Chef captures culture of Harlem in cookbook: ‘The Red Rooster Cookbook’

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C. Jayne Trent

Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s new cookbook “The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem” is a delightful mélange of recipes, essays, history and photographs celebrating Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City long associated with black culture. 

Owner of Red Rooster in Harlem and best-selling author of “Yes, Chef: A Memoir” and other books, Samuelsson takes readers on a culinary and cultural tour of his adopted home. Growing up in Ethiopia, Samuelsson has been largely inspired by his home roots.

Neatly divided into bite-size sections, like “Pantry,” “Bar” and “Birdland,” each section of the cookbook has its own unique flavor and taste and should come with a warning not to read if you’re hungry. The section titled “Birdland” especially made me yearn for my long-gone Nana’s fried chicken. The following part of the book walks readers through the week, starting with “The Monday Classics” and ending with “Sunday Jazz.”

Folded into this narrative of an intimate, vibrant and colorful neighborhood are recipes, of course. While some of the recipes appear more specific to Harlem, there are recipes for many globally-inspired dishes, as well. Plainly written, scrupulously detailed and accompanied by artful photos, the recipes are fun to read even for myself, a decidedly non-foodie. Samuelsson has a knack for demystifying the cooking process, which may be because of his down-to-earth descriptions and clear, step-by-step instructions. His palpable enthusiasm for food, love and life radiates throughout this book. Two whisks up!