In an unprecedented move, the White House gives Chef Marcus Samuelsson a free pass to hold replica State Dinners at two of his restaurants...New York's Riingo and Chicago's C-House
Marcus Samelsson, guest chef for the Nov. 24 State Dinner at the White House, says he's been asked about Dinner Crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi "about a thousand times" since the event. Of course when the crash was actually happening, Samuelsson was in the White House kitchen overseeing the dinner that received lauds from all present--including President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as the guest of honor, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Samuelsson found out that his history-making dinner had made a different kind of history at the same time as the rest of the world. (Above: Samuelsson prepping in the White House kitchen for the State Dinner)
"It's a weird thing," Samuelsson said about the Dinner Crashers, during a recent chat with Ob Fo. "I wouldn't show up to my neighbor's house unannounced. I don't know how you can even think about doing that at the White House."
Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, and has traveled the world cooking and attending all kinds of crash-worthy events in his high-profile career as chef, cookbook author, and restaurateur. Obviously, he's got an outlook on the world that's profoundly different than that of the Crashing Couple, who are reality TV show aspirants from Virginia.
"How about achieving something in the world...how about going out and inspiring people?" Samuelsson said, pointing out that the Crashers didn't merit an actual invite to the State Dinner to begin with. "Whatever happened to that? You have to work and do positive things and inspire people...then you get invited to the White House." Clearly that's how Samuelsson wound up being guest chef for the State Dinner. He's inspiring, and has worked incredibly hard.
The C House and Riingo Replica State Dinners...Tomorrow night onward
The White House must have been mightily impressed with Samuelsson, because in an unprecedented move, there has been no official protest about the fact that Samuelsson is holding replica State Dinners at two of his restaurants, beginning Dec. 9. In the Obamas' hometown, Chicago, Samuelsson's restaurant C-House Fish and Chops, a newish eatery located in the Affinia Hotel, will have a one-night only State Dinner On Dec. 9. And at Riingo, another Samuelsson restaurant in New York, there will be nightly State Dinners, from Dec. 14 through Dec. 20. Usually, the White House frowns upon activities such as this, under the idea that profiting from president-related events, or using Mr. and Mrs. Obama's image is a no-no. But the White House has also been mum about Samuelsson employees and other State Dinner guest chefs going on the record in media with details of their experience inside the kitchen; during the event, the kitchen was completely off limits to all journalists. Your intrepid blogger was at the White House all day on Nov. 24, and didn't even see Samuelsson once, nor did anyone else from the media. (Above: Samuelsson harvested herbs from the White House Kitchen Garden to use in his dishes)
Samuelsson's Executive Chef at C-House, Nicole Pedersen, and his Pastry Chef Toni Roberts were among the team of ten chefs Samuelsson brought to the White House to cook the State Dinner, and they'll be doing the cooking duties at C-House. The menu and wine pairings are exactly what was served to the 329 invited guests at the White House State Dinner--except there will be no Roasted Potato Dumplings offered as an entree. Rather, the Green Curry Prawns with Caramelized Salsify, accompanied by smoked Collard Greens and Coconut Aged Basmati--which Samuelsson noted was the most-ordered entree at the White House State Dinner--is the entree item being offered. Also on the menu: The State Dinner Potato and Eggplant Salad, with Arugula and Onion Seed Vinaigrette and Red Lentil Soup with Apples and Fresh Cheese. Desserts are from the State Dinner, too: Pumpkin Pie Tart and Pear Tarte Tatin. The wine pairings are of course the same: 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Modus Operandi, Napa, California; 2007 Grenache, Beckmen Vineyards, Santa Ynez, CA; and Sparkling Chardonnay, Thibaut-Janisson Brut, Monticello, Virginia. The cost of the dinner is $54; the wine pairings are an extra $20. Samuelsson noted during our chat that the State Dinner at the White House cost about $50 per person to create, so this excellent menu is a bargain, in foodie terms. The State Dinner menu will be served throughout the evening service, from 5:30-10 PM.
At Riingo, the same State Dinner menu is even less expensive: It's $45, excluding wine pairings, and will also be served during evening dinner service. Riingo is located in New York's East Side, and serves a hybrid of Japanese and American cuisine, but is making an exception for the State Dinner menu--which is perhaps the most American hybrid of all. The public is invited, and no crashers are expected.
C-House is at 166 East Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60611. Phone: (312) 523-0923. Riingo is at 205 East 45th Street, New York, NY. Phone: (212) 867-4200.
*Photos by Gate (Maya) Haile, who also happens to be Chef Samuelsson's wife.