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Chef's Global Foods Make Thanksgiving American

Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and now is a world-renowned chef in New York City. His cooking style is as international as his life story.

He sat down with NPR's Steve Inskeep to discuss his multicultural Thanksgiving traditions.

"Like most immigrants, we roast turkey -- we have turkey on the table," said Samuelsson. "But our table is filled with people from all over the world that are Americans like us, new Americans ... [So] there's also the dishes from our [home] country."

"I have Swedish potatoes au gratin," said Samuelsson. "I have gravlax on the table. Then my wife makes a mean doro wat, which is this chicken stew from Ethiopia. She will always have some injera bread there.

"I think Thanksgiving is this incredible, great example where we as immigrants, we as Americans, bring in the culture or the history of where we come from," said Samuelsson. "And then we serve it to our family, and I just think it's a perfect marriage where you can show your identity, and you're really proud to be an American."

"Cooking for me is also a way of looking back," said Samuelsson. "When I make the apple cake, I see my mother.

"So much of cooking and eating is about, 'Where do we want to go in our memories?' " said Samuelsson. "We want to revisit the vacation. We want to revisit our college years. We want to revisit our childhood years."

Growing up, he'd help his mother make her classic apple cake. "My job was always to sort of make the clock," Samuelsson said, in describing the way the apples were arranged on top of the dessert. "My mom always cut 12 pieces.

"I always wanted to mess it up -- I wanted to put apples all over," he said. But his mother made sure the apples were adorned properly, because each person should get a slice of apple on their slice of cake.

Samuelsson feels everyone has a food story like his apple cake one.

"We all have food stories," he said. "We all come from incredible backgrounds. And we can ... share those memories ... through food. And that's the reason I love living in this country."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

United States & World Morning Edition
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.