Chef Marcus Samuelsson on his new Red Rooster Overtown

With the debut of Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster Overtown, the chef spoke to Cultured about how he's taking his Harlem staple to Miami, his art collection and what he predicts the 2020's will bring for restaurants.

Cultured Magazine

Chef Marcus Samuelsson

I love the Red Rooster in Harlem, but I find it so rooted in its location that it’s hard for me to imagine the same restaurant in another borough, nonetheless another city. How will you bring this uptown ethos to Miami while remaining in and of your new location? The story of Red Rooster is really when we started to work on it 5 to 6 years before it opened. It’s been opened for 9 years. In order for the restaurant to evolve we decided three years ago to look at other cities in the US that have a diverse history—the history of African, African-American and Caribbean lineage. Miami and Overtown really become so central and connected to this story because of Overtown’s history. Moreover, our new location in Overtown, the historic pool hall, really is magical, not to mention, being neighbors with iconic Lyric Theater. We’re really excited about our community. For us it’s really about listening and learning, as well as focusing on creating jobs in Overtown. It’s been a long journey. The team has worked really hard. We’re getting ready.

How did you pick this new location? What are you most excited about when it comes to opening a Miami location? Being in Overtown was key, once we were able to truly connect the dots on the story and natural connection to Harlem. I’ve been asked for many years to open a restaurant on the beach, but I wanted to wait and do a restaurant that wasn’t seasonal but a part of the larger Miami conversation and culturally relevant. I wanted to find meaning and sense of history for people of color, so when my business partner Derek Fleming unearthed the opportunity, along with the CRA’s participation and the Simkins family support, we really had to do it. The fact that the Pool Hall and its incredible history would be a core element of the story, it was all the more compelling and exciting. You had Muhammad Ali, Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke socializing in the Pool Hall, there are so many similarities between Harlem and Overtown regarding their cultural richness. Good food will, of course, be an added feature.

 How will the menus differ, if at all, between the two locations? The menu is different. We’re in a tropical climate, the grill is central to our kitchen, the food in many ways is lighter. We have some of the same dishes—specifically the fried chicken and the shrimp and grits. In Overtown, we’re bringing out the Floridian roots, our partner Grove Bay has helped us. Chef Tristan who has worked at Red Rooster for many years, has done a great job in spearheading this new culinary journey.

Red Rooster Harlem has an incredible art collection, with work from David Hammons, Gordon Parks, Sanford Biggers and more. Will Overtown be art-centric as well? We’ve always exhibited a lot of African American artists because we’re working to tell a larger story about the breadth of the genre and its excellence. Franklin Sermons at PAMM has done an amazing job curating this story in Miami and he will be working with us on curation in Overtown, similarly to the way Thelma Golden worked with us in Harlem. My partner Derek Fleming is leading this curatorial endeavor in the way he did in Harlem. We also have the Simkins family and their passion for art as a core asset in building the collection. In Overtown, we will feature Theaster Gates, Derrick Adams, Sanford Biggers, Mickalene Thomas, Rashid Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, as well as local artists that are connected to the diaspora and the history of Overtown. The DNA of Red Rooster is just as much about celebrating great art as it is in executing all the other aesthetic components of a culturally rich, culinary destination.

What are your predictions for restaurants and food trends in the coming decade? I think three things. The future is female, green, and other. Maybe not in that order but it’s definitely time. When I say greenish—I think animal protein will still be there but no longer central on the plate.