You Have To Taste This: Release Date, Episodes, And More - What We Know So Far

PepsiCo has come a long way since that Kendall Jenner ad. The beverage and snack giant is investing a lot of money these days in initiatives to promote equality and economic opportunity for Black people, and no doubt PepsiCo would rather you forgot about its misguided 2017 commercial showing Jenner joining a Black Lives Matter-like protest, handing a cop a Pepsi, and making everything okay (via The New York Times).

Three years after the Jenner ad, demands for racial justice reached a critical mass after a police officer killed George Floyd on a Minneapolis street. PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta said "Black lives matter" after the killings of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others (via Fortune). He also put his money where his mouth was, pledging more than $400 million over five years to lift up Black people within his corporation and in the broader community. Of that total, $50 million will support Black restaurateurs, according to the Pepsi Dig In website. And PepsiCo will spend some of that money on marketing Black-owned restaurants. That's where the new docuseries "You Have To Taste This" comes in, according to a PepsiCo press release (via PR Newswire). The show will shine a spotlight on four restaurants that offer a variety of Black cuisine. Ultimately, though, the show is about more than Black restaurants and food. As host Marcus Samuelsson points out in a promotional video for "You Have to Taste This" on YouTube, "Our culture influences everything."

When will 'You Have To Taste This' be released?

"You Have to Taste This" will roll out in four episodes initially, starting on August 18, according to the press release. Each episode focuses on a single Black-owned restaurant and is built for these digital times. Rather than expanding each restaurant's story into a 23-minute segment that would fit into a half-hour time slot on some TV network, episodes are only a minute or two long. They will air on Twitter and Instagram, under the newly created "@pepsidigin" handle. Episodes will also land on chef Marcus Samuelsson's YouTube channel.

PepsiCo isn't dropping all four episodes at once. Rather, each featured restaurant will get its own time to shine. New episodes will appear weekly.

In a sense, episodes of "You Have to Taste This" will serve as PepsiCo-funded advertising for the Black restaurants selected for the show. As @pepsidigin on Instagram said, "If you've never traveled for good food, our new series with Chef @marcuscooks will change that." The key for PepsiCo will be to get eyeballs on its videos. Granted, the two social media accounts are new as of December 2020, but the Instagram account only has a little more than 2,100 followers as of this writing, and the Twitter account has 116 followers. Samuelsson's YouTube channel is more robust, with more than 40,000 subscribers.

Which restaurants will be featured in episodes of 'You Have to Taste This'?

Host Marcus Samuelsson will take us to his own restaurant in Miami in one of the four episodes of "You Have to Taste This," according to the press release. Samuelsson's Red Rooster Overtown opened in Miami's historically Black neighborhood in December and features southern and Caribbean cuisine from chef Tristen Epps, according to the Miami New Times. "You Have to Taste This" will highlight Epps' wagyu oxtail, an elevated version of what Epps called a traditional "poverty dish."

"You Have to Taste This" will stay in Miami to feature Dukunoo, a Jamaican restaurant in Miami's artsy Wynwood neighborhood. In another episode, the show will take us to Ben's Chili Bowl, which according to its website will be celebrating its 63rd anniversary in Washington, D.C. later this month. Famous for its half-smoked sausage and chili dogs, Ben's has been a tourist destination for decades already. Proving there's more to Black cuisine than oxtail and jerk chicken, "You Have to Taste This" will make a stop at Atlanta's Slutty Vegan. Just looking at the photos of the restaurant's piled-high Impossible burgers on the menu might convert even the die-hard meat eater to plant-based. While the episodes keep to a social-media friendly two minutes or less, they give Black restaurateurs enough time to tell their eatery's origin story and show off a signature dish. Don't be surprised if PepsiCo sneaks in some product placements, too.

Who will host 'You Have to Taste This'?

Marcus Samuelsson is a superstar Black chef who would no doubt be happy to measure his resume against any chef, regardless of color. His website lists more than a dozen restaurants under his ownership around the world, from New York to the Bahamas to his adoptive home country of Sweden. The most familiar of these might be his first restaurant, Red Rooster Harlem. The biography page on Samuelsson's website says his culinary influences come from both Scandinavia and Ethiopia, where he was born.

Samuelsson is a noted author, too — not just of cookbooks but of the bestselling memoir "Yes, Chef" (via Penguin Random House). The book tells of the chef's improbable rise from poverty and disease in Ethiopia to twice cooking for President Barack Obama, according to a New York Times review.

Fans of food TV might know Samuelsson from his many appearances on competition shows. According to his website's television page, Samuelsson has competed on "Chopped All-Stars" and "Top Chef Masters," and he's been a judge on "Chopped" and "The Taste." Currently, Samuelsson can be seen on PBS hosting "No Passport Required," a show about immigrants' influence on American food. And now, thanks to PepsiCo's commitment to the Black community, there's "You Have to Taste This." A PepsiCo marketing exec gave Samuelsson a little hat-tip in the press release: "Marcus' expertise and experience made him the perfect host to bring these stories to light."