Specialty Food Magazine

JUL-AUG 2013

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/139333

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Page 216 of 217

based with some African influences while keeping in mind that I'm cooking for an American audience. What drove your ambition to succeed? I think it came from my family. My parents instilled that in me, but also the love for cooking and the love for learning more. When you're around great people, especially great chefs, you want to do what they're doing. And I was lucky enough at an early age to be around very, very good chefs. What has been the biggest challenge you've faced in your career? Do you feel you've made advancements for minorities in the culinary arena? I don't look at the work from the minority point of view. Coming to America, the fact that my wife and I are able to live here and express ourselves in the industry of hospitality says a lot about our strength but also a lot about the willingness and the helpfulness of other people who have made that happen. If you cook well, and work really hard, a door will open. Maybe not right away, but eventually, and then you have to be ready and able and capable to take on that opportunity. New York shows you that. It's pretty fair once you get started. What inspired your tea line, Ambessa? My wife and I are always thinking about how we can change the dialogue about Africa so it's not always being about aid or starvation. We thought it would be wonderful to create a product that you can have in your living room every day that offers you a pleasant experience. We wanted to celebrate the country through products that have been made for hundreds of years in Africa and that are eclectic and beautiful. And I wanted the flavors to be fantastic. So the mission with teas is to bring some normalcy by introducing a different taste that you'll hopefully enjoy. Talk about your new restaurant at JFK in Delta's Terminal 4. It's an incredible opportunity. We wanted to bring a great restaurant into the airport, not open an airport PHOTO: PAUL BRISSMAN Life will always throw you different challenges and you've got to ask how to deal with them. One of the advantages of being a minority is that very early on you learn that it's not going to be a fair game, so you're going to work that much harder. That actually can help you in your focus. It depends on how you look at something. If something looks hard from the outside, it's actually an opportunity because you're that much more driven and focused. restaurant. We treated and designed it like a regular restaurant. Why shouldn't customers who travel have great options in terms of dining? For years, they've been able to shop the best clothing, perfumes and handbags—why shouldn't dining be behind that? Is there one thing in your home kitchen that you always have on hand? A great knife and great skillet—the two things that will always separate you from a great dish. With such a busy career, what do you do to relax? My wife and I love to work out together, and we're big fans of art and culture. Living in New York we have access to great museums, concerts and parks so it really stimulates all of those passions of ours. If you knew you were eating your last meal, what would you have? I'd start off with gravlax to remind me of Sweden followed by Ethiopian dora wat [spicy chicken stew], and then wash it all down with some bourbon. What do you hope to be remembered for most? Being able to always work with cuisines where I come from, adding to a better understanding of Swedish food in America, being able to add a great restaurant in Harlem and having people come see and celebrate that community, as well as advancing the conversation in terms of Africa. Those are the things that are real goals of mine and those are the things I've invested my life in. Denise Shoukas is a contributing editor to Specialty Food Magazine. 200 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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