A Sunday Brunch To Remember

By Cyndi Amaya

Last Sunday, Marcus and Maya Samuelsson opened their Harlem home to a couple hundred guests all in the good name of charity. With the drought and famine in East Africa worsening, this issue has also risen in the couple's list of priorities. So much so, that the Samuelsson's decided to take matters into their own hands. With continued news of relief efforts not reaching refugee camps and those affected by the famine due to impasses by insurgent groups in certain regions of Somalia, Marcus and Maya wanted to make a more personal outreach for victims to ensure their donations would actually make it to the afflicted. Hence, the couple decided to host a special Sunday Brunch and invite all those interested in helping, with all proceeds going to famine victims in East Africa. The personal touch comes with Maya herself traveling to Ethiopia to deliver the donations in form of food, medicine, and vitamins to those in refugee camps in Ethiopia and along the Ethiopian/Somali border.

First announced on MarcusSamuelsson.com, news of the open invitation to brunch in their Harlem home spread like wildfire on food and news sites; eventually leading to the quick sell-out of reservations to the event. Around two hundred guests were welcomed into the Samuelsson home with open arms, plenty of Red Rooster and Ethiopian food, and African tunes to set the mood. Apart from the suggested donation from each guest in attendance, many also purchased raffle tickets for the numerous donated gifts from friends of Marcus and Maya, like Chefs Scott Conant, Aaron Sanchez, George Mendes and photographers Paul Brissman and Cathrine White.

The crowd that came on Sunday was definitely a varied one, with guest ages ranging from 7 weeks to 80 years old. Paolo Ruiz and David Fu were among the young and enthusiastic visitors to the event. "It's really cool of Marcus to open his house for this cause, it's really impressive and it says a lot about him, said Paolo.  "And the food is amazing, the atmosphere is great and it's nice to see people who don't even know each other to come together for this event," added David.

The guests that really stole the show that day were definitely the children. The kids felt right at home and even sat and played on the floor while enjoying the food. One particular young boy named Belaye Hughes especially enjoyed the Ethiopian lamb stew and Injera Bread, that being food from his native home. His mother Kristine Messlar told of his tale and his journey of recovering from malnourishment just 5 months earlier when first adopted from Ethiopia. She first heard of the Brunch from Facebook and came all the way from Hudson Valley with her friend Christine Markman to join in the festivities. Both Kristine and Christine are involved in other Ethiopian causes, like Ethiopia Reads and CARBS (Children for African Relief Bake Sale), and were drawn to Marcus' efforts to raise money for the famine. Their children Belaye, Quinn, and Manny all relished in the food and even helped Marcus and Maya pick the winners of the raffle prizes.

Many smiles and good times were shared by the hosts and their guests. Beautiful images of this inspiring event were recorded with the help of photographer Cathrine White; and most importantly, money was collected for the vital cause of feeding those in much need in the Horn of Africa. Those interested can follow Maya during her journey to Ethiopia through Twitter (@MarcusCooks) by following the hash tag #MayaHaile. Thank you to all of those who attended, your efforts will surely help our brothers and sisters in East Africa.

Additional photos of the event are below.

Photos: Cathrine White