Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson has said he will “put Bermuda on the map” globally, and hopefully more jobs will be created for Bermudians along the way.
Speaking to the Bermuda Sun this morning, the owner of the acclaimed Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem said that every week he mentions the island on his TV appearances as well as chef’s forums.
His world-class restaurants are also predominantly staffed by locals. He said: “Because I’m on TV a lot in the States and in Europe and I will take Bermuda with me to the world, wherever I go. Hopefully we can get America’s Cup that would be amazing here. We (at the restaurant) can also create our own voice and noise and pass it into the worldwide magazines and websites. We can collectively put Bermuda on the map, which it already is, but the more the better.
“A restaurant like this is an important step it is very competitive out there. All of these things — potentially Americas Cup, even being in contention for the Americas Cup, and what we are doing here — it all helps getting the word out and it creates jobs. I talk about Bermuda every week on chef’s forums or The Taste or The Feed or any TV shows I’m on.”
The Ethiopian and Swedish chef has been helming his pop-up restaurant at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess — Samuelsson at HP — since June to gather feedback and learn about Bermuda’s culinary culture. The pop-up was designed to inform his permanent restaurant slated to open at the hotel in May 2015.
He would give specifics about what, if anything, will remain on the menu from the pop-up but he did say that among the most popular dishes served so far have been the Catch of the Day, the Jerk Pork and the Fish Chowder Croquets. He said that the menu for the permanent restaurant, for the most part, will be different to the pop up.
“The pop up has been a learning process — every place is different. We asked, ‘how long Bermudians like to sit and eat?’ ‘Do they eat in large parties?’
“I don’t want to learn this when we open the restaurant. We have also learned about our staff and the local staff working together so it’s been a really valuable lesson and a lot of fun. We are going to write the menu now and its not going to be the same. The distance from the kitchen now, for example, is very far but in the real restaurant it will be very close and it changes everything. The pop up is just a framework to get us used to a lot of things. I have an idea of how the menu will look like but we have nine months to work it out. I learned that here they like bite size appetizers and snacks to start with and to eat communally.”
Local farmers and fishermen are set to benefit from the opening of Samuelsson’s restaurant as his emphasis is on Bermudian produce.
“I have fish scales all over my hands — I know that seafood will be a major part of the menu our catch of the day is very popular every day and it should be.
“When you come to a place like Bermuda nature is so king and it drives my decisions as a chef. We are also connecting with local farmers in terms of poultry and meat and produce. I want to have as much local engagement as possible. The restaurant will have a large grill so we will use that a lot.”
As for the atmosphere he hopes to create, while there will be an air of formality, he hopes his guests will have a lot of fun.
“I want to build an energetic, vibrant restaurant that doesn’t compromise on quality.
“What I know what our restaurant here will do in common with Red Rooster — it will be an upbeat place where the locals feel very welcome and its their place. That energy is linked to culture so we will play local music as well — we will play reggae and soca in the restaurant.”
Asked if he would host live, local entertainment he replied: “First we focus on serving guests and hopefully as we build our programming… you never know.
It’s something I want to think about secondary first is the core menu.”
Samuelsson will spend as much time as possible in Bermuda while running his other restaurants in New York, Norway and Sweden. Asked whether not being on site permanently might raise some challenges, Samuelsson said: “There are always challenges in work but this comes down to training and aspiring to a brand. We can train well and have people who are very committed and loyal we should build a fantastic restaurant and the Green family and Fairmont Hamilton Princess are giving us the bones and framework to do so. It’s all here — it’s up to us to get going.”
As for his impression of Bermudian cuisine as a whole Samuelsson reflected: “I went to The Waterlot — that’s a place you can see there is a lot of tradition also great staff and wine. Then you walk down the street in Hamilton and you have fun, small pubs and bars and Italian restaurants. I liked that it is a pretty diverse scene here. With 1609 you have a beautiful view. I think we will fit in well but also stand out and be different and will have a voice in the restaurant community in Bermuda and that’s something we want to take seriously. We will be a community.”