Chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Ruthie Russo, and Elazar Tamano sitting on stools, holding microphones
Chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Ruthie Russo, and Elazar Tamano by Shani Brill

Food Is a Cultural Bridge

Chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Ruthie Russo, and Elazar Tamano discussed racism in the kitchen, what it’s like to introduce an audience to a cuisine that’s new to them, and more

By Ronit Avidan |

“There’s something scary about creating something new in the world that no one knows, but it’s so interesting,” explained chef Marcus Samuelsson during a recent panel at Asif about heritage and innovation that was cultivated in collaboration with Aleph Farms, a cellular agriculture company, which earlier this month joined forces with the famous chef.

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, he remembers diners didn’t know what Scandinavian cooking was when he arrived in the United States. Though, in New York City, he came to see his unique background as an opportunity to create something new. 

That’s also where Ethiopian-Israel chef and artist Elazar Tamano finds himself now as he introduces diners to his cooking, which he calls “Ethiopian food with an Israeli accent.” There are no cookbooks or chefs who paved the way to guide him, he added during the conversation. Ethiopian diners who try his food say it’s not Ethiopian, while most diners in Israel—and even prominent chefs—know almost nothing about a cuisine from a country that’s nearby. Tamano feels a responsibility to help bridge that gap. 

The chefs also discussed what drives them to build something new, how the past can define our identity — or not — and the interplay of tradition and innovation in food. Above all, they discussed how food can be used as powerful political tool to connect people and help them overcome the fear of what they don’t know. 

Watch the full conversation: