Eddie Huang: Marcus Samuelsson Doing 'Gross Injustice' to Harlem
In an op-ed for the New York Observer, the chef reviews Red Rooster and its reflection of the Harlem neighborhood
It seems everyone we know has been combing through the latest Marcus Samuelsson memoir Yes, Chef (in stores June 26), so it makes sense that New York chef Eddie Huang would write an opus examining Samuelsson's story. And it's not very positive.
Huang, who's been known to blog about race, pop culture, and more on his blog Fresh Off the Boat, starts off by calling Samuelsson's memoir "overcooked," saying, Red Rooster (and the book) "fails utterly in its goal of paying homage to the neighborhood, coming off instead like an embarrassing exercise in condescension."
Of course, Huang brings along Harlem native and rapper-producer Shiest Bubz on his trek to Red Rooster, where he promptly reviews the food (stale cornbread, broken-down sauce for the chicken, but good Swedish-influenced meatballs), all while discussing how Red Rooster doesn't really do much for Harlem.
Some samples from the op-ed below:
On Stereotyping: "Marcus Samuelsson is a supremely important global voice in America, but that shouldn’t give him license to speak for Harlem. By catering to diners outside Harlem and talking down to the ones who live there — promising things like 'elevated' soul food — he treats the place like a museum exhibit. He speaks in stereotypes, desperately trying to capture snapshots of villagers dancing, praying, and bespoke-suiting to display in this playhouse of a restaurant."
On Samuelsson's Soul Food Mistake: "What he doesn’t realize about Harlem, soul food, and perhaps himself is that they’re all good enough already. It’s the rest of the world that needs to catch up."
On Harlem Changing: "Then again, to hear Mr. Samuelsson tell it, things are looking up. At one point, he writes about noticing how much the neighborhood had changed in the six years since he’d moved in. 'People were walking with Target bags now,' he notes. 'It made me smile.'"
Read the full piece over at the New York Observer.