Monday 22nd March, 2004


Samuelsson lends his...sweet hand

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By Essiba Small

He’s a world-famous chef, with restaurants that feature his American, Japanese and Scandinavian cooking, but Marcus Samuelsson admits he’s wild about local food.

“I have tasted your oxtail, johnny cakes and curries and now I am excited to be there and experience even more,” Samuelsson said from his New York base earlier this week.

Locals can taste the hand of the Ethiopian-born, Swedish-bred chef, co-owner of Aquavit Restaurant in New York, at Ouvert Cheou (patois for “open your heart”), a fund-raising event on March 27. It’s a dinner at the Hilton Trinidad, hosted by the Hibiscus Foundation, to help establish a home for HIV-positive children.

It was chairman of the Foundation Wendy Fitzwilliam who made Samuelsson’s appearance possible.

“We met through friends Gelila Asefa, who is the maitre d’ at Spago, Beverly Hills and Wolfgang Puck. I taught Marcus how to lime,” Fitzwilliam joked. “He became very interested in Trini cuisine.”

Fitzwilliam recalled that the first time Samuelsson came over for lunch at her New York apartment, she and her sister Denyse served him their 12-minute stewed oxtail, plantain pie and callaloo.

She admitted, however, that serving food to a famous chef made her nervous.

“The pressure was too much.”

Samuelsson’s decision to get involved with the Hibiscus Foundation’s fundraiser was due to Fitzwilliam’s commitment.

“He always said he’d do something in Trinidad to help me with the kids. It was his idea to have the dinner,” she said.

Diners can expect a menu that includes salmon and beef, Samuelsson said.

The Home

When it is built, the new Cyril Ross Home will be a place of comfort to children with AIDS, says Wendy Fitzwilliam, chairman of the Hibiscus Foundation.

“The Cyril Ross Home has certainly outgrown the space it now occupies. It serves as a medical clinic, nursery and distribution centre for the St Vincent de Paul.

“At Mt Hope, the outpatient programme referrals have grown way beyond what myself or St Vincent de Paul (which runs Cyril Ross) ever anticipated.”

Yvette Woodruffe, administrative secretary of the St Vincent de Paul, said the organisation welcome the initiative by the Hibiscus Foundation.

“It is a very good idea. The current home has outlived its use.”

The home will be erected on an acre of land at Caura that was partially donated to the Foundation by Home Construction Ltd.

It is expected to accommodate 30 children, aged from three months to 18 years. Construction is expected to begin in January at a cost of $3.5 million. Alvin Dorset and Associates are the architects.

“This year is for fundraising. Next year is for building,” Fitzwilliam said.

“It is the dream of the Foundation and Cyril Ross Home to repeat the project in Tobago, where it is needed. This is a huge project, and this is just phase one.”

About Marcus Samuelsson

At a very young age, Marcus Samuelsson found his passion in cooking. Influenced by his Swedish grandmother, a professional cook, Samuelsson began helping out with family meals by the time he was six.

When Samuelsson turned 16, he decided on a career in the field and attended the Culinary Institute in Goteborg, Sweden. After graduating, Samuelsson apprenticed in various countries, including Switzerland and Austria. In 1992, he was selected to work for eight months at Aquavit in New York City. At the time, Hakan Swahn, owner of Aquavit, was working to establish an unprecedented identity for Swedish cuisine in the United States, and he recruited Samuelsson to help him achieve his goal.

Later, Samuelsson travelled to France to work for world-renowned Georges Blanc at his three-star Michelin restaurant. In 1994, Samuelsson returned to Aquavit and worked his way up through the ranks to become the executive chef.

Since then, he has received numerous accolades, including a three-star review from The New York Times, an award for Rising Star Chef in 1999 by the James Beard Foundation, a four-star rating in Forbes and an award for being one of the Great Chefs of America from the Culinary Institute of America. Samuelsson has also been featured in Gourmet, USA Today and has appeared on CNN, ABC's Good Morning America and the Discovery Channel.

Place: Ouvert Cheou

Hilton Trinidad Ballroom

Date: March 27

Time: 8 pm

Three-course dinner with drinks included.

Full bar, inclusive of champagne and the cuisine of chef Marcus Samuelsson.

Tickets: $1,000 and are available from members of the organising committee and at the Hilton Trinidad.

©2003-2004 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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