New York City chef Marcus Samuelsson visits Boston during the second season of his series “No Passport Required,” produced by Eater for PBS, wherein he explores immigrant enclaves in cities nationwide. Our episode premieres at 9 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 17, and focuses on the area’s Portuguese-speaking communities, with immigrants from Brazil, Cape Verde, and Portugal. He visits Cesaria in Dorchester, Muqueca in Cambridge, Oliveira’s Steak House in Somerville, a fishing boat off the New Bedford coast, and more.
Samuelsson became the executive chef of Manhattan’s Aquavit restaurant at just 23 and received a James Beard award as the best chef in New York City in 2003. Today, he runs Harlem comfort food joint Red Rooster, among other restaurants. Exploring the power of restaurants to unite immigrant populations is important to him, he said; he was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden.
“We’re exploring immigrant communities that can even be a surprise for people who live in the city and see it a new way,” he says, noting that Portuguese is the third most commonly spoken language in Massachusetts. “You share the language, but Cape Verdean is different than Brazilian and different from Portuguese,” he says.
At Muqueca, he visited with owner Fafa Gomes. “She’s an amazing chef and person, and she mirrors how so many immigrants come to this country with hope, an identity, and an idea,” he says, “And Cesaria in Dorchester, what Tony [Barros] has done for 19 years, is really create a center for the Cape Verdean community. These restaurants have become the heartbeat of the community.”
As for his favorite meal? Samuelsson enjoyed fish stew prepared in a tiny galley off the New Bedford coast, “with lots of garlic and Portuguese rolls,” he says. When he’s not working, he enjoys sitting at the bar at Cambridge’s Little Donkey.
But there’s one thing you’ll never catch the famed Swedish chef eating: fermented herring.
“I’m a huge fan of herring, but there’s this sour herring that comes from the northern part of Sweden that’s probably two years old before you open the can. It smells, man!” he says, laughing.