‘No Passport Required’ – But bring your appetite
One of the advantages of big-city living is that you can visit four or five countries in a day and never leave town. Dwellers of New York, Los Angeles, Boston or New Orleans know this well.
So does Marcus Samuelsson, chef, restaurateur, author and Big Apple resident, and he’s created a series that celebrates this country’s diverse cultural mosaic with the new PBS offering “No Passport Required,”
Premiering Tuesday, July 10 (check local listings), the unscripted program takes Samuelsson, its host and executive producer, to under-explored parts of American cities to showcase the people, places and cuisine of immigrant communities. Along the way, he samples some of the best food hidden away in these burgs and even shares some recipes.
“Hopefully through these amazing food and culture endeavors that we do,” says Samuelsson to a recent gathering of journalists in Pasadena, Calif., “it will (educate) people that are yet not informed or haven’t had the opportunity to learn about Ethiopia or learn about other places, amazing places in Africa … (and they) will realize how delicious it is and how incredible (they are).
“Once you know food and once you know music and culture about a place, your chances of … just jumping off and saying something derogatory, are probably nowhere, right? So this is an opportunity.”
In each of the six hourlong episodes, Samuelsson brings viewers through the ethnic scene in one major city, be it the Indo-Guyanese community in Queens, N.Y.; Chicago’s Mexican population; the Ethiopian community of Washington, D.C.; the Vietnamese-American residents of New Orleans; or Miami’s Haitian population.
In Tuesday’s opener, Samuelsson heads to Detroit, home of a sizeable Arab-American community, to check out the neighborhoods and meet those involved with the local culinary scene.
“It could be someone that doesn’t work in a restaurant,” he explains, “but has an incredible recipe of how to make, let’s say, a Persian rice, for example. So it’s not so much a restaurant. It’s more about people and the food and the celebrations that they had, how they celebrate their holidays. And out of that comes maybe – we want to follow their lives and listen to their stories … and how they integrated into the city. So I think food will definitely be the center – and culture.”