by Samantha Grieder
Capital Cooking Contributor
Capital Cooking Contributor
On Friday, July 29th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Marcus Samuelsson braved the heat of the District in the name of good food and fighting hunger. On this day, the Top Chef Masters winner had set up shop in Eastern Market. The award-winning celebrity chef is one of the many who is pairing up with the Macy's Culinary Council and hitting the road, serving free food in cities around the country.
While the Culinary Council has been in existence for years, Macy's Chefs-a-Go-Go is the organization's first national food truck tour. Rick Bayless, Cat Cora, Todd English, Emeril Lagasse, and Wolfgang Puck are just a few of the other participating chefs in the program.
Each chef chooses one or two cities to cook for and serves free food samples of his or her choice, all while raising money for Feeding America, an organization that works to end hunger within the United States. "All these chefs have so many restaurants that not everyone can afford," Samuelsson said. "There are 10 million children in this country that are going hungry. This is just one way for us to give back."
The truck tour launched in Miami on Jule 28th and will continue through the summer. So far, Macy's and the chefs have helped to raise about $10,000, where $1 provides seven meals for those in need.
"I chose D.C. because I love it here. I'm in D.C. all the time," Samuelsson said. "There's always something magical about being in large markets, whether you're walking through Eastern Market or Reading Terminal [in Philadelphia] or Grand Central in Los Angeles."
On this day, he offered blackened catfish sandwiches, served with slaw and a side of sweet potato fries. The marinated fish was tender and very flavorful. "Catfish is something that's accessible in this area," he said, stressing the importance of using local ingredients, which he used in his slaw. With whole families visiting him, Samuelsson wanted his first impression to be meaningful. If fish tastes good, kids might start to eat it. "This is a chance to make an impression," said the chef.
And with the District being a constantly evolving community, the chef has found inspiration here. "The food community is changing," he said, with more immigrants, a spectrum of wealth, mom and pop shops thriving among corporate entities, "there's a better blend now." Different tiers of people are coming together in cities like D.C., and they're able to share commonalities though food.
This is the message he came to D.C. to support. He would make one more appearance with the Macy's Culinary Council, but the work isn't done yet. The truck tour will stop in many other cities throughout the United States, with different celebrity chefs delivering the same beliefs. The baton has been passed, and now it's up to others to attack the issue of hunger in America. Donations are collected in a box at the truck window, dollar by dollar. "You don't have to be a CEO of a company to make a difference," Samuelson said. "Anyone can afford it."
For now, Marcus Samuelsson finds himself focusing on Red Rooster Restaurant back in Harlem, N.Y. Forming a sense of community through food while supporting local ingredient purveyors and a well-rounded palate is of the utmost importance, and this is where he pours his energy.
One day in the future, though, "I would love to do something in D.C." he told me. And for his fans in this city, that's all they need to know for now.