Senegalese akara, South African bunny chow, Nigerian jollof rice — these are just a few of the flavorful dishes African immigrant chefs regularly share with their Bay Area neighbors. Each dish tells a story of ancestry, migration, and memory, and the tastes and aromas keep chefs and diners connected to home, even when they’re far away.
Dishes of the Diaspora, a new KQED web series premiering in February, tells their stories. In each episode, African restaurant owners from around the Bay invite viewers into the kitchen to share personal experiences, signature dishes, and fresh takes on comfort food. The series also provides a front-row seat to the unprecedented hardships for restaurants brought on by the pandemic. Running a restaurant in the most expensive region in the country is a feat in itself, and it can be doubly challenging for immigrants navigating a new culture and unfamiliar systems.
In the Dishes of the Diaspora premiere, we meet Oumar Diouf, chef/owner of The Damel, a restaurant and food truck in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood. After learning to cook to help his mother as a child in Senegal, Diouf’s journey to Brazil inspired a mission to share his cross-cultural flavors with the world. Now he cooks up a mix of Senegalese, Argentinian, and Brazilian street food, opening a window into the history of these cultures with every plate.
Dishes of the Diaspora premieres Wednesday, Feb. 3 on www.kqed.org/dishesofthediaspora.