Chef Marcus Samuelsson's new PBS show 'No Passport Required' visits Dearborn and Detroit

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and Selden Standard pastry chef Lena Sareini appear in the first episode Tuesday night.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson's new food and travel show "No Passport Required" kicks off Tuesday with a visit to Dearborn. 

The Detroit suburb is the setting for most of the first episode of the first season of the PBS series, which has Samuelsson traveling across the country to visit America's immigrant communities and shine a light on the ways food connects everyone.

He packs a lot into the 60-minute show, visiting local chefs, family homes and a huge Lebanese wedding in Dearborn, as well as places in Detroit such as Eastern Market and Assemble Sound recording studio. 

“I’ve been coming to Detroit for a long time, and I really love the city,” Samuelsson said in an interview Friday with The Detroit News. “We were looking for iconic cities that all of us in production really loved and cared about. And also cities where you can tell a story about the immigrant community.”

In the Dearborn episode, Samuelsson — a celebrity chef who is an immigrant of Ethiopia and was raised in Sweden and now lives in New York — eats falafel with photojournalist Salwan Georges at a café in Dearborn and discusses the area’s Arab history. 

Samuelsson travels the snow-filled streets of Metro Detroit to visit and have dinner with a local Syrian refugee family, and he cooks savory Lebanese pies and other treats with Selden Standard pastry chef Lena Sareini in her family home in Dearborn. 

“Everyone knows each other. Everywhere you go you’re going to see someone you know,” said Sareini about Dearborn. 

“No Passport Required” also shows him paling around with longtime Detroit business owner Sameer Eid, shopping for ingredients and dining in his Phoenicia restaurant. 

“Walking the market with Sameer,” said 47-year-old Samuelsson, it’s like walking the market with (world-renowed chef) Nobu in Japan or something. He’s amazing.” 

"No Passport Required" airs on PBS at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Samuelsson said the show is really about humanizing the immigrant experience. 

“Right now the immigrant experience is talked about in the news every day and it's a false narrative that’s being told about immigrants … we wanted to show something that’s, A: How patriotic immigrants are and B: How much they contribute to entrepreneurship and our country, and Dearborn and Detroit are an excellent example of that and something we can all be proud about.” 

Samuelsson has visited the Detroit area several times and there’s hope that he will open a restaurant here. The chef and author may be best known for his Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem. He also has businesses in Madison Square Garden in New York City, New Jersey, Chicago, London, Bermuda and Scandinavia.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson and Chef Thia celebrate Haitian food in Miami as part of his new PBS show, "No Passport Required," premiering Tuesday. The show visits pockets of ethnic cuisine in six different cities.

“It’s no secret that I’ve cooked a lot in Detroit and eaten in a lot of the restaurants and love the community, but I’m also very slow,” he said. “It took me seven years to open Red Rooster after moving to Harlem, so this is my fourth year coming back and forth to Detroit.”

“It sure has all the ingredients that I love … the music is there, the iconic stature of being an American city.” he said. 

The chef said he’s been working on “No Passport Required” for the past two years, and he learned a lot about hosting a travel and food show from his friend, the late Anthony Bourdain. The first episode is dedicated to the globetrotting chef, who died by suicide in June. 

“He’s been a huge inspiration to me,” Samuelsson said. “We’ve traveled to Africa together; we traveled to many places together … Tony’s on a completely different level. He gave a lot, and I’m very grateful for that. What he did teach me was when you go to someone’s home, listen. Take a backseat and listen. You gotta put the chef’s hat in the corner, outside.” 

Chef Marcus Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, is hosting his new show, "No Passport Required."

“What food has given me is, sometimes you’re in front of it and you cook it and you’re in front of it, or sometimes you’re behind it, sometimes you're at the table, sometimes you’re just a listener … to be able to share those experiences, and tell real American stories — diverse American stories — that’s something that Tony really taught me, and that’s hopefully what comes out in the program.” 

'No Passport Required'

Six-episode series premiere 9 p.m. Tuesday

Detroit Public Television (Channel 56)
Twitter: @melodybaetens