel. It took me a year to save for that trip, and it felt so
good once I was on the plane knowing I had worked hard to make
Q: What's the best piece of advice about money that anyone
ever gave you?
A: Respect it.
(Editing by Lauren Young and David Gregorio)