“For me, [Red Rooster] is something that represents Harlem today that also honors Harlem of the past in the most delicious way,” he says.
In the eight years since it’s safe to say they’ve been able to accomplish that and more. In that time, not only has he helped open more restaurants, but he’s achieved the status of superstar celebrity chef, working with everyone from the late Anthony Bourdain on Parts Unknown to hosting a state dinner for President Barack Obama. In July 2018, Samuelsson’s six-part travel series No Passport Required premiered on PBS.
“I don’t think I’ve ever left the kitchen. That’s where my creativity comes from.” – Samuelsson
Basically, he’s been a bit busy in the best way, evolving into new iterations of himself that have allowed Samuelsson to not only become more invested in the community he calls home, but the world at large. During this time, he says, they’ve worked constantly to add value to the Harlem community. It isn’t always easy — it takes a lot of work day in and day out from scores of people — but it is something Samuelsson says he’s proud to have accomplished.
“I will do whatever it takes to do that,” he says. “It’s a massive community engagement. Sometimes I have to be out there in the world with a big speaker on and sometimes I can sit next to what’s going on and just watch it and then sometimes I have to be in the kitchen. I’ll put on whatever hat I need to as long as it’s for Harlem and for Red Rooster. That’s completely different than when I cooked in midtown, cooking for the 1 percent.”
Even though he isn’t always in the kitchen physically any longer, Samuelsson says he’s still always there.
“I don’t think I’ve ever left the kitchen. That’s where my creativity comes from. I have a back of the house view on almost anything. That will always be my view. It’s something that allows you to do much more.”
One of the things that it has allowed him to do in recent months is partner with NBA star Kevin Love and the Banana Republic for an ad about a new collaboration between the two, the BR/K. LOVE-18 Collection. In the ad, Samuelsson calls Love while he’s putting the finishing touches on his outfit to question why Love would order off-menu during a recent visit to Red Rooster.
As a huge basketball fan (and someone who views his own team much like a coach of a sports team would), Samuelsson says he was overjoyed that his cooking got him to a point where he’d get to work with Love.
“Did I ever think that cooking would allow me to do something with Kevin Love and the Banana Republic? Absolutely not, but I love the fact that we’ve come to this point to celebrate that moment.”
The mindsets of both Red Rooster and Love line up for Samuelsson, too.
“We take a lot of pride in our style at Red Rooster, just as Kevin takes a lot of pride in his style.”
The 52-piece collection retails at a variety of price points, from $14.50 for accessories up to a leather biker jacket, which goes for $548. The collection is available in select Banana Republic stores and also includes a varsity jacket, motion-stretch suit separates, fitted corduroy trousers, refined topcoats, cozy sweaters, classic accessories, and camo detailing.