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Q&A With Marcus Samuelsson

The famed chef and cookbook author tells us about his history as a cook, his worst and best health habits, and his latest book, 'Yes, Chef.'

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With several restaurants around the country and in Sweden, you are always on the go. How do you like to relax?

Relaxing is very different for different people. I do it by playing soccer, by keeping really active. That's relaxing for me. I also paint; I document my food and tell the story of my journey through painting. 9 to 5 is just not what I am doing. I don't have a job, I have a lifestyle. It's not for everyone, but it's for me.

Working around food, is it hard to keep from overindulging?

I eat with spirit. Some days I fast and eat nothing at all. Some days I eat only vegetables. The way I eat helps me keep a spiritual compass.

But you must have a guilty pleasure food that you can't resist?

The sweet potato doughnuts at Red Rooster at the end of the night.

Do you stick to a regular exercise routine?

It's hard, especially when I travel, but I try to run six miles once a week, and three days a week, I play soccer with my buddies or I hit the gym. If I can do that, I feel pretty good. And I've always gotten exercise from working, from being so active all the time.

What's your best health habit?

I try to get enough sleep. I try to keep balanced. I don't do too much of any one thing. That's important to me. Sleeping, working out regularly, and drinking enough water are essential, especially if you work as much as I do.

What role does nutrition play when you are planning a recipe for Red Rooster?

I think that healthy cooking has so many different angles. At Red Rooster, our menu reflects that. We always offer a big seasonal salad, a very light fish dish, and a different take on macaroni and cheese that we call mac and greens. There are numerous ways to think about healthy cooking and to balance the food that you eat.

You are involved in several charities, including UNICEF and C-Cap (Careers through Culinary Arts Program), which helps pair disadvantaged high school grads with the restaurant and hospitality industry. Why is this work so important to you?

It's my obligation. We are a successful restaurant. At the end of the day, I think to myself, I came to this country and I was treated fairly, so I have an obligation to give something back. I'm a firm believer in "inspire/aspire," in inspiring someone to aspire to be something, and I feel like I can carry that message to young people.

Out of all the different types of cuisine you have cooked, do you have one favorite food?

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