A Personal Thank You to Top Chef Master Marcus Samuelsson

I would like to kiss Marcus Samuelsson, but it’s not what you think. I’m a happily married woman, and he’s a happily married man, but in winning Top Chef Masters he’s now poised to expose the masses to the food of Ethiopia, his birthplace. And though I haven’t lived in Ethiopia, I did spend two years living in Eritrea, its northern neighbor, and the food, save for some regional distinctions, is roughly similar. 

Ethiopian food revolves around several staples, including giant, round fermented pancakes called injera. Made from an iron and calcium-rich whole grain called teff, injera is essentially an edible platter. You break off little bits, then use it to scoop up spicy meat- or vegetable-based stews.

Your meal is likely to be flavored with a vast array of spices, some with intense heat, like berbere, a mixture of black and red pepper as well as chiles, garlic, coriander, cinnamon, fenugreek, and a bevy of others. It’s brick red, and, depending on how accustomed you are to spicy world cuisines, you may want to carry a handkerchief. You’ll be mopping your brow.

Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines inspire communal dining. Families and friends gather around the mesob, a sort of woven basket/table, and diners generally eat from the same platter. If you haven’t experienced this eating style yet, there’s no better time. Though Samuelsson was raised in Sweden, his Ethiopian roots and passion for celebrating African cuisine mean these foods will soon occupy the culinary limelight. 

Do you think winning Top Chef Masters will help Marcus Samuelsson make Ethiopian food more popular? Chime in below!

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Cheryl Sternman Rule is a widely-published food writer and the voice behind the blog 5 Second Rule. Read all of Cheryl's iVillage posts here.

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