Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s mission with each project he undertakes – whether it’s a restaurant, book or television show – is to celebrate food and culture, and to hopefully inspire others to be adventurous, learn something new and get cooking. His latest project, Streetbird on the Beach, opened at Baha Mar in the midst of the holiday season with a focus on offering predominantly the bird – sandwich style with crisp skin and juicy meat with hints of local flavors. While the menu isn’t vast at all, the offerings out of the airstream are intriguing.
His six-item menu features a crispy bird sandwich with hot pepper mayo, cheddar and pickles; escovitch chicken and plantain waffles with soy maple; buffalo cauliflower with house ranch and crispy shallots; M’s hot chicken with white bread and pickles; calypso fritters with conch and salt cod, tartar sauce and sour orange; and jerk sticky wings with a rum caramel.
Samuelsson says Streetbird is a celebration of the bird and a celebration of chicken sandwiches and wings that are delicious and fun.
“The menu is definitely based on our chicken,” said Samuelsson in an exclusive interview with The Nassau Guardian on opening day, December 16, 2019. “Our chicken is what put us on the map in Harlem.”
Samuelsson’s Red Rooster, in the heart of Harlem, is a restaurant that serves comfort food that celebrates the roots of American cuisine and the neighborhood’s diverse culinary traditions.
“And then we have some local touches in the sauces. There is a hint of conch, there is a hint of rum, there’s a hint to the islands.”
He describes it as food that’s casual but good – good for the tummy and delicious.
Sides offered include “mockamole” and chips, spicy chow chow (a North American pickled relish) and mac and greens.
And the lone dessert on offer is a sweet potato doughnut.
Rounding out the compact menu is a cocktail he calls “Yes, Chef” – a blend of vodka, fresh mint, ginger, honey, pineapple, lemon and berbere (an Ethiopian chili and spice blend used to season many Ethiopian dishes), along with a number of beers, because sometimes you just want a cold one with your sandwich.
Berbere is also a nod to Samuelsson’s Ethiopian heritage, even though he was raised in Sweden.
“Streetbird will be a great experience for hotel guests,” said the chef. “Streetbird is just a first taste of what we can do together. It puts us on the map and from that you never know what’s going to happen.”
The opening of this celebrated chef’s airstream was by no stretch of the imagination his first foray into the world of Baha Mar. In 2017, he made an appearance at the property to speak with and inspire the team. With Streetbird, he said, it’s all come full circle.
“Congrats to the whole team for making it happen. It’s really three aspects – the vision and then it takes the teamwork between all the staff and leadership to bring it together, and then you need the customers. That’s why hospitality is so special, because as a creative, as a chef, you want to dream big – and this is a big dream and a big vision. And to see a boom like this is fantastic. What I think is amazing is Baha Mar don’t stop. They continue to do, because they’re committed to bringing better experiences and that really speaks of curiosity, but also to commitment of delivering excellence.”
Samuelsson, who is the acclaimed chef behind many restaurants worldwide, including a Bermuda outpost, said he was attracted to do the venture with Baha Mar because the property is known worldwide.
“As a chef, you’re always drawn to where other talented chefs are going, where you know the culinary program is big. [And] there’s a lot of things coming on the table [this] year. This place has always aspired to bring talent together, and as a chef you want to be a part of that.”
In his past visits to the island, the chef has also taken the time to visit the Fish Fry, which he said he finds fun and festive.
“I think when you enjoy a place, you want to see what do the locals do, what the locals eat,” he said.
From his 2017 visit to now, he said, the difference he’s seen has been in the eyes of the culinary team and watching them have a place to go to where they can work and also have a path and plan for success and growth.
“Amazing restaurants, amazing chefs, amazing hospitality. Maybe you start back of the house and you end up front of the house. So, as a young person coming up in the industry…I wouldn’t be here without mentors, but also places that really taught me how to go – the path and plan in hospitality. So, that’s what I saw when I met the team, a big brigade of [people] eager to serve and be a part of something – of being able to say ‘I was part of that’. They’re going to tell their kids ‘I opened this hotel’.”
Aligning himself with the Baha Mar property, Samuelsson said what he likes is the casualness that prevails in the daytime and the choices the different airstreams like Streetbird give people with their different concepts.
“You can really have your own taste around the world, through an afternoon, and then at night, the great, grand restaurants that they have, become the destination restaurants,” he said. “I’m impressed with the mission and the vision. It’s not easy to do something as large as this – but to still make it feel very exclusive, and very intimate, I think they’ve done a great job with that,” said the author of multiple cookbooks.