In his PBS show No Passport Required, Marcus Samuelsson—the chef behind a flock of restaurants which include Harlem’s Red Rooster—visits U.S. cities and explores vibrant immigrant communities in each. Parallels with Anthony Bourdain’s shows (Samuelsson appeared on Parts Unknown) are obvious, but Samuelsson is a very different presence, less snark, more exuberant conviviality, and his show focuses tightly: The first season, for instance, saw him dipping into Chicago’s Mexican and Washington DC’s Ethiopian foods and cultures.
To kick off the second season, which premieres Friday, December 13, Samuelsson visits Seattle to check out the Filipino food community, which has long been significant here and has lately seen a new wave of restaurants flourishing. First, he meets up with Musang’s Melissa Miranda and checks out a couple of standbys: Oriental Mart in Pike Place Market, where he gushes about the chicken adobo, and Ludi’s, the beloved downtown diner that closed this year.
He checks in briefly with the Filipino American National Historical Society, located in the Central District, for a little education. The Philippines were a U.S. colony in the early decades of the 1900s, so immigration to America had fewer restrictions than that from many other countries.
Then Samuelsson is back to hanging out with the new generation of Filipino American restaurant owners. He and Geo Quibuyen, who with Chera Amlag co-owns Hood Famous Bakeshop and Hood Famous Cafe and Bar, visit Beacon Hill’s Fou Lee Market. Samuelsson and Quibuyen, who's also one half of local rap legends Blue Scholars, discuss how cooking with offal resembles hip-hop. Then it’s off to Knee High Stocking Co., Archipelago, Barkada, East Trading Company (also now closed). (Here’s a primer on most of the restaurants he visits.)
Even though it’s on PBS, the episode feels less like typical educational programing and more like a chance to hang out with Samuelsson in a community whose impact on this city has often been overlooked. “Growing up I heard mostly about Japanese history and Chinese history. And for a long time I was like where are the Filipinos at?” says Sara Porkalob, a local playwright and actress who’s working on a new play rooted in local Filipino history.
Samuelsson's revelations are conversational, more than didactic. You won't find him pontificating at length about what it all means. But when a community is this warm and welcoming and thoughtful about its food, a conversation feels like the best way to engage anyway.