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Chef Marcus Samuelson on How Soccer Is Like Cooking

How to get the most out of the beautiful game

He’s cooked for the president and won James Beard awards, but the trophies chef Marcus Samuelsson is most proud of are those he’s earned with his local New York soccer club, Blatte United. Samuelsson, who runs more than 20 restaurants internationally, says it’s no coincidence his upcoming Red Rooster in London is just down the road from Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal, his favorite team, plays. Here, he tells how to get the most out of the beautiful game.

Soccer player Eddie Lewis and chef Marcus Samuelsson participate in the Tribeca/NYFEST Soccer Day - Celebrity Match during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the Pier 40 on April 21, 2012.
Soccer player Eddie Lewis and chef Marcus Samuelsson participate in the Tribeca/NYFEST Soccer Day - Celebrity Match during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the Pier 40 on April 21, 2012.
Photographer: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
  1. There are a lot of similarities between playing soccer and working in a kitchen. As much as I love running or tennis, those are mostly activities for a single person. There’s something about the team experience, where you lose together or win together. Those emotions are strong.
  2. It’s more about playing with heart than playing with the newest cleats. I always think about African kids I visit—some have shoes that are three sizes too big, or boots, or are playing with no shoes at all. I never want to be that guy who says, “I didn’t win because I didn’t have the right shoes.”
  3. I play center midfield, the connecter between defense and offense. You can affect a game the most, but from a mileage point of view, it’s the hardest. Opponents will say to me, “Move over, chef,” and then try to take me down. I love it—you can’t really worry about day-to-day life when some 23-year-old’s trying to mow you down in the rain.
  4. I hope one day to put fantastic food into a soccer stadium. I’m not sure fans would dig it—it’s not exactly what they care about. I also don’t understand why soccer’s never gotten into tailgating. That’s something America can teach Europe. If you suggested tailgating to people in Liverpool, they’d have no clue what you were talking about.
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