|By JULIETTE ROSSANT|
With all the attention on Bravo's Top Chef New York premier, there is another New York-based TV show that should be getting more attention. Marcus Samuelsson's Urban Cuisine on BETJ, which premiered on Monday, October 27 at 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT and regularly shows on BETJ on Thursday at 10:00pm.
Maybe you haven't been watching BETJ. It is the sister channel to the Black Entertainment Network (BET). Marcus Samuelsson's Urban Cuisine is BETJ's first foray into the food world. It shouldn't be the last, since there are so many fine African-American chefs who deserve a chance to bring their cooking knowledge to the public. Unfortunately, there are few African-Americans on Bravo or the Food Network.
Marcus Samuelsson is bubbling over with enthusiasm. He is a great chef with excellent, successful restaurants like his flagship Aquavit. Marcus has tried a few TV vehicles that have failed to capture his enthusiasm. He is not as much a teacher as an explorer of new flavors. There is also a divide between his restaurant cuisine and the comfort food he cooks on his shows. The reason Urban Cuisine works better is that Marcus is still cooking comfort food, but the emphasis is really on his guests and why he finds them interesting.
Super Chef got a peak at the first show, "African Flavors" with guests Brett Wright and Eric Woods. Urban Cuisine focuses on New York City's Harlem and on the Harlem Renaissance – Marcus' own neighborhood. The camera follows Marcus in the streets around 125th, past the Apollo Theater, and famous soul food restaurants like Sylvia's, into his apartment kitchen. There he starts to mix curry paste – various spices with olive oil, to coat a chicken later in the show.
His first guest is Brett Wright, publisher of Uptown Magazine, which has chronicled the Harlem Renaissance, and features cover stories like interviews of President Elect Barack Obama. Marcus and Brett prepare a stuffed curry roast chicken. It is easy enough to follow what Marcus is doing and look up the recipe online later. The point is that food is supposed to inspire conversation – and it does, even if it is a bit awkward at points.
His second guest is Eric Woods who owns a wine store called Harlem Vintage and a wine bar called Nectar Wine Bar. They prepare Marcus' version of Mac 'n Cheese. Both dishes are perfect for a winter's evening. The stuffing includes apricots, apples and sweet potato, while the Mac 'n Cheese has added bacon, garlic and onion. In this segment, Marcus encourages Eric to gives a short lesson on wine pairing with food, while they try various wines with the chicken and pasta. It is a good discussion mentioning different varietals and regions. It is the kind of unintimidating introduction to wine that many people need. It would work even better if Marcus simply cooked without interrupting his guests and leading his audience through each step.
Bravo BETJ and Marcus Samuelsson.
Marcus Samuelsson: Marcus Cookware
Marcus Samuelsson: Starbucks
Marcus Samuelsson: BlueStar
Tap Project: $1 for UNICEF
Marcus Samuelsson Hits Route 66
Marcus Samuelsson Flees Philly
[Food Television - complete]
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