Q & A: Chef Marcus Samuelsson of Montreal’s new Marcus restaurant

The chef's experience in opening his first restaurant in Canada

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Canada has no shortage of home-grown culinary talent, so it always interesting when international chefs come north to open new restaurants. The latest instance is Montreal’s new Marcus in the Four Seasons Hotel, named after its acclaimed chef and restaurateur, Marcus Samuelsson. Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, Samuelsson is behind popular New York restaurants like Aquavit and Harlem’s Red Rooster. Marcus is his first venture north of the border, but he has also worked with hotels to open restaurants in Sweden and Norway. Newly opened, Marcus will focus on seafood and showcase Quebec’s bounty from both sea and land. We chatted with Samuelsson to learn more about the project and his experience with opening his first restaurant in Canada.

How’s the experience of opening a restaurant in Canada or Montreal compared to in the States?

Openings are always exciting. It’s a privilege to be able to open in Montreal and have a dialogue with the city. That’s everything from learning about the city to its hospitality and community, and it’s something I get excited about. Hopefully we can add to such an incredible food scene. That’s our goal, to add value.

What do you think Marcus adds to Montreal’s food scene?

Montreal already has such a diverse, incredible food scene. The talent here is endless. The goal at MARCUS is not to be better, but to be different. We want to work with as many local producers as possible. We want to create a space where people can come in the morning or at night, for dinner or for coffee, for a birthday party or a first date. At MARCUS, there will be live music of all kinds and you can expect a lot of fun. It’ll be a place where everything is possible.

What has been your experience working with Quebec ingredients? How do you feel that they compare to local offerings in other areas that you have worked?

The ingredients are great and so fresh. Many--like sumac, maple syrup, snow crab, sea vegetables, and Matane shrimp--remind me about where I grew up in Sweden.

Montreal is pretty proud of its food scene and local talent. What has been your experience entering this scene as an “outsider”? Have you had the opportunity to collaborate with local chefs, and if so, what has this been like for you?

I’ve been an immigrant six times in my life, so I definitely know what it’s like to be an outsider. What’s amazing is that the chef community has been very welcoming, and I don’t take that for granted. For me, that’s been one of my favourite parts. Our chef de cuisine, Nick, has been an amazing bridge for me and so have so many others. One of our first events we ever did in Montreal was for chefs and purveyors because we wanted to start by saying thank you.

What are your thoughts on the overall Canada’s food scene based on what you’ve been exposed to?

I think Canada has an amazing food scene that I want to dive more into. I had a chance to explore Toronto and Vancouver also, and the scenes there are diverse and vibrant, especially because of the great immigrant communities. The food scene is always evolving and there’s an open mindedness and looking to what’s next that I find inspiring.