Chef Marcus Samuelsson Dishes On Cooking With Selena Gomez - Exclusive

If you watched the first season of Selena Gomez's cooking show Selena + Chef, then you know that the singer and actress has got quite a ways to go to perfect her skills in the kitchen. Luckily, the second season is now airing on HBO Max, meaning that Gomez has the chance to work with 10 more master chefs, learning dozens of new recipes, tips, and techniques. One of those masters is acclaimed chef, cookbook author, philanthropist, and Food Network personality Marcus Samuelsson. The James Beard Award-winning chef currently runs a hit New York City restaurant, Red Rooster Harlem, and recently published his eight cookbook, The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food, all while making TV appearances and serving as a judge on Food Network's Chopped

In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Samuelsson dishes on what it was like cooking with Selena Gomez, and how filming the show remotely comes with some unique challenges.

Cooking with Selena never means just cooking with Selena

One of the first things chef Samuelsson mentioned when asked about his experience on Selena + Chef is that it's a whole family affair. "It wasn't just Selena. It was her grandparents and her best buddy as well," but added that "it was a lot of fun. She definitely wants to learn. She wants to have fun doing it." This was something viewers saw in the first season of Selena + Chef as well. Gomez's grandparents, roommate, and friends pop in and out of the episodes to watch, add colorful commentary (often ribbing Gomez's cooking skills), and sometimes jump into peel, chop, stir, and more. Samuelsson said this just made things all the more enjoyable. "Cooking is great because it opens up for a long conversation and having fun. And it was definitely a lot of back and forth," said Samuelsson, adding "we were laughing a lot."

Chef Samuelsson says he had this in mind when coming up with the dish he decided to teach her, which consisted of a glazed salmon served with a loaded, herby salad. He told Mashed "I wanted to cook something that, show or no show, that this is something that she would put into her repertoire." Samuelsson says "there were some steps outside her of her comfort zone," but that he knew after he got her to the finish line that this would be worth it — "she would eat it with her friends and family, I knew it'd be great."

Things got a little dicey at times

Watching some of the episodes of Selena + Chef might make you wary about whether Selena Gomez can handle herself in the kitchen, or if she should ever wield a knife again. It's entertaining and a little scary at the same time, and remains true for her episode cooking with Marcus Samuelsson.

Samuelsson admitted that there were definitely some mishaps in the kitchen while filming their episode. While no pans were set on fire (something that very much did happen during Gomez's episode with chef Antonia Lofaso), Samuelsson said "there were some very close calls." He mentioned some steaming issues, adding "I think we gave her a facial when she had to... pour the broth out of the fish."

Samuelsson said he had to fight his instinct to reach over and grab the spoon out of her hands at times. Of course, that wouldn't have been possible anyway, as the chef was filming remotely from New York while Gomez cooked from her home in LA. But chef Marcus confessed that he still wished he "could be there at certain moments just to help her out a little bit, but I don't think she even would want that. She's like, 'No, I got this.'"

Samuelsson says Selana's got the potential to be a good cook

While Selena Gomez probably won't be busting out her own cookbook anytime soon, Chef Marcus Samuelsson says the pop star has definitely got it in her. Overall, Samuelsson said Gomez did well, and he commended her determination to keep pushing, no matter how difficult the culinary task at hand may seem. Samuelsson admitted that he didn't show up with any easy recipe. "There's a lot... It was layered and complicated, but I knew that it was worth the journey, because it's delicious, right?" Despite all that, Samuelsson said Gomez "was game for anything. She wanted to try stuff," adding that "she chopped, she took out bones, she brushed a glaze on, she seared. She did everything."

Samuelsson connected her grit in the kitchen to her long career in the spotlight. "She's been in front of us for so many years, right? And you don't get to that position, you don't have the most Instagram followers in the world without being a leader and a driver." His final assessment? "She's going to be a good cook. Definitely. I have a lot of faith in her."

You can tune in and see chef Marcus Samuelsson's episode of Selena + Chef streaming now on HBO Max.