For months beforehand, I fielded calls from British media. A couple of the reporters asked me to name some British chefs who had inspired me. I mentioned the Roux brothers, Albert and Michel and I named Marco Pierre White, not as much for his food as for how—by virtue of becoming an apron-wearing rock-star bad boy—he had broken the mold of whom a chef could be, which was something I could relate to. I got to London to find the Lanesborough dining room packed each night, a general excitement shared by everyone involved and incredibly posh digs from which I could step out each morning into Hyde Park and take a good long run around Buckingham Palace. On my second day, I was cooking when a phone call came into the kitchen. The executive chef answered and, with a puzzled look, handed me the receiver. Trouble at Aquavit, I figured.I put the phone up to my ear, expecting to hear Håkan’s familiar Hej, Marcus. Instead, there was screaming. How the fuck can you come to my fucking city and think you are going to be able to cook without even fucking referring to me? This went on for what seemed like five minutes; I was too stunned to hang up. I’m going to make sure you have a fucking miserable time here. This is my city, you hear? Good luck, you fucking black bastard. And then he hung up.I had cooked with Gordon Ramsay once, a couple of years earlier, when we did a promotion with Charlie Trotter in Chicago. There were a handful of chefs there, including Daniel Boulud and Ferran Adrià and Gordon was rude and obnoxious to all of them. As a group we were interviewed by the Chicago newspaper; Gordon interrupted everyone who tried to answer a question, craving the limelight. I was almost embarrassed for him. So when I was giving interviews in the lead-up to the Lanesborough event and was asked who inspired me, I thought the best way to handle it was to say nothing about him at all. Nothing good, nothing bad. I guess he was offended at being left out. To be honest, though, only one phrase in his juvenile tirade unsettled me: when he called me a black bastard. Actually, I didn’t give a fuck about the bastard part. But the black part pissed me off.
Marcus Samuelsson