Now that The Crown: Royal Coffee Lab & Tasting Room in Oakland, California has opened, we feel it is appropriate to highlight the chefs taking over our space on select Saturdays for collaborative brunches. We met Chef Oumar of The Damel when he moved into the neighborhood to start his ambitious vision. Chef Oumar is one of the most dynamic and storied people we know and it’s a great pleasure to feature his cuisine is our space. We love getting to introduce his guests to our coffee program and all of our staff love his empanadas.
Hi Chef Oumar! Please introduce yourself.
I was born and raised in Senegal, my first language is Wolof and I went to law school for 3 years. I am fluent in Wolof, French, English, Spanish and Portuguese. At the age of 13, I knew I wanted to become a chef when I found joy in the kitchen helping my Mom to cook for a family of 7 after my Dad passed away. In 2006, I traveled to South America to pursue my dream of becoming an international soccer player. During that time, I was fortunate to be part of the base team at the Club Lanus, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I decided to try culinary school as well, with the idea of professionalizing my cooking hobby. Two years later, I opened my first restaurant in Necochea, off the coast of Argentina. In order to cover the law season after summer, I stared a food truck business with a daily lunch box delivery program. In 2011, I moved to Brazil with the objective of learning more about the impact of African food in those countries and I ended up proudly leading a kitchen team in the 2016 Olympic Game in Rio de Janeiro. Working in a high volume kitchen environment was such a great experience, serving over 5000 people a day. Our exclusive guests included the NBA, the Australian Team, the New Balance, The Casa Cartan and the Brazilian Team. I am now sharing, in The Damel, the highlight of my cooking experience, travel stories, languages, and cultures.
How long have you been a Chef?
I have been working for over 10 years in the restaurant and catering business. I use local produce and ingredients to create a fusion between the traditional culinary arts of my home country (Senegal) and the global techniques I’ve learned traveling the world. In this long journey after culinary school, I have led different kitchen teams in many restaurants and hotels in Argentina, Brazil and the United States. Recently, I launched The Damel, a new Afro-Brazilian restaurant and catering in Oakland.
How do you explain your cuisine?
Diversity is what makes my cooking style stand apart. I clearly like to travel, and when I do I learn about the culture and inspiration of their cuisines. Most of the time, everything I see takes me back to my childhood, my first steps in the art of cooking. Today, the DNA of my business is to share with those that don’t get to travel the flavors and combinations that they might never tasted or seen before. I bring global flavors to meet with local people by using local ingredients.
What’s the best coffee pairing at The Crown to pair with your food?
One combination everybody loves is our Empanadas with Coffee. Please watch the mutual testimonies of our mutual costumers!
What is your dream restaurant scenario?
My dream restaurant scenario is to have places where people can go for food and an experience that can make them feel to be in touch with their ancestors. I would love my restaurants to be throughout the country. My hope is that my guests consider food and culture like tourism. It would be perfect to have The Damel adjacent or inside a place like The Crown. This way, we could combine two gifts together – great food and education-focused coffee.
Anything else you want to share?
My personal experiences have given me qualities that I can draw on to manage and run this business and grow it steadily. We aim to run a tight ship and empower our staff to be excellent and deliver the best customer service experience. The Damel is not only my dream, but a mission. I want to change the world with a delicious fusion of two flavorsome cuisines, West African and South American. I strongly believe that our small quick-service, family-run restaurant in Oakland will empower people to change their lives by changing their palate, improve their way they hang out and grow. Our restaurant concept is unique and the timing is perfect. The acquisition of our own location could help us take to the next level this entirely sustainable empanada and food service business in Oakland.
What’s the ONE dish of yours everyone needs to try?
Our empanadas is what we want to be known for, alongside with Dibi (must try). And also our wide selection of smoothies like Acai Bowl.