Marcus Samuelsson is a storyteller.
With his show, “No Passport Required,” he dives deep into the immigrant communities in big cities to learn more about their culture and food.
“It’s really a privilege to do something like ‘No Passport,’ because we can learn from other people’s culture,” he says. “We learn it through the food each community makes. Food is the cornerstone of many of these communities.”
The second season of “No Passport Required” will begin airing at 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20 on NMPBS. The series continues each Monday for six weeks.
In the new season, the chef travels to Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Boston.
An immigrant himself – born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, now a celebrated chef, restaurateur, author and resident of Harlem – Samuelsson is passionate about sharing and celebrating the food of America’s vibrant communities.
Each episode shows how important food can be in bringing Americans – old and new – together around the table. “We have only begun to scratch the surface of the amazing range of immigrant cultures and cuisines found in the U.S.,” he says. “It’s exciting to go on this journey once again and bring attention to these diverse communities that contribute so much to our nation.”
Samuelsson says traveling for the season had plenty of great moments.
One, for instance, took place in Seattle as a new restaurant was taking shape.
“It was a passing of the baton of sorts,” he says. “The restaurant started off in a pop-up stage and then they worked hard to get a full-fledged restaurant.”
Another place that stuck with Samuelsson is Los Angeles.
During one episode, he visits the City of Angels, where the largest Armenian community outside the homeland thrives in the foothills north of downtown.
Resilient and entrepreneurial, Armenians are scattered across the world, and Samuelsson meets Armenians from Russia, Lebanon, Syria, Ethiopia and Egypt.
From lule kabob to ghapama – pumpkin stuffed with apricots, rice, Aleppo peppers and other trimmings – he learns what sets this diverse cuisine apart.
Thousands of years old and full of tradition, the food is a source of pride and cultural identity that has helped Armenians survive. Passed down from one generation to the next, traditional recipes are now being reinvented by young chefs, while a new generation is being introduced to the history and food ways of their grandparents.
“Things like this are the real American and immigrant stories,” he says. “Seeing this family pass down recipes is great, to see a new generation of cooks and chefs take over to keep it alive. Those are stories that remain a big part of their culture.”