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My Everyday: Marcus Samuelsson

After working in restaurants around the world and opening his own, chef Marcus Samuelsson has mastered the art of cooking for others. Here, he makes crowd-pleasing easy.
Everyday Food, July/August July/August 2012

"Whether it's a big dinner party or a casual get-together, a great meal is all about knowing your guests. When I'm cooking for my Ethiopian in-laws, I'll make an all-American burger because they don't get that a lot. When I was charged with a state dinner at the White House, I thought about how Michelle Obama loves her garden and incorporated the crop into my menu. The best host -- and friend -- really cares about their guests." -- Marcus Samuelsson, chef and owner of Red Rooster Harlem in New York City

Marcus's Memoir
His book "Yes, Chef" (Random House), is a personal account of his Ethiopian roots, Swedish upbringing, European training, and American success.

Cooking Lessons from Marcus

Make It Personal

Growing up, my grandmother was the best cook I knew. She inspired me and brought out a passion that became my career. Learning to cook also involves a lot of learning about yourself -- a recipe is a good guideline, but taste is so personal. You should never be afraid to customize the food you make and put your own stamp on it -- that is what can take a dish from something predictable to something special.

Experiment Wisely

I'm all about trying new ingredients or techniques, but my No. 1 rule for home cooks looking to mix things up is to avoid trying a new ingredient and a new technique at the same time. For example, if you're using a pluot for the first time, use it in place of a peach or plum in a dish you're already familiar with. This way, you'll learn more about the ingredient and still stay close to your comfort zone.

Perfect a Party Dish

Tacos are great for guests. You can easily double or triple any recipe, then let people build their own. The star of this taco is the fish, so use the freshest you can find. Sometimes that means using whatever is available -- maybe you get great salmon in your area or, if you live by a lake, try trout. Be sure to start it on a really hot grill. That makes the best grill marks, which not only look nice but also add flavor.

Get Marcus's recipe for Fish Tacos with Spicy Slaw.