“For me, it starts with the name,” said chef Marcus Samuelsson, whose restaurant Hav & Mar recently debuted in New York. Samuelsson, the James Beard Foundation award-winning chef and TV personality (appearing on Food Network’s Chopped and Netflix’s Iron Chef) behind Harlem’s famed Red Rooster and other restaurants around the world, pays homage to his Swedish heritage and Ethiopian in this new venture.
Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia and grew up on the island of Smögen off the west coast of Sweden, eventually settling in New York. “We all have different dualities. Mine is Swedish and Ethiopian in New York,” Samuelsson said. His cultural influences have shaped his culinary journey and inspired the name of his new restaurant: To have translates to “ocean” in Swedish and mar means “honey” in Amharic. “Mar means ‘water’ in so many Latin languages too,” he added.
Hav & Mar’s seafood-focused menu, created in collaboration with Executive Chef Fariyal Abdullahi, features globally inspired small plates and family-style dishes. Samuelsson wanted the restaurant to reflect a contemporary expression of black cuisine in Manhattan.
The Swediopian, a riff on gravlax, features Berber-style salted salmon, mustard seed and buckthorn. Berbere — a traditional Ethiopian spice blend — comes from Workinesh Spice Blends in Burnsville, Minnesota, as part of Samuelsson’s efforts to work with places honoring people of color. Berber’s ingredients vary, each blending like an individual fingerprint to its maker. Workinesh Spice Blends Berber contains red peppers, onions, garlic, salt and “spices” – an exclusive secret. (Berber typically includes chili peppers, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and cloves.)
“Berber for an Ethiopian is as important as salt and pepper for a Swede,” Samuelsson said. “For Berber, it’s not about spiciness, it’s about flavor.”
Samuelsson’s food reflects his cultural identities. “As a Swede, I grew up with gravlax and dried fish. I prefer to eat it closer to a crudo or sashimi,” he said. “It’s not about creating what gravlax was back then. It was a 48 hour cure, it was basically rubbery, but you could have it forever. That’s not it .” He explained that the Swediopian consists of smoked salmon rolled in Berber, accompanied by a salad of root vegetables and a sauce made from Ethiopian coffee and buckthorn (“which is very Swedish”) with a touch of fruit of passion for sweetness and topped with injera, an Ethiopian flatbread. “So it’s this dance, back and forth, back and forth. A lot of our dishes come from that back and forth.”