By Mike Kinney
Omar Thornton’s story — and food — are O So Good.
The Richmond native who grew up in the Pullman Point Apartments is now a successful chef in South Dakota whose restaurant was recently featured on Guy Fieri’s hit Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
Chef Fieri visited Thornton’s family-style restaurant O So Good, which is located in Garretson, SD, this past July. The Food Network aired the visit on Friday, Jan. 1.
The Kennedy High graduate told the Standard the TV spot was like a “dream come true,” calling the experience both “amazing” and “humbling.”
Thornton graduated from Kennedy High in 1989. His mother played an important role in his cooking, and he would eventually start cooking for her.
“Then I learned how to cook food to impress my dates,” Thornton said. His love of cooking had him exploring Bay Area restaurants and considering how to bring food to the next level. Ultimately, cost of living in the Bay Area prompted Thornton’s move to South Dakota in 2001, where he met his wife Renae.
One of his first jobs was cooking at a local Outback Restaurant. The role solidified that he had a talent for cooking and he decided to make a career of it.
“I just kept watching more food videos, kept getting jobs working and cooking in kitchens and started studying under chefs,” Thornton said.
In 2010, he became Cook No. 3 at the Grand Falls Casino at Larchwood, Iowa, not far from Garretson. The head chef acknowledged Thornton’s talents, which would eventually lead to Thornton teaching cooking classes at Plum Cooking Company.
In 2017, Thornton and his wife opened O So Good Restaurant, which seats 64 people, staffs 12 and features live jazz and blues with a little bit of country music mixed in.
“Our most popular meals are Jerk Chicken, Cajun Seafood Pasta and Chef Challenger,” Thornton said. “I believe in layering flavor as I cook, adding and loving each ingredient that is added to the meal. I also believe in using all I can and not letting anything go to waste.”
Chef Fieri’s website praises O So Good as “that spot that you’ve always dreamed of when it comes to freshly prepared comfort style foods.”
“Everything is packed full of flavors and scrumptious with each bite,” the famous chef states.
While Thornton is enjoying success in South Dakota, he says he misses Richmond “big time.”
“I miss the diversity of Richmond,” he said. “I miss the Bayshore and the ocean. My growing up in Richmond gave me skills so I can lead and have a successful life.”