Marcus Samuelsson’s son loves new hotels. The New York-based celebrity chef says that when he travels with his three-year-old Zion, “He and I wander the hallways together. He loves running in the halls, especially in big hotels with lots of space.”
It’s fortunate, then, that this Ethiopia-born, Sweden-raised toque has launched his newest restaurant venture, Marcus Restaurant + Terrace, at Four Seasons Hotel Montreal, a 169-room downtown address that opened earlier this year in Quebec’s largest city.
With restaurants in New York, Bermuda, Stockholm and now Montreal, this dynamic chef with an international pedigree has become a global brand. His U.S. career took off at Aquavit, which pioneered modern Scandinavian cuisine in North America, and he subsequently opened Red Rooster, his flagship restaurant in Harlem, where he lives with his wife, model Maya Gate Haile, and Zion.
Samuelsson — who also hosts PBS documentary series No Passport Required, which debuts its second season this fall — spoke with Forbes Travel Guide about his new restaurant, his favorite travel destinations and how being a father has affected the way he thinks about food.
Samuelsson on Partnering with Four Seasons
When local owner of Four Seasons Hotel Montreal Andrew Lutfy approached Samuelsson about a potential collaboration, the chef says, “The things that inspired me about the project were the sense of local pride and local excellence [in Montreal], as well as the opportunity to work with the Four Seasons, a world-class brand.”
“Old Montreal is beautiful, but the city also has a very contemporary feel,” Samuelsson says. In designing Marcus Restaurant + Terrace, an airy space with an expansive deck on the hotel’s third floor, he and his team thought long and hard about they could add something to an already-great food city.
It makes sense then that the chef, who grew up fishing with his father in Sweden, where mackerel, crayfish and lobster were all part of the family’s meals, wanted to focus on seafood. In Montreal, he says it’s easy to source excellent fish and shellfish from North America’s east coast. He sought to pair this bounty with lighter sensibilities, which explains why the menu also features a large raw bar, several tartares and dishes like maple-spiced salmon belly from a robata grill.
It was also important, Samuelsson says, “[to put] an open kitchen at the heart of the restaurant. I wanted the staff to feel like a part of the dining experience, where the guests eat with us.”
“Montreal’s chef community has been very open to us, and I hope to have the chance to explore the city,” the hard-working Samuelsson says. But with the restaurant still in its early days, “we just want to keep getting better. Opening Marcus Montreal is a huge commitment.”
Samuelsson on Travel
Operating restaurants around the globe, Samuelsson may not have a lot of time off, but he tries to combine business and leisure journeys when he can. “My wife and I love to go to Bermuda,” he says. “It’s only two hours from New York City, the same amount of time that it takes to drive to the Hamptons. I’ve had a restaurant there for five years [Marcus’ at Hamilton Princess], and we love the island environment.
“We also love to go back to Scandinavia, especially to cities like Stockholm and Copenhagen. I learn so much about sustainability in these cities. I bring a lot of those sensibilities back to New York, Montreal and my other projects.”
When asked about other destinations on the globe-trotting chef’s must-go list, he replies enthusiastically that there are lots of places he’d like to visit — and revisit. He’s traveled in South America, and says he’d especially like to return to Peru to go hiking with his wife. “My son is only three,” Samuelsson says, “but I’d like to bring him at some point, too. I’ve fallen in love with the food.
“I also want to explore — and eat — in Southeast Asia, particularly places like Cambodia that aren’t yet super touristy.”
Samuelsson on Fatherhood and Food
The talented chef, who has an adult daughter in addition to his son, said that being a father has influenced how he thinks about food. In particular, it’s inspired him to consider the kind of world that next generation will inherit. “It makes me think about tomorrow and about sustainability.”
When the chef speaks on Zion’s eating habits, he says that, unsurprisingly, even the three-year-old son of a noted chef eats like, well, a three-year old. “Right now, he likes potatoes, cauliflower and avocado,” Samuelsson says. “We’re getting corn in there, too.”
But Samuelsson is more excited when we ask him about traveling with Zion. “He’s already been on the same amount of flights as I was by the time I was 15,” he says. “He’s been several times to London, Sweden and Africa to visit his uncles, aunts and grannies. He comes along for work trips, too.” He’s even gone to Montreal with his dad, and Samuelsson says Zion loves it.
And why wouldn’t he? As the chef of Quebec’s newest hot spot puts it, “Montreal is a world-class food and beverage city. It’s an exciting place.”