Friday, December 02, 2005

Discovery's Inner Chef

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Executive chef and author Marcus Samuelsson

I've been looking for this one throughout the month of Novemeber (its proposed debut month), but never seemed to be able to catch it. In any event, the Travel Channel has its chef and novelist Anthony Bourdain, and now it looks as if the Discovery Channel has its very own four-star chef and cookbook author, Marcus Samuelsson in a new series titled, Inner Chef.

A native of Ethiopia who was orphaned at the age of three, Samuelsson eventually found his truest passion -- in cooking. Influenced by his adoptive Swedish grandmother, a professional cook, while growing up in Sweden, Samuelsson began helping out with family meals by the time he was six. When he turned 16, he decided upon a career in the culinary field and attended the Culinary Institute in Goteborg, Sweden.

After graduating, he apprenticed in various countries including Switzerland and Austria. In 1992, he was selected to apprentice for eight months at Aquavit in New York City. At the time, Hakan Swahn, owner of Aquavit, was working to establish an unprecedented identity for Swedish cuisine in the United States, and he recruited Samuelsson to help him achieve his goal. After his apprenticeship at Aquavit, Samuelsson traveled to France to work for world-renowned Georges Blanc at his three-star Michelin restaurant. In 1994, Samuelsson returned to Aquavit and worked his way up through the ranks to become the executive chef.

Since then, he has received numerous accolades including a three-star review from The New York Times, an award for "Rising Star Chef" in 1999 by the James Beard Foundation, a four-star rating in Forbes and an award for being one of "The Great Chefs of America" from the Culinary Institute of America. Samuelsson has also been featured in Gourmet, USA Today and has appeared on CNN, ABC's Good Morning America. And now, the Discovery Channel is bringing his award-winning talent and unique creativity to kitchens like yours across America in the new Discovery Home series Inner Chef.

In the series, Samuelsson visits a different homeowner in each episode, getting to know the homeowner and identifying their hopes and fears in the kitchen so that he can help to discover and unleash their "inner chef." In the process, he brings creative and practical solutions to the problems of an average kitchen and an average cook. Having once lived in Sweden, France and the United States, he draws upon several culinary traditions to surprise and delight his trainees. Samuelsson cooks side by side with the homeowner, planning and organizing a special meal event — a dinner party or a special dinner in someone’s honor — while his apprentice learns a whole new way to utilize the kitchen.

First, he familiarizes himself with the homeowner's personality and lifestyle, inspecting the cupboards, pots, pans, accessories and appliances and noting what the kitchen lacks and what changes could improve the cooking experience. After outlining what is needed to plan the menu and prepare the meal, he cooks alongside the homeowner and demonstrates ways to spice up dishes and simplify cutting and cooking techniques. After preparing the meal, he presents the food like an artist, making certain dishes are beautiful to the eye. If a homeowner doesn’t have the perfect table setting or a complete set of serving dishes, he shows how to improvise, borrowing from the homeowner’s different collections.

So do check your local listing for exact times to watch this young culinary artist work his magic -- while I also continue to look out for the best time (?) to catch it in my own neck of the woods.

As I've already mentioned, Marcus Samuelsson is the author of Aquavit : And the New Scandinavian Cuisine . One of the treasures I'm proud to say that I have on my cookbook shelf, Aquavit is illustrated with vibrant color photographs that echo the pleasures of the food they display. Without any doubt, this book is as special as its innovative and worldly author.

Well, it's for certain that this weekend will be a non-stop busy one for me, but I do hope yours will be a great one wherever you might be. So whatever the case, let's all make it a good one. Peace.

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