Marcus Samuelsson is a study in combinations: a chef, restaurateur, best-selling author, and activist born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, and based in New York. His passion for exploration, culture and discovering new sources of inspiration defines his worldview and drives his love of travel. Samuelsson’s adventurous spirit has made him a captivating competitor on some of television's most revered cooking shows from Iron Chef to Chopped All Stars and Top Chef Masters. Travel alongside this celebrated culinary master as he explores Cambodia’s verdant beauty in Angkor, exclusively with T Galleria.
Marcus and his wife, Maya Haile, called Phum Baitang Resort their home away from home. Marcus met with local chefs to learn how to create local dishes and even crafted his own bowl of noodles, all sourced from nearby markets.
“Cambodia has a level of mystique and ‘je ne sais quoi’ about it that I wanted to discover, especially with my wife, Maya,” explains Samuelsson. For him, traveling is a window through which to see the world, and an opportunity to discover what is only revealed through patience, time and an open mind. “Whatever I think a place is, traveling there has always taught me that it’s ten times more than that, a thousand times more than that,” he says of learning to never pigeonhole a place he has yet to visit. A new culture and way of life is learned, for Samuelsson, through spirituality, language, and local flavors.
Marcus met up with local chefs at Mie Cafe to try some of their signature dishes and even took home a handcrafted lotus necklace that was a gift from the team.
Samuelsson and his wife spent much of their time in the markets, devouring grilled rice in banana leaves, and exploring the local culture in the villages. “Cambodia’s food is very thoughtful. It’s not very spicy, but it has heat and undertones of chilies. That is a different level of cooking.” Through the markets they were able to see the past and present coalesce into beautifully designed dishes whose balanced flavor has been reworked and perfected over hundreds of years.
Further exploration peeled back different layers of Cambodia. An invitation to dance alongside the locals and intimate moments exploring the ancient temples, exposed the country’s regal yet welcoming nature It was in Cambodia’s juxtapositions—city and countryside, bustle and bliss—that its beauty was revealed. As Samuelsson observed, “people are always on the move and every now and then you see a Buddhist monk looking so peaceful, walking in their saffron or mustard colored robe.”
A few of Marcus's travel essentials: Burberry leather backpack, Toms shoes, Hugo Boss sunglasses and local Cambodian scarf. All available at T Galleria, Angkor.
A long trip affords Samuelsson the time to take stock and reflect on his goals for his family and work. The meditative aspects of traveling long distances are a precious part of any trip for him. Similarly, he values the opportunity to discover new sources of inspiration. Upon returning from Cambodia he brought back with him scarves, special fabrics, chili pastes, and colored rice foraged from the markets. Most treasured, he says, was “the memory of walking the early morning and discovering the temples with my wife; just coming real close, looking at the fine details of the ruins.”