When he left Aquavit, he was in the bizarre situation of having to "buy back" his own name. The owner of Aquavit, Hakan Swahn, claimed that the only reason the name Marcus Samuelsson had any value was due to Aquavit, with its aggressive marketing and publicity. If he left Aquavit, or did any work outside of the partnership, he had to pay Swahn a percentage of his earnings. Samuelsson consulted attorneys who advised him to pay a financial settlement, and soon. Because the more well-known he became, the more expensive his name would be.
He thought of going back to his Ethiopian birth name, Kasahun Tsegie. "In the end I emptied my bank account to Hakan and I bought the rights back to 'Marcus Samuelsson' because it's the name that people know and it's a name people remember. And because it's part of my story."
It's definitely a story worth telling.
Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor. She blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.