What Marcus Samuelsson Taught Adrienne Cheatham About Soul Food - Exclusive

For so many chefs, a major key to success lies in the mentors they work with along the way. Chef Adrienne Cheatham would readily agree. Cheatham has made a name for herself in the food world, in part thanks to the guidance she received from some of the best in the business. That includes from the one and only Éric Ripert, whom she worked under for several years, learning the ins and outs of seafood, French cuisine, and classical fine dining.

After her time at Ripert's Le Bernardin, Cheatham worked extensively with Marcus Samuelsson, who is known for bringing his own distinct, globalized approach to soul food. As a chef inspired by Southern cooking and her family's roots in Mississippi (via Southern Kitchen),  Cheatham was undeniably impacted by her experience cooking and working with the celebrity chef. Recently, Tasting Table spoke exclusively with Cheatham, who opened up about the ways Samuelsson helped shape her cooking style, and what he taught her about soul food and all that it can be.

Chef Cheatham says Marcus Samuelsson opened her mind to the possibilities of soul food

In the pages of Adrienne Cheatham's recent cookbook, "Sunday Best," you'll find recipes highlighting soul and Southern-inspired recipes with an elevated twist — like skirt steak topped with a chimichurri of sharp mustard greens and split pea salad with bacon-sherry vinegar glaze. Her unique cooking style is something she's developed over the years, especially those she spent working with Marcus Samuelsson.

Cheatham told us "there were a lot of cool things" about working with Samuelsson, but, for her, perhaps the coolest was learning "to see how soul food can interpret different cultures' ingredients." Cheatham explained that she "started to see that even though [Samuelsson] is Swedish, he is known for mainly African-American soul food" and he uses his multiple influences to play with a mix of cultures and ingredients — to delicious effect. It was a wake-up moment for the chef. "It's not just French, Italian, Japanese," she realized. "There are other cultures that can expand and grow and develop their cuisine also ... we can do that with [soul] food too." 

Catch Adrienne Cheatham on the fourth season of "Selena + Chef," now streaming on HBO Max.