A World of Food

Kogi korean BBQ Roy Choi
©cc by 2.0 Varin

The world is full of Third Culture Kids from all walks of life. For some, their mixed culture is but an aspect of their life; for others, it’s in everything they do. We set out to find some of those Third Culture Kids who have applied their heritage, and brought us something new, something… tasty. Check out these fascinating Third Culture Chefs!

Marcus Samuelsson

Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, but saw his mother succumb to Tuberculosis at a young age. Together with his sister, he found a new home in Sweden. His blond blue-eyed adoptive parents didn’t look anything like him, but that didn’t bother him at all. They taught him how to fish for fresh crayfish, lobster, and mackerel, but it’s his adoptive grandmother who taught him how to cook. He soon realized the kitchen was his home, and started working his way up in the culinary field. At the age of 23 he made it to New York, where he still truly feels at home in the diversity of the city.

“you find out who you really are”

A few years later he decided to return to Ethiopia to visit his biological father and his remaining siblings. He learned the value of food there, and discovered how Ethiopians look at food through a “strong spiritual lens.” Of his visit to Ethiopia, he tells Bloomberg “I have sisters and brothers, and my mother’s dad is there. They bring me a lot of joy. As an adopted person, once you find out about that “other” side of yourself, it’s almost like you find out who you really are.

Back in New York, the attack on the World Trade Center woke Samuelsson up to the woes of his community. He started dreaming of opening an American diner with Swedish and Ethiopian influences in Harlem. That dream came true when Red Rooster Harlem opened in 2010. After that, Samuelsson’s star reached new heights and he opened one after the other restaurant, and even a food festival! This autumn, he’s expanding overseas, with a branch of Red Rooster in London.

Chef Samuelsson With First Lady Obama on "Good Morning America"
Chef Samuelsson With First Lady Obama on “Good Morning America”

Rachel Khoo

Rachel Khoo was born in Croydon, UK, where her Malay-Chinese father met her Austrian mother. She lived in Germany for a few of her teen years, but moved back to Britain before graduating. After studying design at London’s prestigious Saint Martins College, this kooky Brit decided to leave fashion behind and study pastry in Paris. She lived on a shoestring for years, but her skilfull experimentation gained her respect in the culinary world. Now Khoo travels the world trying out different cuisines, which she discusses in books and TV programmes.

“At home, there would be ‘schnitzel, stir fries, rendang curry and we always had a Sunday roast like beef with Yorkshire pudding, so it was a real melting pot.'” – Khoo in The Guardian

Roy Choi

This L.A. chef of Korean descent made a name for himself in the Californian foodie scene. Together with Filipino American Mark Manguera, Choi founded Kogi, a fusion food truck serving Korean-Mexican streetfood. (Yes, that means Kimchi Quesadillas). This adventure landed Choi a spot in the top ten of “Best New Chefs” by Food and Wine mag in 2010. He was the first food truck chef ever to feature in that list!

Choi grew up surrounded by Korean food culture. His mother made amazing Kimchi, which they even sold to the neighbourhood. His parents owned a couple establishments, one of which was a Korean restaurant, where Choi remembers making dumplings at the age of eight. After a rough time in his twenties, Choi decided to train as a chef. After a few jobs in different kitchens, he landed a job at the Beverly Hilton, where he met future Kogi partner Manguera. Now, the Kogi family counts five trucks and several restaurants all over L.A.

Cover image of a Kogi Short Rib Taco ©cc by 2.0 Varin





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