What do you cook for the President of the United States if he’s coming over for dinner?
That was reigning Top Chef Masters champ Marcus Samuelsson’s dilemma when President Obama attended a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at his newly opened Harlem restaurant, Red Rooster, on March 29.
“The occasion called for a grandiose menu,” Samuelsson tells PEOPLE. “There were a few things I had in mind: Harlem, First Lady Obama’s healthy eating initiative and spring.” Ultimately, he says, “We selected lobster salad with spring peas and our braised short ribs. They’re a tasty, rustic dish that brought balance to the menu.
The Ethiopian-born chef also paid homage to President Obama’s Hawaiian upbringing during Wednesday’s meal.
“For the hors d’oeuvres, I created my own version of poke,” says the chef. Tacos and crab cakes were also served before dinner. And yes, President Obama did take time to judge Samuelsson’s cooking.
His favorite dishes? “President Obama really loved the cornbread and our tacos.”
“The highlight was chatting with the President,” Samuelsson says. “It’s not something I take lightly. I feel very honored. I’ve cooked for the president before but it was exciting to do it in our house. This is something our team at Red Rooster can be proud to tell our kids and grandkids about.”
Curious about the full menu? Check it out here.