Marcus Samuelsson, the award-winning, internationally acclaimed chef who has become a household name through TV shows, books, and popular restaurants, opened Marcus Bar & Grille two months ago in the Old Fourth Ward. Now that he’s had time to establish the restaurant’s presence on Edgewood Avenue and get acquainted as an Atlanta chef, he’s launched weekend brunch service (by popular demand) and is becoming acquainted with customers welcoming him to town. This makes it a good time to check in on how things are going.
Mike Jordan recently sat with Marcus Samuelsson at Marcus B&G, and shared a few dishes, including his seafood pasta, which has emerged as a hit for Atlanta diners. Below are five questions we had for Marcus Samuelsson, and his reflections on each.
Marcus Samuelsson Reflects on His Role In Atlanta’s Growing Food Scene
TLP: A couple months’ existence means Marcus Bar & Grille is officially official now. How does it feel?
MS: I feel blessed. I’m really grateful and thankful how Atlanta has received us. We’re coming in, working really hard, heads down. The love we got from both the hospitality community and our guests has been amazing.
Being in an historical African American community means something to me. I could have gone to Buckhead; I could have gone anywhere. But being here means something and having an open kitchen, so you see who’s working — predominantly, people of color in terms of staff and leadership and a lot of female chefs and managers—it’s been amazing so far. And we’re humbled, right? Opening restaurants has a lot of moving parts. We don’t take anything for granted.
TLP: What is Atlanta telling you so far? What’s showing up as the thing the crowd likes?
MS: We’re selling a lot of seafood pasta. Just knocking it out. That’s been great to see. Our bass: we love our bass but we didn’t know it would pop like that. Also our simple dishes, like brisket on fries. It’s just like home; we cook it outside on the grill and smoke it for a long time. It’s really a two-day dish: It doesn’t look like a lot but it has a lot of flavor.
TLP: When you’re here, how much are you able to get out and around—like, really explore?
MS: Two years ago I could do much better. Now is my time to be here and listen. I’m reading guest comments, looking at feedback from what Google tells us and from our team. So right now I’ve just got to study. It’s my job to just study and respect it.
TLP: Atlanta has had varying relationships with chefs who come in with national and international name recognition. Did that add any pressure?
MS: I can’t speak to other chefs; I can only speak to our journey. And for me, it’s about showing respect for an incredible city that has given me so much.
TLP: Traditionally, other cities around the country are seen as more “prestigious” dining destinations than Atlanta. Is that changing?
MS: One of the beautiful things about being an immigrant and being Black is there’s a lot of noise. You’ve got to have humility on one side, and enough je ne sais quoi and arrogance on this side, to do your own thing. I started in hospitality and was told I couldn’t be an executive chef and could never own a restaurant. All this stuff is noise.
Maybe it’s not the goal to be looked at “seriously.” Ask those guys at Toast if they care. I know they have a line out the door and they’re shutting down at 5 p.m. because they’re so busy. They don’t care. The people of Atlanta love it, it’s great, and they’re creating jobs. We should applaud that. Maybe it’s an important step that Michelin [Guide] comes to Atlanta; maybe not. Clearly Atlanta can survive without it.
Eat, Drink, Do in Atlanta
Carmel, the new coastal-inspired restaurant from Tal Baum’s Oliva Restaurant Group (Bellina Alimentari, Aziza, etc.) opened May 16 at Buckhead Village with lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch and more.
Visit the Salt Fire Smoke Food Festival on White Hills Farm in Georgia from June 2 to June 4. Celebrate the harvest season and the indispensable contribution of our farmers and craftsmen to the community.
VIP ticket holders will have an exclusive chef’s potluck dinner with top chefs, farmers, and craftsmen. On June 3, enjoy bites from eight exceptional chefs, made with fresh local ingredients, amidst blooming lavender fields. On June 4, pay homage to the hardworking heritage farmers and craftsmen with presentations on their work. Learn about salt harvesting, sausage-making, soap from buffalo tallow, mushroom foraging, and lavender. Don’t miss this chance to savor the fruits of our local farmers’ labor and connect with food lovers, farmers, and artisans. Tickets are limited, so secure yours today!
- by Amber Chase
- by Emily Havener
- by Amber Chase