In terms of chefs with real world experience, it’s hard to beat Marcus Samuelsson. The Food Network personality has been a favourite with Canadian audiences for years thanks to his participation on series like Top Chef Canada, Chopped and Chopped Jr., and of course there was his win on the second season of Top Chef Masters, when he bested Canada’s own Susur Lee.
So we were all giddy when he learned last fall that Samuelsson was prepping to open his first-ever Canadian eatery, Marcus Restaurant + Terrace, which officially launched this past May at the Four Seasons in Montreal alongside Marcus Lounge + Bar.
“I love the Montreal food scene, everything from Joe Beef to the immigrant scene in the smaller restaurants, the mom and pop shops,” he tells us. “It took me a long time to decide where in Canada, but my only goal was to be able to add something to the great food scene in Montreal.”
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How do you like your oysters? Rockefeller? Cajun? Or with our signature sorbet? No matter what your style is, come celebrate #NationalOysterDay at @Marcus_Montreal! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ _ _ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Comment aimez-vous vos huîtres? Rockefeller? Cajun? Ou avec notre sorbet maison? Peut importe votre style, venez célébrer la journéee nationale de l’huître au @Marcus_Montreal ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ . . . ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #MARCUSmontreal #FSmontreal #FourSeasons
Considering Samuelsson’s background as an Ethiopian Swedish chef (one with an impeccable and beautifully coloured wardrobe), he could have gone in any direction with the menu at Marcus. But when he sat down to actually conceptualize it he knew that he had to have a clear and focused direction, one that would encompass the great fresh ingredients readily available to him in La Belle Province.
That meant seafood, fresh ingredients, and a comprehensive raw bar.
See more: Try Marcus Samuelsson’s Shrimp Piri Piri
“It took me a lot of time to study the community, what was there before, and then not just to create another restaurant like Montreal already had,” he explains. “It’s all Canadian ingredients; we’re using a lot of seafood. In order to stand out in a city like that you really have to have a point of view. I decided to do something around the grill and seafood and really take a stab at it that way.”
The result is a menu that includes everything from elevated gourmet hot dogs and stackable seafood towers to hand-crafted cocktails and salacious brunch items. It’s a constantly evolving thing, Samuelsson says, and for at least two years following launch he considers the brasserie a growing spot that will require him to visit quit often.
“I go back a lot,” he says. “I’m super excited about it and every time I go to Montreal we evolve and I learn more. It’s a brand new restaurant for at least two more years, because there’s stuff we want to add to it.”
Considering all of Samuelsson’s other interests, including restaurants in London, Bermuda, Chicago, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and in New York, where Red Rooster only one of several eateries he’s concurrently operating, it’s impressive that he’s able to go back as often as he does.
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Si l’été était une salade, ça serait celle là! Avec ses belles tomates juteuses, sa Mozzarella de Bufflone fraîche et son melon d’eau grillé… C’est un lunch parfait quoi! _ _ Summer in a bowl – plump tomatoes, fresh Mozzarella de Bufflone and juicy watermelon. The most refreshing lunch! . . . #MARCUSmontreal #FSmontreal #FourSeasons Photo: @Malek.Laarifi
He maintains he chose his first Canadian location well—it’s only an hour away from New York, after all—but he was also originally optioning Vancouver and the 6ix, where he used to visit relatives in Scarborough. So does that mean he’s open to opening a resto in Toronto or some other part of Canada in the near future?
“Ask me in a year from now,” he sighs and then laughs.