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Chef Marcus Samuelsson On When Real Leadership Means Getting Out Of The Way

You have to give your team space to create. “Sometimes it’s easier to say, ‘The answer is right here!’ Then you’ve killed the process.”

Chef Marcus Samuelsson On When Real Leadership Means Getting Out Of The Way
Fry hard: Marcus Samuelsson takes his work personally. [Photos: Andreas Laszlo Konrath]

Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s days have been unusually full over the past year, even by his globe-traversing standards. In April, he opened Streetbird Rotisserie near his Harlem flagship, Red Rooster, and he spearheaded the Harlem EatUp! festival, held in May. There were also new restaurants in Bermuda and Sweden, along with a cookbook and a memoir aimed at kids, called Make It Messy—which is a good description of his hectic itinerary.

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Sleep schedule

“I’m about a seven-hour guy. I don’t do a lot of stuff [I used to do]. I don’t go to [chef hangout] Blue Ribbon at 3 a.m. I don’t drink a lot. I can’t wake up with a headache.”

Staying connected

“Every Wednesday, we have a team meeting at 10 a.m. No matter where I am in the world, I’m calling in. I have another conference call with my executive team on Tuesdays. Those are the centers of my week.”

Email pet peeve

“I hate [writing] long emails. You’re sitting there thinking, Is my tone right? Because there can be 50 ways of misinterpreting that email. Text­ing is better: ‘Let’s talk.’ Then you follow up with a conversation.”

Work on weekends and vacation?

“I don’t have weekends. I don’t have vacations. When you’re a chef, you give everything to your work. My work is personal. That’s the point.”

Bad habit

“I sometimes need to get out of the way so my team can create better. As a leader you’re also a teacher, and sometimes it’s easier to say, ‘The answer is right here!’ Then you’ve killed the process—no one on the team learns anything. You didn’t evolve; you just did more stuff.”

Nightly ritual

“My wife and I, at around 11:30 or 12, we talk. Not just, ‘How are you?’ I like to have a soulful conversation with her, a meaningful conversation. And then after that, I fall asleep within two seconds. I am just beat. I am beat.”

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