Surviving the Pandemic and Finding Their Tribes

The chef Marcus Samuelsson wouldn’t have made it by means of the pandemic with out the assist of his neighborhood.

He says the assist from his household, his Harlem neighborhood and his fellow restaurant employees made getting up day by day have which means. In the course of, he fell much more in love with New York City.

“Why did it have to be Covid to create this sense of community?” Mr. Samuelsson stated. “But that is something I choose to see positively out of a very, very, very difficult year.”

Mr. Samuelsson, 50, lives along with his spouse, Maya Haile Samuelsson, a trend mannequin, and their Four-year-old son, Zion, in Harlem, not removed from his Red Rooster restaurant. When New York City went into lockdown in March 2020 and some residents decamped to second properties, the household stayed of their brownstone.

There was sufficient change to cope with already. As the founding father of the Marcus Samuelsson Group, with 36 restaurants from London to Bermuda, Mr. Samuelsson was weighing options on how to proceed with his teams. For Ms. Haile Samuelsson, 39, all fashion work halted. Zion could no longer go to preschool or even the nearby playground.

After the initial shock, the couple began to acknowledge their privilege. For Mr. Samuelsson, that was realizing that he had health care when so many others living around him in Harlem did not. Ms. Haile Samuelsson wondered: How can I think about fashion when other people are fighting for hospital beds? The couple heard ambulances rush by all night.

Mr. Samuelsson saw the neighborhood fall into despair at a rapid pace. That was the motivation, he said, to turn Red Rooster into a community kitchen for Central Harlem. “It gave me purpose to get up in the morning, put on a mask and gloves, walk to Red Rooster, and feed 800 people a day,” he said. “I was back to being a chef again, something I’ve been doing since I was 17 years old.”

Ms. Haile Samuelsson became the glue that held the whole family together, creating new routines and taking on newly essential roles including cameraperson for Mr. Samuelsson’s online cooking classes and gym class teacher for Zion.

The couple said that they wouldn’t have made it through without leaning on multiple communities. As immigrants, they arrived in the United States from simple means and felt comfortable falling back to that way of life. (Both Mr. Samuelsson and Ms. Haile Samuelsson were born in Ethiopia; he was raised in Sweden and she in Holland.) They don’t need a lot, just each other, or their “tribe,” Mr. Samuelsson said.

Having a sense of purpose helped Mr. Samuelsson to design a new routine for himself and his family. Gone were the long hours in a hot kitchen and travels on the road — he could be home to make dinner with Ms. Haile Samuelsson and Zion. Some of their favorite memories from the past year include Zion’s spontaneous laughter in the kitchen and his mastery at pizza toppings. Mr. Samuelsson also finished a new cookbook he co-wrote, “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food,” which published in October 2020.

Like many people, the couple yearned for social interaction and new activities to engage their son’s attention after months cooped up in the house. Luckily, the couple lives on a block that Mayor DeBlasio closed off to traffic as part of his “100 miles of streets” plan to allow more pedestrian access outside. This meant that Mr. Samuelsson’s neighbors could allow the 12 children to run around, ride bicycles down the street, and color with chalk on the pavement. Mr. Samuelsson jokingly calls it “day care” as the parents conspired to come up with “classes” to entertain the younger set. Mr. Samuelsson, of course, did a cooking demo but other parents taught art, yoga and exercise, jazz music, and even skateboarding.

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