“The kitchen is the new living room,” said Chef Marcus Samuelsson Thursday night at C-House, his Chicago home base. “It’s a space that’s opened up.”
While talking briefly about the ethnic and social influences that inspire his food, Samuelsson was on duty as a spokesperson for Blue Star, unveiling his new line of free standing range ovens.
I’m certainly not in the market for a fancy-shmancy oven (even if I can custom design it online, which is cool), but I’m impressed with the effort Samuelssen is making to bring restaurant quality gear home. It seems that for him, it’s a social statement as much as a money maker. That’s why his kitchen-as-living-room comment caught my ear.
There was a time when food was prepared in basements or behind closed doors, he explained, so that it was perfect when it magically appeared on your plate. Now, people are drawn to kitchens they can see in restaurants and homes alike, curious to know how their food is prepared.
Although I agree that this is a trend in restaurants and think people’s interest in how food is prepared has benefited from popular cooking shows like Top Chef Masters, on which Samuelsson is a contestant, I don’t think the kitchen is the “new” living room per se. Rather, the kitchen has always been the living room.
Anyone who’s hosted a party knows that. No matter how big or small, people congregate in the kitchen. I’m always amused to see how many of my friends manage to cram themselves into my tiny galley when there’s tons of space elsewhere. That’s because the food is in the kitchen and the real conversation happens there too — it’s the epicenter of the festivities.
I think it’s fair to say that Samuelsson and I agree on the key point though. Food is ultimately social, and it can and should reflect the diversity of its consumers in its flavor and preparation. This idea is reflected is Samuelsson’s thoughts on American food trends and in his cookbook, New American Table. He said the American palate is trending toward ethnic foods — particularly Latin and Asian varieties because they are the least expensive and most readily available. His cookbook capitalizes on the diversity of ethnic food and is a collection of influences built on a foundation of classic French cooking. I’m looking forward to going through it in more detail.
This was a press event, and we were given starters, drinks, and cookbooks free-of-charge.