Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden by his adoptive family, Chef Marcus Samuelsson currently resides in the United States with his wife, model Gate Maya Haile. Samuelsson, a TV personality and "Top Chef Masters" champion, owns three restaurants, Red Rooster Harlem and Ginny's Supper Club in New York and Norda in Gothenburg, Sweden. His latest project is his memoir, "Yes, Chef" (Random House, $27).
An avid traveler whose family is spread worldwide, the telegenic chef says the best way to get a feel for a new country is to have a drink with the locals. "I think food is one way to see what's local, but you always want to drink what they drink, too," advises Samuelsson, 42. "Whether you're drinking mezcal in Mexico or tea in Ethiopia, it helps you understand that culture." Fans may follow him on Twitter (at)MarcusCooks.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. My favorite place to go is the fishing village where my father was born. I have a house in Smogen, Sweden, and everyone in my family uses it except me, which is OK. I often view a year based on failures and successes, and success for me is measured by how many days I spend in that house. For the last 36 months, I didn't spend any time there.
Some might view it as an odd way to measure success, but for me this house in Smogen is a place where my mother enjoys her time, my sister and her kids come to spend the summer, the people I truly care about are there. I get joy in knowing everyone had a good time. The way my father had to work to take care of everybody, I feel like I'm prolonging the tradition of the family by going to spend time there.
Q. To someone who was going there for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?
A. Fish. Fishing is not only about catching fish, but it's the ritual of getting up early, going down by the boat house and smelling the salt from the water. No matter how early you go there's an old man that's there before you. From there it might take you 45 minutes to find the perfect spot and you might only fish for an hour, but it's just knowing you've been out there. Once I'm back at the house and fixing myself a cup of coffee, it's only 9 o'clock. I can spend the rest of the time doing whatever I want -- fixing a meal, playing soccer, whatever!
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. I think Africa just has that mystique. I would love for people to travel in Africa the way we travel in Europe. Hitting a place like Addis Ababa -- it's just a different vocabulary, rhythm, music, smells. ... It's ancient and modern at the same time. You come back with your eyes wide open.
Q. In what city have you eaten the most amazing meal?
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