Internationally renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson made three conscious decisions when he focused his attention on Miami for a new restaurant — and a new television show.
First, when he decided to open a restaurant here, he didn’t look to Wynwood, the hottest, trendiest — and most-recently gentrified — neighborhood.
He chose Overtown.
His restaurant has been in the works for two years, but when it opens in 2019, it’ll be in a historic building in one of Miami’s most overlooked neighborhoods.
Second, when he and Eater pitched PBS “No Passport Required,” a six-part television series focusing on cities where immigrant communities have shaped the local cuisine, he skipped high-profile foodie cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco.
He chose Miami.
And, third, when he focused on the influential culture here, he didn’t choose the easy or obvious Cuban cuisine. He chose Haitian.
The series aired this penultimate one-hour episode Aug. 7 at 9 p.m. on WPBT-2. Haitian cuisine — and the country’s intertwined history with Miami — were on display. All the episodes are also available online at PBS and on Eater’s site.
“Food to me has always told a deeper more personal story. Its a path to culture, identity and history,” he says in the show’s introduction.
The previous four episodes focus on how immigrant communities shaped particular American cities through their stomachs. Middle Eastern food in Detroit. Vietnamese in New Orleans. Mexican in Chicago. And Indo-Guyanese in Queens. The final episode, on Aug. 14, focuses on Ethiopian food in Washington D.C.
Samuelsson, born in Ethiopia but raised in Sweden, finds a local guide to take him through a city’s cuisine. In Miami, he spent time with WLRN reporter Nadege Green, a former Miami Herald writer of Haitian descent who was born and raised here.
Samuelsson has a track record for finding his space in overlooked cities. He opened his groundbreaking restaurant Red Rooster in Harlem, just of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and made it a destination for diners of all background.