Marcus Samuelsson's New Restaurant Is Shaping Modern Ethiopian Cuisine - Exclusive

Opening a new restaurant is an impressive endeavor, and it was doubly so for Marcus Samuelsson's new restaurant launch in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in December 2023. In an exclusive interview with Food Republic, the chef shared what the process has looked like and his vision for Marcus Addis. As his first venue in his birth country, the restaurant is of particular importance to him.

Aside from opening a world-class restaurant, the company is collaborating with local businesses to create various educational experiences. "It was very emotional and meaningful for us to be able to be connected with the school, to be able to give scholarships so young students can — after their work with us — be able to travel," Samuelsson explained. The cause is close to heart — as he shared, "I've been fortunate enough to be able to travel through food and it's transformed my life. To be able to give that back to my birth country ... is something that we take a lot of pride in."

Marcus Addis features the chef's signature flair

Samuelsson's cooking has always been an eclectic blend of international influences, from Ethiopia to Sweden, with several stops along the way. He said that with his first restaurant on the African continent, "We wanted to create a modern restaurant that had roots from Ethiopian heritage. But it's a modern restaurant, the way New American food became, so modern Ethiopian food is becoming."

The restaurant will highlight local cooking traditions, infusing them with a cosmopolitan twist to fit in with the setting. "So the roots are the berbere, we use injera, we use the roots of Ethiopian cooking. But just like the building and tower are modern, so is our food," Samuelsson described, adding, "So it's almost like creating a new language."

The chef emphasized the value of having a good team and acknowledged his good fortune to have early success. Of course, the restaurant's dazzling atmosphere doesn't hurt either. "It's a wonderful view; you're on the 47th floor ... you can look out of Addis and you see it's a city in change."

The dining scene in Addis Ababa

Samuelsson described the dining customs in the Ethiopian capital city by saying, "You have the traditional mom and pops that are the underbelly and the most important restaurants in the city. You have modern restaurants, new modern restaurants that have been there for only a couple of months or a year." Comparing it to NYC in the '90s vs. at present, he pointed out that "the landscape of hospitality is growing and I think that's important."

At its core though, he noted, "food has always been very central in Ethiopia in terms of its culture and history." While the city expands and incorporates diverse international cuisines into its culinary panorama, it continues to evolve and progress. "So it's all adding and also it creates jobs, which is the most important thing," the chef said.

Samuelsson has multiple thriving restaurants around the world, and Marcus Addis appears to be on the same trajectory. Still, he does not take success for granted, remarking, "Any restaurant, it's a humble endeavor, right? There's lots of room to improve, but we also take a lot of pride in our work 'cause we know it's meaningful."

Marcus Samuelsson will be hosting the Overtown EatUp! event at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which runs from February 22-25 in Miami, Florida.