Marcus Samuelsson Cooks For The Rockhouse FoundationThursday, January 10, 2019
Marcus Samuelsson, the Ethiopian Swedish celebrity head chef of Red Rooster in Harlem, New York, was guest chef for the Skylark Negril Beach Resort dinner series at the resort's famed eatery, Miss Lily's.
The holiday pop-up dinner unfolded on Friday, December 28 on the restaurant's open-air deck overlooking Negril's famed Seven Mile Beach. The series, which is in aid of the Rockhouse Foundation, kicked off in July last year, with St Lucian born chef Nina Compton delivering a jerk-themed menu.
Samuelsson, a five-time James Beard Award winner, served up a four-course menu for Dinner on the Beach, in a collaborative culinary display with Andre Fowles, two-time champion on the Food Network series Chopped and also the 2016 Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards Chef of the Year and chef de cuisine at the Negril/NYC/Dubai hotspot Miss Lily's.
Paul Salmon, chairman of the Rockhouse Foundation and co-principal of Skylark Negril Beach Resort, opened the evening by thanking the guests for their patronage and reminding of the significance of the foundation's work in education throughout western Jamaica.
This made way for the first course, which consisted of fresh, caught-on-the day, grilled barracuda with sorrel, coconut and escoveitch seasonings. Chef Samuelsson enthralled guests with the recounting of his personal experience of going to the local market, fishing village and Rockhouse farm to secure the freshest ingredients.
The second course of smoked duck breast with breadfruit and cherry stew came from the knife of chef Andre Fowles. Fowles explained how important it was to get the right consistency and texture with duck meat, and of the pairings as well, stating his preference for pairings on the sweeter side.
The third course was the highlight of the evening, dubbed La Familia 'Seven Mile Beach Paella', which included lobster, mussels, clams, jerk chicken and jerk sausage. Samuelsson explained that this dish represented a coming together of community and family.
Dessert came in the form of a banana chiffon cake with basil ice cream, salted caramel and pineapple and was paired with a dessert cocktail themed Jamaica vs Sweden Glogg, made with white wine, spiced rum and Christmas spices.
Chef Samuelsson spoke to Thursday Food of his experiences in Jamaica and the aspects of the local cuisine that most fascinated him.
“The experience was fantastic. Paul Salmon, Serge Becker and Omar Tomlinson and the entire Rockhouse, Skylark and Miss Lily's family really took care of us. They made sure Zion my son, Maya my wife, and I had a fantastic time. We were on the beach every day and even squeezed in tours of their organic farm and the local fishing village,” Samuelsson gushed.
“My sister is half-Jamaican, and Maya and I have been coming here for years, all over the island. It's very special to us. Ethiopia is sometimes too far to fly with our son, so when we land in Jamaica, we feel like we hit Africa. Similar good vibe but better waters! There are also similarities in the way we eat – fresh, great ingredients, well-seasoned food,” Samuelsson added.
Samuelsson also spoke of his love for local ingredients, especially ackee and sorrel, and how he plans to incorporate some local cuisine style going forward.
“Ackee is a world-class ingredient. If it were French it would be known like caviar. That's why I call it golden caviar from Jamaica. Sorrel, and I also loved the callaloo and breadfruit. Local ginger is fantastic as well. Jerk is always on the top of my list, as well. I learned a lot on a trip like this. Chef Andre showed me many local things that we can use in Red Rooster in New York and London. I can't wait to come back to Jamaica and teach at a cooking school here to show the next generation that this is a profession with path and plan; you can do very well. I work with plenty of Jamaicans in my restaurants and I have nothing but great experiences with them and can't wait to put escoveitch on the menu and some steam roast fish,” Samuelsson concluded.
Thursday Food also spoke with Paul Salmon, who provided an update on the charitable efforts from the dinner.
“The event was a great success, raising over J$1.5 million for the Rockhouse Foundation. I must thank Chef Marcus for an amazing job and chef Andre Fowles for hosting Marcus at Miss Lily's,” said Salmon.