Marcus Samuelsson is a world-renowned chef, and the co-owner of a number of pre-eminent restaurants including C-House in Chicago's Affinia Hotel, and Aquavit in New York. Among many other honors, he was the guest chef at President Obama's first state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The "Top Chef Masters" winner was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, a country with an overwhelmingly white population. So you'd think, if ever he would have experienced a sense of racial otherness, it would have been in his adoptive homeland.
But as he told the Chicago Tribune, he got it worse in a Midwest country club.
The Tribune asked celebrity chefs around the country to describe some customer horror stories from their restaurant careers. Samuelsson recounted this memory:
"There's not one bad customer in particular. But in the beginning of my career, and it happened often, people would ask me who the chef was. I would say, 'I am.' They would say, 'No, really, who is it?' They had never seen a black chef before, and it happened everywhere, even at a country club in Detroit. I laugh about it now."
Thankfully, he can approach the subject with a sense of humor. His next venture, Red Rooster, is opening in Harlem, where hopefully the clientele will be more comfortable with black chefs.
For more chef's horror stories, read the full Tribune story here.