Marcus Samuelsson Named Honoree at James Beard Foundation’s Chefs & Champagne Event

By Rick Kern/Getty Images.
Marcus Samuelsson at a 2017 Sundance Film Festival event

The New York and D.C. top toque joins predecessors Martha Stewart, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Wolfgang Puck.

Each spring, the culinary world hotly anticipates the James Beard Foundation’s announcement of its annual Chefs & Champagne event honoree. This year’s choice is Marcus Samuelsson, who joins a list of predecessors including Martha Stewart, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse and Ted Allen and will be feted July 29 at Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, N.Y., for one of the Hamptons’ premiere food and wine gatherings.

“I’ve been in New York now for 20 years and have done an enormous amount of Beard dinners and been lucky enough to have five Beard awards,’’ says Samuelsson. “It’s such an aspirational place and connects past with present and the future. I remember when I first got here, thinking about my goals — get a good New York Times rating and Zagat review, and cook at the Beard House. When I did cook there, Roy Choi and Rich Torrisi were my interns. Being an American chef today means being involved with that place.’’

Apart from his New York restaurants Red Rooster Harlem, Ginny’s Supper Club and Sweetbird Rotisserie, and his newest venture, Marcus, outside of Washington, D.C., Samuelsson co-produces the annual food and culture festival Harlem EatUp! “I learned how to be part of a community and help build a community through the Beard House,’’ says the toque, who has appeared on Top Chef Masters, Chopped All Stars and The Taste.   

“I grew up in a fishing village in Sweden, and I die to be by the water and close to nature,” says Samuelsson of the appeal of the Hamptons setting for the Beard summer tasting party. “When we are out there, nobody is rushing somewhere; we are all just hanging out in a beautiful setting and we get to see a lot of friends.’’

Chefs will be chefs, and outside of their own restaurants, the distinguished and respected professionals tend to loosen up a bit. Recalls Samuelsson, “Two years ago at the event, when we were finished cooking, Daniel Boulud starting spraying everyone with Champagne!’’