Conversation is a favorite word of his: the complex play between people and place. “I’m an inside-outsider in a lot of places,” he says. “When I jump on a plane and go to Ethiopia, I’m the white guy. They call after me, ‘Falenge! Foreigner! Foreigner!’ Even though I look like them, they can tell something’s odd, a little bit off. When you’re a kid you don’t know how to process that off-ness. Now I’m at a point where I want to celebrate it.”
Our own conversation is briefly halted by the appearance of a large, salty, charred steak with bone-marrow-enriched béarnaise. The particular, compelling off-ness of Marcus Samuelsson’s multiple dislocations may be hard for most of us to relate to, but there’s a simple lesson here: to appreciate the style of where you’re from, it helps to get away from home, to be engaged by other conversations. Because he’s not quite from either place, Samuelsson says, he’s “more pro-America than Americans and more pro-Göteborg than Göteborgers. I like it like that.”
We have a half-dozen bars on our hit list. But this can’t be another late night for the chef. Home is beckoning. The day after he lands, he’s due at the White House to meet with Mrs. Obama.
Coming Soon: Norda Grill & Post Bar 10 Drottningtorget, Göteborg; 46-317/619-000; opening February 2012.
Adam Sachs is a T+L contributing editor.