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07/18/2013 02:35 pm ET Updated Jul 18, 2013

Marcus Samuelsson, Harlem Red Rooster Owner, Talks Food As Symbol For Change (VIDEO)

New York chef Marcus Samuelsson is known for blending flavors and cultures in his restaurants, which serve as a microcosm of the proverbial American melting pot.

The owner of Red Rooster in Harlem, N.Y., has used his ubiquitous influence to spread messages of civic pride, acceptance and giving back. The chef, who strikes a chord with a diverse group by fusing together eclectic musicians, artists and a global menu, recently spoke to HuffPost Live about how he hopes others sees his restaurants as a beacon.

"I want Rooster and Harlem to be sort of that trampoline for other urban areas, where you say, 'You know, if we can do it, maybe Oakland can do it, maybe Detroit can do it, maybe other parts of L.A. can do it,'" said Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, orphaned and adopted by a Swedish family.

He pointed out that restaurants are a community hub and represent both challenges and opportunities in a city.

"My cooks could steal your car, or they could cook for you. You choose."

The chef, who also won the James Beard Foundation award for Writing and Literature related to food, said he defines true success as giving back to his community by drawing people to Harlem to contribute to the borough's economy.

Samuelsson also prepared President Obama's State Dinner in 2009 honoring the Prime Minister of India. He talked about drawing inspiration by uniting people of different cultures.

He said his presentation was a real fusion, using vegetables from the White House garden and flavors from India, keeping the meal simple out of respect of the economic downturn

"We did a humble dinner inspired by America and inspired by India," he said. "My food has changed so much based on how we as a society have changed."

This video is part of a series of interviews with speakers, attendees and panelists at The Aspen Ideas Festival, produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with The Aspen Institute. For more videos from the series, click here. For more information about The Aspen Institute, click here.

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